for the past two years i have had the wonderful privilege of serving with the most incredible leader and friend. as she plans to retire, after 28+ years in ministry, i thought i would share just 10 of the leadership lessons she has taught me. (there are countless more.) when i think back to how greatly impacted i was in such a short time, i am convinced it was because i saw these lessons consistently and humbly lived out in the best, worst, mundane, and craziest ministry moments.
- sabbath – i received one of the greatest gifts i have ever been given in ministry through her leadership – the gift of sabbath. i blogged more about it here. because she so understands the need for spiritual leaders to be in close relationship and communication with our Savior, Jesus Christ, she challenged us to make sure we made it a priority.
– lesson to unpack: i am never too busy, too important, too spiritual or too prepared to stop it all and just sit at my Savior’s feet. i must intentionally schedule sabbath as one of the most important parts of my ministry calendar.
- Jesus talk > church talk – i simply can’t talk “church” for hours, but sometimes we ministry leaders can get caught up in the church “nuts and bolts” and save few words for the Cornerstone Himself – Jesus. jan modeled the opposite. of the many conversations we had, i remember Jesus being central over the “hows” and “whats” of church work. so convicting, so refreshing.
– lesson to unpack: what i know about church work isn’t near as important as what i know about Jesus. do people leave my conversations hearing only about the details of ministry or the reason for ministry Himself?
- truth in love – jan never just told me what i wanted to hear. her words were direct, truthful, fair, and anchored in love, even though i didn’t like everything i heard. her honest conversations stretched me and made me more effective.
– lesson to unpack: i tend to go on and on and am afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and then it becomes a big mess – just like this sentence. direct and honest conversation can be a great gift to someone. i can so learn from that.
- redeeming difficulties – i saw it first hand at a lunch one day. several of us were sharing frustration after frustration with a certain issue we were faced with that week. one by one, with each grumble we laid on the table, i watched her pick up our negative words and point us to positive solutions. “what can you learn from this?” she would ask. or, “how can you use this to better educate in the future?” even though i totally saw what she was doing, i still allowed myself to become carnal and complaint-centered. she never wavered. she provided a safe place to vent, but would not allow us to remain there. there was better ahead and she was constantly pushing us to see it.
– lesson to unpack – am i looking for ways to learn and redeem bad experiences or do i become content to wallow in wasteful conversation?
- work smart – “work smarter not harder.” that’s how she challenged me to attack the load of ministry in front of me. what freedom it gave me to plan, prioritize, and focus on eternal things. she gave me a fresh perspective of seeing that it wasn’t the hours behind a desk, but the fruit of my ministry that showed its growth and worth.
– lesson to unpack – am i more concerned about the quantity of hours or intentionally seeking quality, eternally-focus ministry opportunities?
- selfless service – i was so blown away that in the same conversation where she shared her retirement news, she also volunteered to be a sunday school investor in the new church year. after so many years of full-time ministry everyone would understand the need for a break and a chance to sit and receive.
– lesson to unpack: is the root of what i do an act of love and service for my Savior or do i allow it to become a job? if i am serving from the true Source it is a lifestyle and becomes second nature.
- learning never stops – i knew this lesson in my head. i’ve heard it in many leadership workshops and i am sure i underlined it in some leadership book. still i was shocked when she was excited to attend creative teacher training the preschool minister and i were leading. i said “really, what can i teach you?” her response, “i know the old way, i want to learn the current, most effective way to lead the kids in my sunday school class this fall.”
– lesson to unpack: never believe the lie that i have arrived. i will never know it all. i need to constantly be looking for chances to challenge myself to grow, even from younger leaders.
- it’s not personal – the pleaser in me (even after many years in ministry) would still often personalize the challenges that come with ministry. she told me many times, “stop personalizing this.” she taught (and i am still desperately trying to catch) me to step back and try to look at the matter with personal feelings aside.
– lesson to unpack: as she would say “get over it” it is not all about me. i need to learn to quit looking at each challenge through my personal lens. there is always a bigger picture.
- joy in serving – i would be lying if i said i wasn’t a bit weary in my transition to this new staff position. what an encouragement to be led by someone with almost twice the years in the trenches, but also twice the joy. no matter how tough things got, she addressed them with a smile and true joy in the work God had given her. that authentic example still inspires me to realize what a gift it is to serve in full-time ministry.
– lesson to unpack: don’t let the situations i am facing dictate the joy in which i work through them. my service is not a sacrifice, it is an honor to give my all for the One who sacrificed so much for me. so, suit up in the armor and serve with joy.
- wrapped in prayer – i can’t recall ever leaving a hard conversation or meeting with her without her asking to pray with/over me. she humbly acknowledged Who was really in control and consistently petitioned His wisdom, comfort, direction, discernment, and peace.
– lesson to unpack: prayer can be the most important part of any conversation/meeting. make time for it.