The people you lead represent the lifeblood of your ministry, but they also constitute your precious blood-bought family. Family can be fragile, so please handle with care.
You've been entrusted with a weighty responsibility. The people you lead represent the lifeblood of your ministry. But what's more, they constitute your precious blood-bought family.
Take a fresh look at the apostle Paul's "family man" leadership modeled in 1 Thessalonians 2:
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory (vv. 7–11).
His relationship to these treasured friends embodies attributes of a strong father who exhorts, coupled with an affectionate mother who nurtures.
Like Paul, leaders need to be both. How we care for those we lead matters deeply to God.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1–4).
Our brothers and sisters deserve nothing less than our diligent–and yet delicate–care.
1. Let's care first for the person before we care about the task.
When people only hear from a leader if there's a problem that needs correcting, we communicate they're worth nothing more than a tool to accomplish our goal. Learn what energizes them in ministry. Know about their family and what they value. Keep a record of pertinent information and conversations. How committed are we to pray for them? Prayer demonstrates genuine love and works in tandem with God's plan for their lives to flourish in Christ.
2. Let's care first for relationships in ministry, not just the end result.
If pulling off the best retreat ever means we're getting testy with volunteers who miss deadlines or who don't quite perform a task the way we would, the means do not justify the end. We've seen leaders who are prone to take back the reins or re-do a delegated assignment. A project isn't advanced—in fact, it is hindered—when damage is done to a relationship in the process. A crushed spirit is never warranted in God's family.
3. Let's care first for building God's kingdom, not for building personal domains.
Remember it's the Lord Christ we are serving (Col 3:24). People aren't serving us. It's our high privilege to serve them as modeled perfectly by Jesus ( Mark 10:42–45) . . . not the other way around. Convey how every role is essential. In a women's Bible study, whether you are a greeter, administrative helper, or leader, each contributes to the outcome. As leaders build a team, a spirit of "we're working together for the gospel" plants seeds of unity and harmony. Keep painting the big picture of kingdom work that advances the glory of Christ and His redemptive work in the world.
4. Let's care first for other's success, not for our own achievement.
Offer constant encouragement and ongoing training in areas of weakness that need strengthening. Communicate expectations clearly. Check in regularly to assess how things are going. Make it a priority to sharpen their gifts by assigning tasks that stretch their abilities and create a deeper dependence upon God. The less you focus on yourself and your personal goals, the more successful others will be . . . and ultimately, so will you.
5. Let's care first for being a leader that can be trusted instead of being obeyed.
Prove your trustworthiness by keeping confidences, being humble, admitting your mistakes, praying faithfully, listening carefully, liberally giving others credit, not overreacting or jumping to conclusions, and thinking the absolute best of people at all times. These consistent character qualities are the foundation for an authentic friendship that allows room for openness and honesty. Regularly invite feedback from the people you lead so we keep growing as leaders.
6. Let's care first by expressing gratitude often.
Say thanks regularly, genuinely, intentionally. Gratitude cannot be overdone or overstated. There's no need to wait for an appreciation celebration to applaud good work. Simple expressions, such as notes, emails, and texts, communicate that you notice what a fellow servant is contributing and the impact it's making. Keep your pompoms handy to cheer on the family of God!
7. Let's be a conduit of God's care through Jesus Christ.
The care God graciously gives us enables us to care for His family. His love and mercies never end. Each morning we rise to meet His great faithfulness (Lam 3:22–23). In Jesus Christ, we're chosen, dearly loved, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven for the praise of His glorious grace (Eph 1:3–10)! Let's not forget that each brother and sister in our family tree is made in God's image and is infinitely valuable to Him.
Family can be fragile, so please handle with care.
Which of these care strategies do you find challenging? In what ways are you caring for your brothers and sisters in the family of God? How do you appreciate being led?