I am not the same leader today as I was when I started. I hope I’m not the same leader I was last month. I want to be a constant learner. I hear people say all the time Jim I wish I knew the things you’re teaching years ago. The truth is I do too. I learn something everyday if I want to and guess what I want to! I wish at times I could go back to the first three churches that I worked at and show them that I’m not as dumb as I used to be. My dreams are bigger, my thinking is better and my abilities have been enlarged. How has all this come about? Believe me it wasn’t by accident and it just didn’t happen on it’s own. It came about through intentional actions and steps.
The first thing that happened to me was that I had to see my role as a leader and that I couldn’t do it all by myself. (Like most changes, it started with me seeing the need to change.) Ephesians 4:11&12 tells us “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. Pastors and those representing the pastor are not suppose to do the work of the ministry all by themselves. Our job is to prepare God’s people for works of service! 1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. If believers are priest, what do priest do? They do the work of the ministry. Our job is to prepare them to do ministry. How do you do this? I’m glad you asked.
The answer is to get to the heart of the matter and dive into what I call the excellence model. Let’s set up the story. Moses was doing what a lot of people in the ministry do he was doing the job alone. He was seeing a measure of success but it was not the best for his ministry or his family. You see what got Mr. Excellence (that’s what Jethro’s name means…) to pay Moses a visit is because Moses’ wife took the kids, left Moses and went home to daddy. In Exodus 18:6-10 we pick up the story…” Jethro had sent word to him, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.” So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent. Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.
Here we learn a big lesson about what excellence does, he heard his daughter’s side of the story then he came and heard Moses’ side. A good leader is a good listener! It’s had to learn when you don’t listen. Listening also helps you to locate where people are. But he didn’t stop there he did something else.
Exodus 18:13-19 tells us what he did before he gave advice. He saw for himself what was going on. “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.” Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.
Over the years I have learned things are never as good as we think they are. I’ve also learned that things are never as bad they are somewhere in between. Seeing things without the opinion or viewpoint of others help you to see the real root of the problem. The problem wasn’t just Moses not spending enough time at home or that he was doing the job alone the problem was he was not training, equipping and enlarging the abilities of those he was leading.
Here’s what Mr. Excellence said in Exodus 18:20-27: Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people –men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain –and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.
What a story he came, he listened, he watched, he coached, he taught, then he left. Here are 10 Steps that I got from these verses to enlarge the abilities of your volunteers.
#1. Learn to be a listener. (v.8-10) Listening to others is one of the smartest thing a leader can do. Who do you listen to? Staff, coordinators, teachers, helpers and parents. In other words listen to anyone who will talk children’s ministry with you. Listen to experts and the voice of experience. Listen to learn. Experience is the best teacher but it doesn’t have to be your experience that you learn from.
#2. Evaluate and observe. (v.13-17) Every chance you get use a little “bearded fat boy management.” What do you mean Jim “ Make a list and check it twice!” Use your M.B.W.A. degree, Management by walking around! Jethro didn’t just take the word of his daughter and he didn’t take the word of Moses. He was smart to know. “You can’t fix what you do not evaluate.”
#3. Identify areas where people are doing ministry alone. (v.17-19) Doing the job alone doesn’t bring forth fruit that remains. Jesus had the Spirit of God without measure yet He recruited helpers. Don’t just delegate learn to duplicate as well. I am constantly putting into others. The time you spend with others is never ever wasted!
#4. Teach and Model how to live (v. 20a). Teach and show the right way to live. Show is always more important than tell. Don’t have meeting for meetings sake but those who help you lead need your time. I have weekly to bi-weekly staff meetings with key staff. Include a skill level teaching along with details and information. I have monthly meetings with coordinators and team leaders. Then every four months I get all workers together.
#5. Teach and model procedures and policies (v.20b) There are two questions that every volunteers need to know. What do you want me to do and how do you want me to do it? (Policy and Procedure Manuals are important!) Here are the steps to follow to make sure you are staffing for excellence. Identify all positions. If people were no problem where could you use a worker. Make job descriptions. Everyone does better when they know what to do. Write all policies based on your desired action. I give everyone each other’s job descriptions and duties so everyone knows what everyone else should be doing. Be sure and operate by policies, don’t make exceptions on a regular basis, if the policy needs changing, then change the policy.
#6. Qualify helpers by their abilities. (v. 21) What are you looking for? Always be on the lookout for faithfulness but also know and recognize their abilities. Faithfulness alone is not enough. Identify abilities and grow people from there. Start them of with 10 if they knock it out of the park move them to 25. Look for opportunities to raise the abilities and skill levels of you team.
#7. Identify the things that you are doing that others can do and commit to do the tasks and functions that only you can do. (v. 22-23) Remember all believers can do ministry. They won’t be able to do it as good as you can at first but you weren’t that fabulous yourself when you started. You grew and got better and you need to return the favor. Doing the things that someone else can do for you keeps you from being totally effective.
#8. The proof that you heard is that you do what needs to be done (v. 24) James 1:22-25 tells us “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it –he will be blessed in what he does. Obedience is always best! Thus saith the Lord always works, it’s so much better than thus saith the seminar speaker or the children’s minister blogger.
#9. Push authority down, always (v.25-26) Make sure you delegate authority along with responsibility. When you give authority and responsibly to others don’t take them back.
#10.Never stop encouraging your volunteers to grow. Confront those you love for their good to grow. Super-sizing your volunteers’ abilities is not a one-time thing. A good leader constantly repeats the process. Don’t let people stay a captain of 5 Confront in love. Ask them to identify something they know they need to do better. Set a deadline and hold them to it. WE all do better with a deadline. Teach and model what you want them to do and be. Lead the way. My favorite definition of a leader is one who is leading. Make trades, promote others, and develop a second and third string in all key positions.
Last but not least make it a habit to catch people doing things right. Make a big deal over them and act like a proud parent and brag, brag, brag. Take a lesson or two from Mr. Excellence and dare to help your volunteers excel. You’ll be glad you did.