“Lord, when I’m wrong, make me willing to change. When I’m right, make me easy to live with. So strengthen me that the power of my example will far exceed the authority of my rank.”
I love this prayer by Peter Marshall called, “The Leader’s Prayer.” Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes it’s not a matter or right or wrong but which course of action will work best. We have to be willing to consider the choice which isn’t our favorite. We need to be willing to yield.
We enjoy being right, but when we are we need to resist flaunting it, saying “I told you so,” making sure everyone recognizes that the best idea came from us.
One of the great advantages of leading a small church ministry is that we can have a very personal ministry. We can know every man, woman, teenager and child in a personal way. Our attendance may go up and down. We may not always see many personal decisions for salvation. But as we share our lives, year after year, we will see signs of growth. Not all the time. Sometimes we may feel we are pouring out our lives for nothing. Then we read 1 Corinthians 15:58 and are reminded that “our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” So we persevere, and in time we see lives changing.
Recently we saw some encouraging growth signs in our Discover program. In years past we’ve had a program for kids and a separate one for teens. For the last two years, however, God used our situation to lead us into a combined program. This has its challenges as well as its rewards.
My husband Art is very athletic. At age 59 he could generally outrun and outplay any of our youth. Of course, that’s not what he does. When he gets the basketball he passes it to a kid to shoot. When he plays foursquare he doesn’t hit it as hard as he can to the six-year-old girls. When he plays ping pong with someone of lesser skill he returns the ball within easy reach of the other person. Normal leadership.
After a couple of years of that we begin to see some of the older kids catching on. The teens don’t guard the little kids too closely in basketball. The pre-teen boys don’t spike the ball to the younger girls. When the ping pong ball intrudes on the foursquare game, they yield rather than fuss. They begin to understand it’s not all about “me winning,” but giving others the chance to succeed.
Leading by example means opening our lives with a transparency that allows others to see in.
It’s always encouraging to see signs of growth. As leaders, if we want to see growth in our people we have to be willing to share our lives. Let teens make Christmas cookies in our kitchens. Serve the recipe that didn’t come out quite right. Make a mistake and laugh about it. Admit when we don’t know the answer. Listen to the idea that’s different from our own. Celebrate a new believer’s Bible discovery. Affirm the progress of one who sometimes fails, but is making spiritual progress.
I think every ministry has its ups and down. As leaders we have to be up even during down times. We have to be faithful when others are not. We have to show enthusiasm when others don’t care. We have to keep rethinking our programs, working with what and who we have, making it work. We do it because we are leaders, teachers, and we expect to be held to a higher standard (James 3:1).
We probably only see a glimpse of the power of our example, but when we do it is sweet. And we know we can only be examples because of Christ, our Perfect Example. May we reflect him in all we do (1 Cor. 11:1).