If you're in your 20s or 30s and new on-staff at your church, you are the future of that congregation. You want to make a difference; help increase the church's reach, and fulfill the calling God has placed on your life. When you're first starting out, though, you probably have more passion than practical know-how. At the recent Catalyst One Day conference in Tulsa, OK, Pastors Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel each offered tips help emerging leaders take ownership of your growth. Here a few takeaways:
Tip #1: Seek out mentors
This came up after an audience member asked about how to find a mentor. Their advice was to not find a single mentor, but to seek out several mentors. One individual isn't an expert in every area you're seeking to develop, so find multiple mentors who each are experts in a few topics.
Also, your mentors don't have to be someone you meet with on a regular basis or even meet at all. A mentor can be an author whose books you read and study. You can listen to podcasts or sermons of people you want to learn from. If there's someone you want to talk with in-person, don't ask him to be your mentor. Instead, ask him out for coffee and mention you have three questions you'd like to ask. Offer to send those questions ahead of time. Asking him out for coffee and stating you have three questions (that you've thought about well in advance) isn't a big time commitment, so most people will be willing to say yes.
Tip #2: Learn to lead up
One advantage you have when you're new is a fresh perspective. You're in a front-line role and will see or hear things those at the top won't know unless you tell them. If a volunteer is frustrated or the VBS signup forms don't make sense, you're going to notice before anyone in senior leadership simply because you're closer to those issues. Don't let being young or new make you think you can't make an impact.
However, there are five things Pastor Craig recommended when leading up:
1. Honor matters You need to honor those in leadership. Honor publicly results in influence privately.
2. Timing matters Don't propose a new service order when the youth pastor is preparing for this week's message. Wait for a time when he's refreshed and not pressed for time. 3. Motives matter Don't raise issues without also proposing solutions to those issues. Approach leadership with a pure heart; desiring to serve and help everyone win.
4. Initiative matters Don't wait to be assigned specific tasks. Understand your role, observe what needs to be done, and take care of it.
5. Truth matters Sometimes the truth hurts. You'll notice a problem or disagree with how your immediate supervisor is handling a situation. On one hand, if you become known as a "yes" person, you'll lose all credibility. On the other hand, if you raise issues you can be accused of being rebellious or having a critical spirit. Find ways to respectfully discuss concerns with leadership, offering solutions with a sincere desire to serve.
Tip #3: Develop your ideal job description
It's rare to land "the perfect job" right out of college. You may love your church and enjoy your work, but there's probably something you're still aspiring to do. That's perfectly normal and okay when you're starting out. However, part of taking ownership of your leadership growth is knowing where you'd like to be and setting goals.
Here are six discovery questions Pastor Andy Stanley offered to help you develop your ideal job description:
1. What do you do that's nearly effortless from your perspective but seems like a daunting task to others?
2. In what arenas do people consider you the "go to" person?
3. What facets of your job energize you?
4. What do you wish you could stop doing?
5. What organizational environments are you drawn to?
6. What environments do you avoid?
Starting out in ministry can be exciting, challenging, and even overwhelming. However, there are plenty of practical steps you can take to fuel your leadership growth. Take ownership of your development and watch what God does as you're faithful in the small things.