A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to preach on the Sunday we honored our high school grads. In my message for that weekend, I talked about the challenges they will likely face as they move from being a big fish in a small pond to becoming a little fish in the big pond of life. As they take their next steps, a lot of of grads will ask, “how can I be heard? How can I get the shot I deserve? How can I be taken seriously by people even though I am young”?
Isn’t that a question many of us ask in youth ministry? Isn’t that something we are challenged with in our churches as we often struggle to be heard as the youth worker? Do we wish people would take us seriously and not just see us as the “one who hangs out with the kids”? If you are like me, I have made all the above statements and many more. As I preached on 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 a few weeks ago, here are some of the truths I found are very applicable to us in youth ministry:
Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 (NIV).
Here’s the bottom line to influence: People listen to authentic leadership and follow healthy example:
1) Be an Example in Speech: We all want to be heard and so I often it’s easy to think that we will be heard if we talk more. However, the mark of an influential leader is someone who is able to listen first and then use words in an apt manner. So often, at youth ministry conventions, I hear young leaders talking at great length in order to justify their position. (I too have been guilty of this). It’s important to remember that lengthy talking can be seen as folly, whereas a word aptly spoken will be seen as wise. If we want respect and influence, we must consider our speech carefully. Are our words tuned out easily by others? Are we constanly trying to make a case for our leadership? How is our speech being an example for us?
2) Be an Example in Conduct: We want respect and influence, but do we deserve it? When people look closely at our lives, who and what do they see? In youth ministry, there are small areas of conduct that have a huge impact on the example we set and ultimately the influence we gain. Here’s some examples: Showing up late all the time. Being disorganized. Never returning calls. Lack of communication. Disregard for family schedules. Lack of personal discipline. Etc etc etc. Now, you could read this and think I am picking on ridiculous areas of conduct. Shouldn’t I refer to conduct in terms of our personal walk with God? Yes, that should be a given. However, I have found that it is these small areas of conduct that go a long way to gain influence. In other words, when our conduct shows dilegence, we gain influence.
3) Be an Example in Love: Even if we do not have all the answers. Even if we are much younger and less wiser. We gain influence when we love well. We might not be perfect in ministry, but people will more likely give us time of day when our love is evident to all. Sometimes in ministry it is easy to become task focused and busy as we desire acceptance and influence. Sometimes we need to rest and love well.
4) Be and Example in Faith and Purity: This should be a given, but sadly sometimes too many of us are burning out and compromising our own walk with Jesus. If we desire influence in our churches, it is a strong faith, (and purity that comes from this faith), that will open the doors of opportunity. Above all, fueling our faith is the greatest predictor of gaining influence. Now, let’s pause for a second… We both know this truth don’t we? But how are we really doing in fueling the fire of our faithwalk? Are we working hard in our own strength to find acceptance? Are we compromising our values because we are tired and defenseless? Take some time today to slow down and fuel your faith fire. You see, influence comes from an authentic faith…
It’s not about shouting to be heard. It’s not about pushing to gain authority. It’s about authentic leadership and healthy example that leads to influence…