In it for the Distance

There is a common sight that begins every August in Michigan. Flock after flock of large birds, flying overhead in the distinct and intentional shape of a “V”. Being one of the first signs that summer is coming to a close, I normally choose to ignore it! But this year I happen to find myself reading through the book of Job, and one verse stood out. Job testifies in response to Zophar’s counsel that even creation knows the sovereignty of God.  

Job 12:7 “ But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you”.

The intricacies of God’s creation are beyond words! This was a reminder that I shouldn’t ignore what these birds teach, especially when it comes to leadership in ministry, because it’s wise and powerful.

There is only one reason for flying in this form: distance. It’s intentional positioning to succeed through a long journey.

Every journey takes energy. The longer the distance, the more challenging the journey, and the more energy you expend. It takes hard work and intentionality to not give up at some point.

Can you number the times in your ministry leadership have you felt that it was time to throw in the towel? Personally, I can’t, because it’s been too many to count! Leading in children’s ministry is so hard. Times and circumstances (yes, I did mean those words to be plural) will come (if they haven’t already) that drain you of the energy it takes to lead. This will happen. Then it will happen again. You get the idea.

We can feel as if the present troubles we face in ministry have brought us to a place where we don’t have any more left to give. It’s critical to our calling to reach children and families for Christ that we have positioned ourselves for a response that will carry us through to serve for the long haul.

Here’s long distance leadership wisdom we can glean from birds:

  • Always journey in community. For birds, this means visual contact. No one gets hurt, lost, or off-track. As a leader in ministry, keep a few trusted advisors around who will keep tabs on you. They are your accountability community, keeping your workload and direction in check.
  • Make sure that community makes noise.  We don’t just see these birds flying overhead. They are loud! Why? Encouragement. They are cheering on their leader and one another. Make sure you are connected to a community that is not silent in the form of encouragement on your behalf. Even leaders need it to help stay on course!
  • Create sweet spots alongside you. Scientists discovered that when birds fly, the flapping of their wings creates a “sweet spot” just behind them. This sweet spot is the ideal place for a follower to travel in preparation to lead. As leaders, intentionally place key people where their God given gifts will help you carry the load of leading. By equipping them, we not only raise up new leaders, but we train them to step in for us when needed. Because the most important lesson to remember is coming up next…
  • Know when to fall back. The lead bird doesn’t lead 100% of the time. When he get’s tired, he falls back, letting the next in line take over for a time. He’ll return to lead when he’s regained some energy. Take time to rest and rejuvenate, and regain the energy you need to step back in at the front of the flock!

By having these steps in place, we position ourselves in a model of healthy leadership that will carry us the distance in children’s ministry. Be encouraged today to not give up. You are making a difference for the Kingdom!

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