Some may think that traveling ministry is what you do when you “arrive.” For me, it has been a learning experience. Over the past few years of speaking in churches and schools across North Texas, I have learned many important lessons. This is partly because I try to avoid the mindset that I already know it all. I’d like to share a few of these lessons with you today.
1) Never Say “No”
Youth Alive is currently preparing to release a book about school outreach, which we teamed up with several youth pastors and leaders to write. One of those pastors, Steven Reed, talks in-depth about developing relationships with schools. He says that when you are in the process of doing this, the word “no” cannot be in your vocabulary.
If you are working toward a particular goal (reaching the schools, for example) and an opportunity pops up that aligns with this goal, you should say “yes” no matter how personally inconvenient it may be. If God is calling you into something, why would you want to say “no?” Often times, it is saying “yes” to the inconvenient things that bring us to the place God has for us.
2) We’re Better Together
When I go on the road, I almost always take people with me, typically younger Bible college students. Some choose to operate under the “lone ranger” mentality, but I prefer the team mentality. Why? The same reason that Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs: I know that we’re better together.
This is not the most cost effective strategy. It’s not always convenient. Sometimes I’d rather be on the road by myself. But it is worth it for the opportunity to pour into the next generation of leaders and give them hands-on experience. There are some things you can learn on the road that you can’t learn in a classroom.
3) Learn As You Lead
When I’m around younger leaders, I don’t consider myself the teacher while they are the student; I consider both of us students. There is a lot we can learn from each other. So why is it that some leaders constantly feel like they’re pouring out but get little back in return? At the end of the day, I think it comes down to attitude. If you feel you have arrived and can’t learn anything from those you are leading, you won’t. But if you choose to admit that there is still more you can learn – even from someone much younger than you – you will be amazed at how much you absorb.
One of my goals in life is to learn more from others than they learn from me. I accomplish this by listening. When others are talking, and I think of something that applies to the situation, I try to use discretion before I just blurt it out. Just because I have knowledge of something doesn’t mean I have to go around telling every single person I meet. It really is amazing how much you can learn when you take the time to truly listen.
4) Stay True to Yourself
I love how Ephesians 2:10 says that each one of us are “God’s workmanship.” The meaning of the Greek word here speaks of a “one-of-a-kind masterpiece.” God has given you special talents and abilities and a unique message.
So why do so many of us spend so much time trying to be like someone else? Many leaders wait for doors to open before they nail down what they are called to and what their core message is. However, I have chosen to define myself and my message. I am a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I am called to reach students, specifically through the schools. This does not mean that I will be working in this capacity for the rest of my life, but this is where God has called me today.
I don’t want to be someone who “suddenly” becomes interested in reaching the schools when doors open up. I want to clearly define my mission and trust God to open doors for me. I don’t want to be a carbon copy of the latest celebrity preacher; I want to be who God has called me to be. You are an original, and no one else can make the same impact that you are called to make.
5) Don’t Get a Big Head
This seems like the simplest lesson, but for many of us, it’s the hardest. Too many leaders start out strong, only to get a big head when they notice that the spotlight is on them. The problem with pride is that it leads us to think that we are untouchable, that there is no one on the planet who does what we do better than us. But this is simply not true. There will never be anyone like you, but there will always be someone better than you.
I appreciate it when people compliment me. I thank them, but then when they turn away, I let their compliment pass through my head, fall to the ground, and then I stomp on it. Why? Because I know that if I allow those compliments to hang around in my head too long, I will begin to drift toward becoming prideful, and I know that I cannot let pride get in the way of doing what God has created me to do.