If you are the one placed in charge of a children’s ministry, most likely you a leader. However, unless you are intentional, the weekly demands of ministry programs and needy volunteers can quickly push you into a role of being a reactive leader – constantly reacting to the needs that are presented to you via e-mail, voice mail, and in person. You will be doing a lot of good, but you’ll soon feel like the ministry isn’t going anywhere – and you’ll be right. It will be treading water and it will be all you can do just to keep your nose above the surface. You may be a servant leader, and that is a good thing – but you if you want your ministry to improve you must learn to be a proactive leader – one that is driving and determining his or her actions more than being driven by the endless demands that are constantly pouring in.What does it mean to be a proactive leader? It means you lean into the challenging situations that face you. You don’t avoid them, post-pone facing them, or pretend they will resolve themselves if you just ignore them a little longer. (Hint: They won’t!) Whatever you are facing right now will only get worse unless you proactively confront it. A proactive leader returns that phone call on Monday rather than putting it off until Thursday hoping for an answering machine. They meet in person with someone when a phone call would be the easier way out of a tough conflict. They are the one who chooses to bring up the awkward topic in a meeting knowing it needs to be dealt with. The proactive leader keeps short accounts by resolving even small conflicts quickly so that friendships are preserved and relationships are strengthened. Proactive leaders ask questions first and listen and process without being defensive because they are more concerned with growing than they are with being right. They seek feedback always and constructive criticism especially when they think they did a great job.
Proactive leaders avoid the easy path or the short-cut because they have learned that neither usually are. When proactive leaders make a mistake, rather then hide it or hope no one saw, they point it out! They want others to learn from it and let it be an example that can the ministry can benefit from. If they have had a conflict or made a mistake to a degree that could be reported to their boss, they will be the first to give him a heads up. “Pastor, just wanted you to know, today during children’s church, we removed Mrs. Smith’s child for hitting and she was upset that we did so without finding her first. We made an effort, but felt due to the repeated offense and for the safety of the other children we needed to do so. When she came and didn’t see her son, she was upset. You may be hearing from Mrs. Smith this week. Please let her know we are sorry for the confusion and the scare that gave her.” By telling the boss before Mrs. Smith does, you accomplish two things. First, if she calls, he is prepared to comfort and minister to her because he is aware of what she went through and can defend you because he already knows the situation, rather than, “What? I will look into it and get back to you!” If she doesn’t call, you’ve built credibility and trust with your pastor because you aren’t waiting until Mrs. Smith calls to fill him in when things go wrong.
The proactive leader is a visionary. She is not just looking at what needs to get done, but is looking ahead at what could be done. He looks for anything that is not being done with excellence and asks, “How could that be done better?” They are constantly trying to see the ministry through fresh eyes. They paint a clear picture of what the ministry could be that volunteers can get excited and energized about. They react to the needs of now, but in the context of where we are going in the future. They exude an energy and momentum that is contagious! People want to be around them because they feel like they want to go wherever it is they are going! Being a proactive leader isn’t only more effective – it’s more fun. Being reactive gets wearisome. Being proactive is energizing!
If you want to be a more proactive leader – don’t start your day by checking your e-mail, voice mail, or mail slot at the office. Start by praying, “Lord, who would you have me minister to this week? What would you have me move forward this week? What needs to be improved?” Then make a short list of a few things you think need some proactive leadership. Jot down a few action steps to get them in motion. Then you ay check your e-mail.
This article originally appeared in CM Pros, a publication by Group.