From the previous section it should have become apparent to you that leadership is not about setting a course and asking God to bless it. It is about discerning the direction He has already set and following it. This understanding completely alters our approach to leadership in general, and decision making in particular.
Decision making is now no longer “What will I do?” but “What would God have me do?” That realisation is humbling in itself for the leader. It takes the power from the leader and places it back upon the Head of the Church where it belongs. No longer are we free to follow our own ideas, desires and dare I say, biases.
True, we can still justify our actions with the one liner that quiets all opposition, namely “God told me!”, but a leader with integrity will shy away from that anyway. Should they also possess humility, they will in fact embrace this concept of decision making resting in the hands of Jesus and will in fact find real freedom and security in this thought.
But a further test awaits the leader committed to having God lead through them and that is that it’s not up to them alone to discern God’s leading and direction. There is a tendency, particularly in western Christianity to see guidance as an individual pursuit, whereas we should see it as a corporate pursuit. In the case of decisions surrounding the church, guidance and decision making occurs as the Body discerns what the Head is saying and collectively acts upon it. In other words, the Christian youth leader should not be praying “Show me what to do, Lord” but “Show us what to do, Lord”.
Us? Yes, there is no place for lone ranger youth pastors or youth leaders. Team ministry is not only a good idea – it’s a Biblical imperative. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find examples of a church (youth ministry) being led by one person (a pastor). Leadership was plural and all believers, as members of the Body of Christ bore responsibility for listening to the Head.
Such an approach has its disadvantages. Firstly, it’s a slow process. It is much quicker for us as leaders to make a call and then expect others to fall into line behind us because “we are the youth pastor”, or we are older, better trained, more mature in the faith, etc. Consensus as a means of decision making is frustrating, especially when the answer is obvious to us!
Yet rather than be a disadvantage, decision making by consensus under God presents great opportunities in that it forces believers (and by believers I’m meaning at very least your youth leadership team and at most the young people too who follow Jesus) to learn to listen to each other and understand one another, striving for unity in diversity. True, decisions can tear a team apart but under wise facilitation (and that means by you!) they can unite a team under God’s Headship and grow in their dependence upon Him, not just in youth ministry but in life generally.
A second disadvantage is that we as leaders won’t always get “our way”. Instead our voice becomes one of many that is left to compete with the convictions of those with far less experience. In theory at least that will be the case, though in practice, if we have demonstrated wisdom and humility over time, then our leaders and young people will accord us the respect that the New Testament elders received, giving greater weight at times to our convictions than their own.
Still, however, there will be times we are forced to abandon a pet idea or at very least, set it aside for a time because the majority disagree. If that is the situation you find yourself in, resist the temptation to grumble and to criticise others, saying, “What would they know anyway!” Learn patience and humility – these could be the very lessons God is wanting to teach you through not getting your own way. Turn back to Him and seek Him more deeply than before, remaining open to the very real possibility that you are wrong!
Think for a minute: suppose you are right about a decision and the rest of the Body are wrong. Do you really think God’s ultimate will is being stymied? Do you think He is throwing up His hands in horror, exclaiming “Now what!?” Of course not. He is continuing to speak to the Body through His Spirit, leading them into an understanding of His will while working on your tendency to be impatient and proud, throughout this wonderful process of allowing God to lead through you.
In Part 5: My sense of control