10 important things a leader should do every week
For nine years I was part of a band. Our rehearsals were largely made up of disagreements, frustration and trips to Asda to get away from it all. But every now and then, out of the chaos would emerge something magical - a moment where everyone was personally, and musically, “in the pocket”. A sweet spot where instrumentally and vocally everything was soaring. It felt good, it sounded great - we had found our rhythm.
We’ve all experienced moments like these in our lives and youth ministry. There have been times where life seems to be spiralling out of control: Pastoral issues, dysfunctional teams, sessions to plan, talks to write, disengaged young people, and strained relationships… it’s hard, it’s frustrating, we’re exhausted, and Asda is our only escape!
But every now and then we hit that sweet spot: We’re on top of our workload, our team is united, our young people are passionate, our sessions are fresh, our relationships are deep and our work makes us feel alive! We’ve found our rhythm.
That’s the place we want to live, right? So if you’re there right now, how do you stay there? If you’re not, how do you get there? I want to suggest the ten most important things a youth leader should do every week in order to find (and keep) their rhythm…
You knew I was going to say this, but this is number one for a reason. The single most important thing you will do today is to spend some time with Jesus. And the same goes for tomorrow. When we regularly stop to pray and open our Bibles (and not to prepare our next session!), we open ourselves up to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are stronger in our battles against sin, fresher in our revelation, and more sensitive to the leadings of the Spirit. Our faith seems deeper, our resolve stronger, our ideas fresher, our courage greater, our leadership stronger, and our passion more contagious.
I honestly believe that the best gift you can give to your young people is a fully fired-up you! So if you don’t do this every day then stop reading right now, put down the mag, pick up your diary (or calendar app) and get this into your schedule every day… and stick to it! I promise you that doing this one thing will totally transform your life and your youth ministry. There simply is no shortcut to relationship with Jesus that bypasses time in his presence.
Imagine if you could have an extra 1.4 days a week to get everything done. It would be a game-changer right? Well one recent study showed that exercise and proper rest patterns give about 20 percent energy increase in an average day, average week, average month! A simple weekly exercise routine could radically increase your capacity, energy, focus and even your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Friends, we make a mistake when we separate our physical health from our spiritual health. What we do with our bodies impacts our souls and we cannot separate the two. Finding a healthy rhythm of exercise will make a huge contribution to finding a healthy rhythm of life.
To paraphrase Andy Stanley, “Experience doesn't make you better, evaluated experience does.” I’ve tried to build into my week a regular space to hit a coffee shop and pause to think and reflect. This allows me to review what we’re doing at Serious4God from a different angle. Without this space in my week I’d be in danger of continuing to do the same thing we’ve always done without ever asking why.
Out of these times have come some of my best ideas and biggest dreams. The problem is, it is so easy to let this space in my week go for something more urgent. But let’s not allow what is immediate deter us from what is important. Build time to reflect and evaluate into your weekly rhythm.
Every great leader I know reads… a lot. I know, I know, you’re too busy to read, right? Wrong. We make time for what we value. So start off by maximising your down time. Read while you’re waiting for the bus, read while you’re sitting on the toilet (sorry!), read instead of scrolling through Facebook, read instead of watching TV.
There is such a wealth of wisdom out there, soak it up! Read leadership books, devotional books and youth ministry books. Read great articles and blogs.
I was recently fortunate enough to have a couple of hours with a well-known leadership consultant. After a bit of conversation she said to me, “So you’re more of a Harley Davidson than a Bus.” No I didn’t get it either. Until she explained, “A Harley Davidson makes a lot of progress very quickly, but it doesn’t take anyone with it.
A bus goes a lot slower, but everyone’s on board.” Sure it hurt my feelings, but she was spot on! So how about you? Are you a Harley or a bus? Are you a lone-ranger or a collaborator? Because leadership is not about getting stuff done, it’s about getting stuff done through people. There is no greater joy than seeing others grow because you gave them the opportunity, encouragement and support to do so.
But this isn’t a one way street. Collaborating with others will push you to think of things you would never have considered yourself. The triune God models leadership in collaboration, and we’d do well to imitate Him.
One of the most important things a leader can do is to ensure they are not the centre of their own world. So humble yourself by elevating others. Sing their praises privately and publicly. Champion your colleagues, your team, and your young people. Don't let something good they've done go by unrecognised or uncelebrated. Be a cheerleader for others and watch how their loyalty, work ethic, enthusiasm and determination skyrockets as you do.
For a number of years I served at a fantastic church where our Senior Pastor would regularly encourage us to, “Do something everyday that reminds you you're a servant.” Leadership is not about being at the top of the tree, it’s about being at the bottom. The topsy-turvy, upside-down, radical Kingdom leadership of Jesus demonstrates this in the most profound way. (Philippians 2:1-11). The greater the leadership responsibility, the greater the requirement to serve.
If you have been elevated by title or position, choose to lower yourself. In what ways could you serve those under your leadership this week?
Let me ask you a few provocative questions… How much faith does it require for you to live this week? What faith adventures are you on right now? In what ways is your youth ministry causing you to get on your knees and pray for God to show up!? If it’s not, perhaps it’s time for you to dream a little bigger and take some God-sized risks.
The best place a leader can live is just over the border of their capacity. You cannot grow in your comfort zone, you have to be stretched to be strengthened.
Every leader who makes a difference has one thing in common. They work. Hard. At Serious4God we have a phrase around our small staff team: “Attack the Day”. That means we aspire to show up and bring the very best of our energy and efforts to God that day. The mission is too important for anything less! What does it mean for you to bring your “first fruits” to God at work this week?
I’m willing to wager that if you stole something, killed someone or slept with someone other than your spouse you’d feel pretty bad about it. So why is it that we almost feel proud of ourselves when we work seven days straight? “Remember the Sabbath day” is not one of The Ten Suggestions. As Rob Bell so beautifully puts it, “Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.” So stop thinking that you’re way too busy and important to rest for 24 hours.
Stop thinking this one is for everyone else except you. Stop working and do something that refills, refreshes and replenishes you. There can be no healthy rhythm without rest. So please busy youthworker, take a day off… and no youth ministry stuff!
Question: What one thing are you going to do differently, starting next week, as a result of reading this article? Go on, write it down and commit to it… I dare you! Find your rhythm, you won’t regret it. Leave a comment below.