Being a leader is new for me. I have never had to lead a team before, at least not in this capacity. This is a constant learning experience with a major learning curve! I keep messing up and I constantly don’t feel like I’m the right person for this job. But, I know this is from the Lord, so I’m pressing on.
Brian is my biggest encourager. He has been a leader before and he has lots of insight for me. He keeps telling me to learn from his mistakes and be a better leader than he was. We read a leadership devotional together each evening and he is the first one I go to for advice.
When I was telling him how difficult it is sometimes to work with my team, he told me something that I have taken to heart:
Your team is your first ministry.
I know I will continue to grow and progress through this year and the following years. But, these are a few things I’ve been doing and some of the things I’ve been learning as I’ve put into practice the fact that my team – not necessarily the children we’re trying to reach – is my first ministry.
- Build relationships: I’m purposefully taking the time to drop them messages, ask them how their week was, follow up on things they tell me, and pray for them. You know, normal things you do when you want to build a relationship with someone!
- Utilize their strengths: As I get to know them, I am able to place them where I feel their strengths are, or where they share with me that their strengths are. For example – I have one lady who is a real sweetheart, but she is convinced she can’t do anything well. I have been struggling to find a place for her – somewhere where she is useful and doesn’t need me to be there constantly redirecting and advising. A few weeks ago, we had a cooking session on Wednesday night and the whole concept of having 18 children under the age of 9 trying to cook breadsticks simultaneously just completely freaked me out. This lady, however, jumped to the challenge. She did the entire activity – set-up, instruction, baking, and clean-up. It was awesome! And afterwards, she was beaming from ear to ear because she had found her niche. I told her how that activity was stressful for me and not enjoyable at all and she said, “What?! This was so much fun! I love stuff like this! Maybe this is what I’m actually good at.” She will never be my main Bible teacher, but if she can lead every cooking activity we ever do, that is perfectly fine with me… and her.
- Praise them for their work: Everyone likes hearing a “thank you” and most people like being told they and their work are appreciated. I try to take time after every program to thank the people who helped out, no matter how much they actually did. We put on a Fall Party last week and I made sure I gave them all handwritten thank yous this week. It’s a small thing, but I know that I, personally, function better if I know I’m appreciated.
- Delegate: The lady who had my position before me is a wonderful lady, but I have been told numerous times that she did not delegate. Her weakness – which she admitted readily to me in person – was that she honestly did not know how to delegate. What I have noticed is that the more I delegate and trust my volunteers to complete a task, the more they own the ministry themselves. This is not my ministry; this is our ministry. But, they have to own it as much as I do for that to become real.
- Listen: Everyone has an opinion and everyone wants to be heard. During our meetings, I take time to just sit and listen. I will throw out a question or an idea and then let them talk, discuss, and brainstorm, sometimes without me even interjecting. I glean from them and see what I learn and can implement. Just because someone has an opinion or an idea does not mean I have to use it. The point is not that I implement every little idea or whim that my volunteers have; the point is that I listen to them, validate their thoughts and opinions, and implement what I can. Sometimes, people just want to be heard. And I have learned so much for my team! Without them, the Fall Party last week would have been a complete disaster on so many levels! Their opinions and help are invaluable.
I have a lot more to learn, but it’s a start at least! I am coming into my own as a leader. I don’t always enjoy it and there are more days when I want to quit than days that I’m ecstatic about being here. But, hopefully, with God’s help, that will change over time. The more I learn, the more I can grow and become a better leader.