Leadership: an Essential Element
a livingroom discussion from many years ago...
If you’re a parent, then guess what? That automatically makes you a leader, too. : ) Did you ever think of it that way? If you’ve been given children to care for, then providing them with solid, consistent, Jesus-centered leadership will be key in raising them to love and respect God and His Life and Ways. If you want to deposit a healthy respect of authority in your children’s lives, then the first example begins with you!
Everyone’s seen it, that children, left to themselves, will wander aimlessly, gravitate towards what their flesh wants, hurt themselves, and sometimes hurt others in the process. In all matters of life, for all ages, (whether 2, 10 or 16) they need patient instruction, constructive guidance, involvement, correction, and direction from us. On a gut level, we need to be leading them—showing the way, going ahead of them—in word and in example. We need to show them how to perceive the world around them, how to THINK about things, how to care and how to learn. They need instruction and they need “tracks to run on.”
Imagine what it would be like if you turned a child loose in your kitchen to prepare a meal without ever having explained a thing about it. You wouldn’t dream of such a thing! Unless of course you wanted a disaster on your hands—or worse. If you cared about your child and wanted him or her to learn how to cook, how would you go about that? Would you just say, “Go figure it out—there’s the kitchen.” That wouldn’t be wise or caring leadership at all, would it? Instead, you might start by “introducing them” to the “kitchen world.” You might walk them through it. Open cupboards and drawers, show them the tools a cook needs and why and what they are useful for. You’d give them some basic introduction and explanation. You would show them the potential dangers, like knives and hot stovetops. Then maybe you’d give them a simple recipe to follow and see how they do. Would you start with a souffle’? Probably not. You give them a simple brownie recipe and let them go. Let’s say, in the process, they throw the whole egg in instead of cracking it first. How are you going to “correct” that? Do you yell—“You’ve ruined them!” What’s really the goal, anyway? Might you ask them why they did that? And ask them what the result would be (crunchy brownies!)? The point is, that you’re providing the tools and the opportunity to explore and try and “put into practice.” You’re helping them think through decisions (like cracking an egg or not) and why they do what they do. And by the way, children (and adults, too) typically will not notice things around them unless they are drawn into learning. They might be “hanging around” in the same room every time you make a meal, but they won’t really get into the inside of the nuts and bolts of cooking unless you take them by the hand and draw them in very specifically.
So part of being a leader has to do with seeing the need for learning, and then drawing them in, to discover and experience and think for themselves. You do it because you simply care about them! You see that they have great potential to learn and comprehend and appreciate different aspects of the world around them. You build in them a desire and willingness to learn. You see the potential inside of them and you don’t want it wasted! So you care enough to take the time and energy to consider how you might “spur them on”! You take responsibility to not only “acknowledge” that there’s a need (anyone can do that) but you do what it takes to meet the needs and tap into their potential and draw their gifts and abilities out. If you had a child with a natural musical ear and ability to sing their own made-up simple and lovely tunes for Jesus, wouldn’t you want to do EVERYTHING you could to develop that? Wouldn’t you want to provide them with all the tools and stimulation and direction necessary to fan that into flame? Of COURSE you would! You’d do whatever it takes—money, time, energy, perseverance (on your part, and you’d require it of them) to help them and to draw out that gift.
When Jesus came, He “went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:35-36) There was no one to lead them, to take responsibility, to care for and nurture them. Sure, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law all over…but where were those who loved the people and got involved? Where were those who had compassion and cared for the people…for the children?
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” (Matt 9:37-38) Plenty were those who needed guidance! Few were those who knew how to take responsibility and do the Work. Sure, you can have “teachers,” like for your second-grader in a school building somewhere, but that person may as well be a robot to that child! Providing intimate, hands-on leadership—guidance, nurturing, direction and training—that’s the privilege we have as parents with our children. And it is a privilege. There’s a popular print these days that says, “One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, not what my clothes were like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.” That really is the truth...if we will care, get our hands dirty, and pay the price to be there for them with strong leadership.
There’s just this built-in truth that because you have a child—it makes you a leader! Now whether you provide good leadership or bad leadership is another story. You are giving some sort of message to your child. Perhaps what’s written here will provoke you to being a better leader for your children, for Jesus’ sake. We can be people who care for their specific needs in very tangible ways and provide them with proper perspective about all kinds of issues—giving them a foundation in the Truths of Jesus day in and day out in the way they act, think, speak, relate with others, with things, with adults. Always looking for ways to provide them with solid ground of Truth to stand on. Paul said to the Corinthians, “You have 10,000 tutors… but not many fathers….” A Real father, a Real mother in Christ, those are rare. Living that way for our children and for others will cost us. It costs you your time, your preferences about when you might be able to do something, your money, your effort and energy, your thoughtful consideration, your consistency and devotion, your stability, and your love! If you ever view all the “interruptions” or “inconveniences” or “difficult circumstances” or the “work” of caring for your children as a big pain in the neck, an energy drain on you…so tiring, so haaaarrrrd…so difficult… “woe is me”…if you look at those “things” that way, you are missing an opportunity to be a Real father, a Real mother!
You Don’t Have To Be An Expert
And thank goodness, to be a good leader for your children (or anyone, for that matter) doesn’t mean you have to be an “expert” at anything! As was said before, a leader is one who sees the potential in others and works to draw out that potential. For example, suppose I said to you, “Why don’t you write a comparison/contrast paper on Newtonian and Quantum physics?” You might ask, “Okay, where do I start?” At this point, I might encourage you to look in the encyclopedia and extract from it as much as you can. I might also suggest that you call Joe Smith and ask him to explain what he knows about the topic. So you gather information and ponder and dive in, and Joe points you to a book he has and so on. Before you know it, you’re being filled up with a knowledge of something you previously knew nothing about. And it happened because leadership provided direction and tools and resources. The work wasn’t done FOR YOU, but you were given a path to run on, in order to draw out your potential—your own skills, and work and probing and understanding. Now here’s something cool about it…when the time comes and I see your report, I may not even understand everything that you wrote about the topic! : ) But it doesn’t really matter, because I did my job as a leader for you. I didn’t have to be an expert in order to spur you on, guide you, and draw you into something you’d never known or experienced before. A good leader is someone who can push someone else to their fullest potential. It’s not that I go there for you. I point the way and provide the tools, then you go there. So as was said before, it takes care, and it takes courage to step out. It takes consideration and patience.
The goal is to make our children into stronger, bigger people—both mentally and spiritually. We want to provide a way for them to grow, spiritually and mentally—not just learn a bunch of stuff in their head. So be looking for those special paths to lead them on to help expand their thinking, their world, their understanding of Life and the things of God. In the process of all that, there will be different levels of growth that you go through. For example, let’s say you decide to teach a 5-year-old some spelling, using a computer program. At first, you might take them step-by-step through it all—turn the computer on, click on the icon, pull up the program and show them each step along the way, practically and patiently. That’s a first level of instruction and guidance. And it’s necessary, for sure, but only on the very first level of learning.
Obviously, you won’t want to “hold their hand” continually. Whenever they learn about spelling, as in life, they need to explore and think and work at what to do. So next time, your goal would be to help them learn it for themselves. You might explain in words how to bring the program up, how to double click, and then let them explore it for themselves. If they run into a problem, you push them to troubleshoot for themselves. You put the tools in their hands and allow them to experience firsthand this new medium. For them it’s a new level of experience that they’ve never known before. But wait, there’s more to come!
It won’t be long before you’ll let them find the tools and figure out how to use them. This time, you sit the child down at the blank computer screen and take a “hands-off” approach. You’re still very much the leader of the situation, but you’re asking them to pull up the spelling program from start to finish. At this level much more than just the spelling words can be learned. They’ll learn what it means to have courage because maybe they’re not familiar with computers. So to sit down to a blank screen and get a computer program running can be pretty intimidating. It will also teach them some memory skills, and hand-eye coordination when using a mouse. It will force them to be thinkers and innovators. Do you see all the possibilities of something as simple as that? But they’ll never have the chance to learn these things if someone else is always doing the work for them. What would it accomplish, to do it for them? All you’d be doing would be robbing them of the essential, crucial opportunities of life that will make them into stronger, larger, wiser people. You will rob them of their potential, their life, and their futures if you always “do it for them.” Watch out for that one, because sometimes we have something in us that wants to just “get the job done” or…we want them to “finish—hurry up,” or we want them to “get a good grade”. We erroneously step in and “do it for them” because of our own impatience, shallowness, selfishness, or other fleshly reasons.
Leadership is also not just leaving your children to fend for themselves because of your own laziness, preoccupation, lack of love or disconnectedness from Jesus. That’s not being a leader at all! Jesus’ leadership is also not “lording it over them” with a slave-driver mentality. “Okay. You listen to me. Do this, do that. Go here, go there. Get it right. Don’t mess up.” Heaping all sorts of external laws and requirements on them. Rather, it’s providing them with the Love and provision and guidance of the Father as you hide your life in Jesus….patiently, consistently, constructively providing for the children. Anything that is not like Jesus’ leadership must go…things such as being random, sporadic, unclear, lazy, unreliable, or inconsistent in our expectations and Standard. If you haven’t thought of it, or seen these kinds of things already, please deal with them quickly, and ask Jesus to show you how to be a good leader for your children.
Finally, we’ve got to be willing to Listen for the Spirit’s voice…the “deep calling to deep.” Getting past the surface issues and having the courage to stretch your children (and others!) and be stretched yourself. Make it an absolutely essential goal in your life to be a person that impacts lives and will make every effort to see them reach their full potential. Demand that of yourself and expect no less than that. If Jesus lives inside of you, there is no question that you will impact the lives of those around you—children and others. There’s no question of whether you will impact people’s lives—you will! You may not know exactly how God is going to accomplish that in you, but He will do it—IF you have the courage to accept these things and a determination to walk them out.