The past few weeks I’ve really been focusing on the idea of servant leadership in youth group because so many of the youth have a very different version of leadership than what is presented to us in the Bible. As I was reading and preparing to teach on this subject, I actually read the foreword to one of the books on leadership that I have on my shelf. Normally I just blow past those things and start right on chapter 1, but I’m really glad I decided to glance over this one. The author of this book about leading like Jesus was really struggling with being a servant leader in his church at the time the book was published. He knew all the right things he should be doing,
but he wasn’t actually putting it into action in his own life.
This really hit me and made me wonder if I was doing the same thing. Is my teaching consistent with my life? Am I leading by serving and not just talking about how others should do that? Am I trying to teach myself through this series or just the youth? As hard as these questions are, I love how God works through them. As teachers of the Word, we need to constantly be asking ourselves these questions. The goal isn’t to be the perfect example of what we’re teaching, because that’s impossible. In fact, in our teaching we should be talking all about the perfect example, which is only found in Jesus Christ. But the hope is that God will work in us through our preparation and teaching just like we hope He is working in the youth through the series.
I shared this struggle of needing to serve more as a leader, specifically in the area of youth ministry, in a conversation with another youth minister later that week. I expected him to just acknowledge how hard that can be and maybe offer some tips on how I can do that better. Instead, he made a statement that totally changed my perspective on the matter. He said to me, “Brandon, some of your greatest service to the youth is in your study of the Word. Sharing the Word with them in its truth and purity is one of the best ways that you can serve as a leader. Don’t underestimate the service that you are already doing as a leader through the Word of God.”
I was all focused on things that I needed to do to better serve others, and this brother in Christ redirected me to focus back on the God who has served me through His Son. This is a bit of a paradigm shift for me, but perhaps being a servant leader doesn’t have nearly as much to do with myself as I thought it did. It’s easy to just want to know how I can act better, connect with others more or lead by example. Instead of worrying so much about how I’m serving others, maybe I need to focus on my relationship with Jesus, my servant leader. Instead of instantly making a list of the ways I should act differently, my first step needs to be digging into the Word and prayer. Instead of figuring out how I can change my behavior, I should turn to God who can change my heart. The amazing thing about this is that with the Holy Spirit working in me through Word and Sacrament, the actions and lifestyle changes that I normally look for will also come as an outflow of what God is doing in me.
The greatest way that we can be servant leaders to others through youth ministry is to stay connected to Christ and His Word. Those times of personal devotion, corporate worship and preparation for teaching the Word are our greatest preparation for walking through life with the youth. Our primary service to others must be in connecting them to Christ and letting Him work in their lives, and in order to do that we must stay connected to Christ as well. Becoming a better servant leader isn’t about you changing your behavior and attitude on your own. It’s about God changing your heart through the Holy Spirit, so that you serve by pointing others to Him.