Servant Leadership in Practice
Throughout our State Class season, godly men from around the country join our staff teams in every state to serve the families who come through our program. Their role is to provide spiritual leadership, wisdom, and on-site support during the week. We wanted you to hear from some of these Class Directors in a series that discusses each of TeenPact’s ministry distinctives. This second installment is written by Paul Martin. Paul grew up in Connecticut and began working for TeenPact in 2008 as a State Class Field Representative. He continues to serve in this role from Layfayette, LA. Paul class directs multiple State Classes during the spring and works as an EMT during the in-between times. Because of his work in this field, Paul is able to apply the principles of servant leadership in a unique and immensely tangible way. As you read his words, consider how you can do the same wherever God has placed you today.
TeenPact has multiple distinctives. These are things that are essential to the ministry. You could say they are in our DNA. As you read in this post from Aaron, servant leadership is one of the key ingredients to TeenPact. But, what does this little catch phrase mean? It is really paradoxical. Is it about serving or about leading? Actually, it is both. Let’s explain our terms and look at examples of servant leadership and see how we can practice it in our daily lives.
The first half of the servant leadership equation is servant, or service. When you think of a servant, you don’t think of someone who is up front or has much influence. You think of someone behind the scenes who simply does what they are told. Servants aren’t in it for their own glory, but are merely there to make other people look good and to make sure things run smoothly. In a lot of places, people who are servants may have the tendency to get walked on or even taken advantage of. But, they are some of the best people you will ever meet.
We complete the equation with the idea of leadership. We think that those who lead are the people up front. They are leading the charge, speaking from the platform, creating cultural and spiritual impact. Leaders are people who you want to follow. Because, let’s face it, if no one will follow you, then you aren’t a leader. We need leaders, without them nothing really gets done. We should all aspire to be leaders regardless of our sphere of influence.
“Servant leadership is something that is caught more than it is taught.”
So where do these two ideas intersect? I have found that servant leadership is something that is caught more than it is taught. You can’t really tell someone “be a leader and oh by the way, be a servant as well.” Or if you try, it won’t really work. One of the most vivid TeenPact examples to me of a servant leader was years and years ago at a TeenPact alumni event. I remember an intern, who went on to be one of my best friends, emptying trash cans during small group time. Why was this so striking to me? He didn’t have to do it. He had responsibilities at the event and there were other people who could have taken out the trash. And yet, he took the time to serve. But to me, the way he served made him someone I look up to and would be happy to follow.
An every-day example of servant leadership is first-responders: fire fighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, and law enforcement officers. These men and women hold our society together through their mission to “protect and serve.” These folks bring order out of chaos by combining strength with compassion. While they will perform interventions that may be life-saving, much more important is the care that they give to people who are often in their most vulnerable state. They don’t do this for recognition – and they often seek to shed the limelight – they do it because they care about people of all walks of life.
“In the Lord’s eyes, this upside down concept of servant leadership is exactly what we should be practicing…in laying down our rights, we are being Christ-Like.”
In the Lord’s eyes, this upside down concept of servant leadership is exactly what we should be practicing. In Mark 9, Jesus’ disciples argue about who is the best among them. Jesus responds in verse 35, “If any man desires to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.” (KJV) This displays the heart attitude that we are supposed to have as servant leaders. As an old timey preacher would say, we should “seek to go lower,” not out of a false sense of humility but because we realize that in laying down our rights, we are being Christ-like. We are giving of ourselves for others. Life doesn’t get much better than that!
In a crazy way, there are few people that are more winsome or whom we most want to follow than servant leaders. They are the people that don’t tell us to respect them with their words, but their actions demand our respect. We see that they exist to serve us and others and, as a result, we gladly follow and emulate them.
Ultimately, we are reminded to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6, KJV) Let’s seek to serve and lead others and allow the Lord to take care of who gets the credit.
You can be a servant leader wherever you are. This can be small things like doing the dishes at home, letting other people go first, and not always asserting your rights. As you serve, you will begin to build trust and may be given opportunities to lead in small ways. Purpose to be faithful in the small things and, who knows, maybe the Lord will lead you on to bigger and bigger things. That is up to Him, but you are to be faithful where you are.
“Purpose to be faithful in the small things and, who knows…maybe the Lord will lead you on to bigger and bigger things.”