A couple of years ago, our church sent a group of adults and students on a week-long mission trip. It was the first time that a trip took place under my leadership that I didn't lead. Over the years I have become very comfortable in the leader position. I have led many, many trips; camping, summer camp, bike rides, hikes, mission trips, etc. So when I take a step back to let someone else lead, I have to remind myself, I am NOT the only leader!
I think it's hard for any leader to turn the reigns over to someone else without having certain expectations. But what we have to remember is, not everyone will lead like we do. And despite whatever amount of experience and know-how you might have, when someone else leads, it's okay that they do it a way that is a little different than you!
Here are three things I remind myself when others step up to lead.
1. My Way is Not the ONLY Way.
When you are the leader, responsible for all that ministry does, you develop a way of doing things that works for you and the ministry. For instance, one of my ministries participated in a Christian summer music festival. The trip involved significant planning, preparation, and coordination. There was the sleeping in tents, cooking of meals, management of resources, and oversight of the group while at the festival. It was one of our largest events. After a couple of years, we developed a pretty solid process for getting ready for the trip. It was what worked for me as leader. After leaving that ministry, the trip continued for a few years. At one point, I met up with my old group at the same festival, only I was with a different group. To save costs, we shared the site, food, and experience. While there, I noticed that a lot of what I had established was still being used. However, I also noticed a number of things that were different.
My way of doing things is not the only way of doing things. When we allow others to lead, we must let go of the thought that says, we know better. Those placed into the leadership role must be allowed to lead according to who they are and how they are wired for leadership. Sure, their not going to do things just like you, and that's okay! If God has equipped them to lead, he will let them lead, and so should you! Expect them to do things differently. And as long as the goals and outcomes are the same, encourage your leaders to lead is ways that best suit them. We're not making a bunch of mini-me's to work with our students. We are to be eguipping our leaders to lead accounting to their personality and strengths.
2. Decisions Have to be Made.
What kind of a leader do we create when we require them to check in with us whenever a decision needs to be made? A weak and indecisive one.
When we call others to lead in our place, we must give them not just the place of leadership, but the authority to make decisions. Decision making is a big part of the leadership role. At any given minute, the leader will be called on to make some pretty important decisions. Some of those decisions might be small and seem insignificant, while others could be life changing. By not allowing the leader to make decisions, you crimple their authority and and weaken their effectiveness as the leader. You might also hurt their desire to lead again. No one wants to be asked to lead, but not trusted with the responsibility of leadership.
Decisions have to be made. Throughout the years, I have tried to make it a point to delegate the decision making authority to me leaders when they accept the call to lead a group or event. There's no big ceremony or touching of shoulders with a sword, just me giving them my authority and trust. I've often heard it said that we, as youth workers, are leaders of leaders. That means that part of our job as youth leaders is to train, equip, and commission other leaders. As part of this training, equipping and commissioning, we must give them the authority to make decisions for the group.
3. Be Ready and Willing to Teach AND Learn.
So how do we allow others to lead? That comes as we do our best to teach and lead other leaders. As my ministries have grown, so have the needs for additional leaders. For these leaders to be effective, they must be taught how to lead. We must be ready and willing to teach others to lead.
Teaching isn't a one way street. For just as much teaching we do, we must also be ready and willing to learn! I have found that not only will God bring leaders who are wiling to learn, but He also brings leaders who are able to teach. Consider the first two points that have already be made, letting others lead their way and giving authority to make decisions. One of the things I have learned in leading others is that too often, I am learning by what others are doing. So that trip to the music festival where things were different; some of those differences were great ideas that I never considered.
A good leader is always a leader who is ready and wiling to do more than teach. A good leader is a leader who is ready and willing to learn!
Back to the mission trip I mentioned earlier. How did it go? It went great! God made an impact in the lives of those who were served and those who served! And the leader who took the responsibility of leadership? He did a great job as well. Sure, it wasn't all done the way I would have done it, but that's the point! God called him to lead. God equipped him to lead. And God used him as the leader. And that is what it's all about!