Written by Leah Leach
Once upon a time, in a season that feels a lifetime ago, I was a single woman with the privilege of working in full-time ministry. I gained invaluable first-hand experience from church leadership about managing volunteers, casting vision, and leading a staff. I had young, insatiable passion for ministry and time free from family obligations to pursue it.
And then I fell in love.
A dream come true, and a TOTAL game changer.
Within eleven months time, I met Brad, got married, and moved to Detroit, MI where I got a brand new ministry role: pastor’s wife. In the nine years since, the adventure has continued adding church planter, Philadelphia resident, and mom of four to the resume.
Throughout that time, my ministry roles have varied, largely dependent upon the particular season that I was in with my children. It is a dream come true to be able to stay at home with them, but there are moments when I’m explaining to my son why he can’t stick marbles up his nose that I look at myself in the mirror and recognize:
“I used to have intelligent conversations throughout my day. I used to have a team of people that respected me and wanted to hear what I had to say. I used to change out of my PJ’s before 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM . . . I used to change out of my PJ’s. Where did that woman go?”
A few weeks ago, however, Brad challenged me to recognize the skills I was required to use on a daily basis to lead what may be my most challenging team yet: four young children. In no particular order, here are some of the top leadership lessons I’ve learned from my studies the past eight years at MOM University.
#1 – Leadership is influence. You may not think of yourself as a leader, but if you’re influencing, you’re leading.
Look around you. Chances are that there are people that are looking to you in some way for some type of guidance in their life. Maybe it’s a group of students in your study group, or a team of people in your workplace. Maybe it’s the neighbor on your front stoop or the small child wrapped around your leg. Whether or not you view yourself as a leader, if you’re helping to influence someone, you’re leading them in some way. Embrace it.
You may not always be able to choose your team that you’re leading, but you can trust that if God did, He has equipped you uniquely to lead it. Ephesians 2.10 states that God has uniquely crafted me to do good works that He’s planned for me, which includes this team that He’s chosen. If He’s put it together, He’s got a plan for it, and I need to focus on listening for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to lead.
#2 – Your team can accomplish a lot more than you think they can and it’s going to take a lot longer to get there than you think it will.
When I got my first team member, she was, well, completely helpless. In the years since, much of her development has been so gradual and muddled in with the introduction of new team members that I realized that in many ways, I’ve held her back. It occurred to me that if she can work a DVR, she can work a dishwasher. Teaching the kids how to clean off their plates and load this dishwasher, however, has been a lesson in patience. Who knew that there’s a learning curve to working the faucet squirter thingy (to use the technical term)? There are so many moments when I want to just do it myself, but I think of how great it will be someday when we finish dinner, and I look up, and the table is cleared and the dishwasher loaded.
While it may be more obvious with kids, I think the tendency to underestimate our teams remains the same. Maybe it’s a new student to the program, a fresh new manager straight out of grad school, or the new family that just moved in down the street. When we get someone new on our team, chances are they are pretty green and may not know all the “ins and outs” that experience teaches. We may have to do nearly everything to help bring them up to speed. If you’re still doing nearly everything with your same team a few months later, however, there’s a good chance you’re holding them back. Take the time to walk through the learning curve of delegation. Short-term pain for long-term win.
#3 – Cast a vision for the future and take the time to explain the steps to get there.
Brad and I place a high priority on teaching our kids respect, kindness, and general manners when interacting with other people. Our endgame, however, is not to raise good, little girls and boys. We are training and leading future mothers, entrepreneurs, leaders, and husbands. We really try to take the time to give the WHY behind the WHAT. Why are we going to clean our house before people come over? Why should we brush our teeth in the morning? Why shouldn’t you ever ask a woman if she has a baby in her belly? (Gotta cover all the basics early on.) If they grow up with a lot of rote knowledge without a deeper understanding of how it’s applied to strengthen their character, then we’ve missed the goal for our team.
Certainly with every team, there are certain duties that need to be accomplished and details that need to be covered. Think beyond the “to do list,” however. Think of the ultimate picture of what it would look like to have a healthy budget, a classroom that understands writing techniques, and a neighborhood where people are genuinely looking out for each other in brotherly love. Starting with the end picture in mind can add a lot more passion and commitment to the details every step of the process.
I’ve got a lot more years of study to accomplish before I can receive my doctoral diploma from MOM U, but I’m grateful for the opportunities for ministry in so many unique seasons along the way.