Why do some ministries thrive while others barely survive?
You could attribute it to a number of factors:
* God’s sovereignty
* Pandering to the culture
* Size of budgets
* Community demographics
* Buildings and technology
Many factors could be named. But, according to Henry and Richard Blackaby, if you name something other than leadership, you’re probably wrong. They say, “The difference has little to do with the problems, limitations, or personnel. It has everything to do with good leadership” (Spiritual Leadership, xii).
Every person in ministry should work to become a better, more effective leader. Before that can happen, however, we need a good definition to make sure we’re aiming at the right target.
There is no shortage of definitions for leadership, but the Blackabys offer a good one for pastors: “Spiritual leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 36).
That’s our target as pastors, isn’t it? We want to mobilize people to align their lives with God’s will and purpose.
How can you do that?
The way to do that is by developing your influence. The Blackabys insist, “The ability to influence others is an essential requirement for leadership” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 182).
Your level of influence is established and maintained by both your character (who you are) and your actions (what you do). When those two things are in sync, it’s called integrity. That builds influence. When those two things are out of sync, it’s called hypocrisy. That destroys influence.
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So, what are some key actions for leaders to develop influence?
I’m sure there are many, but I will focus on four.
4 Ways to Develop Your Influence
1. Pray Often
Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God’s involvement. Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God hears your petitions and reveals his agenda through prayer.
Not only that, but your spirit is revived, shaped, and strengthened through prayer because it connects you with the Holy Spirit. “While all Christians have the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives, the condition of being filled by the Holy Spirit comes through concentrated, fervent, sanctified prayer” (Spiritual Leadership, p. 183-184).
2. Work Hard
As the leader, you set the tone for your ministry. Your students and volunteer will mirror your levels of devotion, excitement, and energy. If you work like it matters, they will believe it does matter. If you work like it doesn’t matter, don’t be surprised when they stop showing up.
In his own book called Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders observed, “If [the leader] is not willing to rise earlier and stay up later than others, to work harder and study more diligently than his contemporaries, he will not impress his generation” (p. 180).
3. Communicate Effectively
You can’t move people if you can’t communicate effectively. Howard Gardner, author of Leading Minds, insists that the most effective leaders have “linguistic intelligence” (p. 34). With that term, Gardner names the fact that leaders must be picky about their language.
It is not the case than any old word or tone will suffice. Words have power. Your tone conveys meaning. The right words spoken in the right way can make all the difference in your ministry. Leaders choose words and stories that both inspire people to move forward and instruct them how to do so.
4. Serve Others
In spiritual leadership, the way up is found on the way down. Jesus modeled this for us on the night of his crucifixion, before supper with his disciples. He “knew that the Father had given him authority over everything” (John 13:3). So, what does he do?
I love how Andy Stanley poses the question about that moment: What do you do when it dawns on you that you’re the most powerful person in the room?
Jesus “began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him” (John 13:5). Jesus even washed Judas’ feet that night. Servant leadership is at the heart of spiritual leadership.
As a youth pastor, you need to have influence to be able to lead your ministry well. You develop influence by:
1. Praying often
2. Working hard
3. Communicating effectively
4 Serving others
Then, if you want to stop doing something, you’ll be able to stop it. If you want to start doing something, you’ll be able to start it. If you want to change something, you’ll be able to change it. That’s the power of influence.
As a spiritual leader, your job is to move people on to God’s agenda. Do whatever it takes to make that happen.
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