Leaders often are the biggest dreamers – they see the horizon and then some. They envision a better future and simply can’t wait to get there. The problem is that for leadership to remain sustainable it needs a solid foundation. This happens when we start small, fail forward and slowly learn what works and what doesn’t work in certain situations. Leadership that has only soared with the eagles and climbed the mountaintop might not be reliable when storms come and people are stuck in the valley.
When I was in Bible college, I must admit that I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and that any church would be lucky to have me as a leader. During a time of transition within the children’s ministry, I was allowed to become the leader of a small group of kids who, quite frankly, were unwanted by the key ministry leadership. My “Solid Stones” and I went to the back corner of the building and started a journey that lasts until today. I learned how to lead worship by working with those kids. I learned how to empower kids to lead their own games, teachings and worship and I was taught to be faithful in the little before ever considering the big.
I was so excited to lead this group of children and at the beginning it was truly all about me. However, to this day I still reap the benefits of the many lessons they taught me.
Starting small taught me:
- It’s not all about me – no other leaders in the church truly cared what we did, as long as the parents were happy. I had to lay down my agenda and learn how to create an atmosphere where kids could both learn in church and have fun!
- I must focus on the details and not get so lost in the dream. No dreams are ever accomplished without taking the baby steps to get there. I learned to take attendance, to pray for kids, to listen to their struggles and to adjust teachings as needed depending upon how they were all doing on a given night.
- Leadership is a blast! I still remember starting and ending every Wednesday night class on the playground at the merry-go-round. The goal was to wrap the kids tight around the many poles and then I would spin as fast as possible to their great delight. Having fun together opened the door to many conversations that would not have ever occurred otherwise.
- God is not concerned with the glamour, splash, fireworks or show. He is looking for leaders who are faithful with little, who will serve the least of these, and who are willing to work for His Kingdom, regardless of whether or not others notice.
While I would love to say I have lived out this principle of starting small perfectly over the years, I can say at least that it all started in the back room of a church, with a group of unwanted kids, who taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my leadership journey. I am forever grateful to each of them and have even been blessed to see them now as adults on occasion.
Start small, don’t worry about recognition and focus on the next step as you move forward. Your vision won’t change, but I would hate for you to miss the many lessons along the way because you are only looking at the mountaintop.