Serving Into Greatness

Jesus said to his disciples on a number of occasions that whoever wants to become great must become the servant of all. (Mt 20:26, Mt 23:11). Jesus did not say don't desire to become great, don't try to become great, he just said that the pathway and price to greatness is serving.

Some attributes of a servant to consider

 

Good Servants know who their master is

First and foremost, as a Christian our master is God. Yes, God has set up earthly structures with leaders and managers, but they are stewards of what God has given to them, they are accountable for what God has entrusted to them. (I would love to go off on a tangent and rant about leaders who over-step their delegated authority, but that may be for a different day.)

Our responsibility as Good Servants seeking greatness, is to know who our ultimate master is, and understand how to serve Him first. That means we need to be in contact with Him regularly. We are not perfect which means that we sometimes mishear, misunderstand, misinterpret or make mistakes in hearing and carrying out our Master's will. Keeping connection and contact with Him helps us course correct early, because the Holy Spirit is sent to us as a guide.

Within our lives, we do also need to understand the structures that we are operating in, and the people, roles and authority involved. Because our service is done in the context of our current situation we need wisdom to not just obey blindly, but obey effectively.

How does that apply in youth ministry specifically? If there is any ministry that needs us to be confident in our God and our calling it is youth ministry. In our hearts we have to keep God as our master, but in reality we are often buffeted with others who think we answer to them first. If we are in a church context then we serve with a Senior Pastor/Leader or Elders/Deacons (depending on structure) and possibly another direct report who we answer to. These have been given that responsibility and are part of the picture, but we then have parents and youth who have an opinion. We have a society that has an opinion about what and how we should do things. We have other "helpful" members of our church who may have an opinion.

I encourage you to be wise and loving in your interactions with people, but maintain God as the master of your life.

 

Good Servants reflect their master's priorities

A Good Servant does not operate independantly, based on their own priorities and views, their actions reflect on their Master and so they know and live out of those priorities. If I were to summarise God's priorities I would say that they are His Kingdom moving forward in people's lives and that kingdom being expressed in love, grace and truth.

His Kingdom is not a tangible kingdom, but one that lives in the hearts and lives of those who follow him. Sometimes there is a mis-match between a person's heart and their actions. I have heard it said recently that the spirit of man is made alive and holy at salvation, our bodies will be renewed at the resurrection/end times but our soul is in process. And I would whole heartedly agree. We are broken and those around us are broken, and so we must constantly remind ourselves when we are working with people that we are to reflect our Master's priorities. We are looking to see His Kingdom progress but with an attitude of love, grace and truth.

How does that apply to youth leaders? We can be pressured to run ministries that are not balanced or focussed on God's priorities. For some they are pressured to make it about how many youth were at your recent event/program and never a focus on whether youth are moving forward in their understanding of the Gospel and their relationship with God. For others it might be about whether they achieved a certain standard or level of excellence, and no focus on the health and longevity of the leaders that serve in the ministry. For some it might be about the health and wellbeing of the youth who already attend to the detriment of reaching out into the "messy and broken" youth in our community. If we are to be Good Servants of God and his people, we must know our God's priorities and work to make those our priorities.

I want to encourage you to understand and fully adopt God's priorities.

 

Good Servants obey their master

This almost goes without saying, but we should be increasingly obedient to our God. This is obvious and yet we find ourselves at tension with this so often. Whether it is a call to fast, or get up 15 minutes earlier to pray, or to pray for a colleague or unchurched friend who is going through something, we can find ourselves resisting. Or maybe it is just me. I don't want to labour on this but Good Servants obey, and if we are looking to serve into greateness, then obedience is the path. Trust is grown when we obey. If we can't be generous when we have $100 to our name, then we are unlikely to be generous when we have $1,000. So then why would God trust is with the greater when we can't be faithful with the smaller.

How does this apply as we lead young people? If we are not faithful and obedient when we are responsible for 5-10 young people, then it is only a matter of time before even what you have may be taken from you. Don't get me wrong, there are people with charisma and natural leadership who can draw a crowd and build a team to put on events and programs, and they do it out of their own abilities and without God. And they may even maintain it for a number of years, but growth is a magnifier. It exposes the strengths and the weaknesses in organisations and in leaders. The only way for long term effectiveness is to first be a disciple and follower of God.

I encourage you to practice obedience in you day to day living.

 

Good Servants are humble, self-aware and willing

Good Servants are not proud or self-seeking. They elevate and seek the best for their Master, and their Master's priorities. God's priority is His Kingdom in the lives of people and our greatness is measured in the success of that mission.

Good Servants are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I believe they do their best to honour their unique God-design by operating out of their SHAPES (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience & Season), but without determining that any task is "beneath" them.

Operating out of our uniqueness and letting other people operate out of theirs will produce a great outcome. The picture is like an orchestra that works together to produce a beautiful piece of music, but it would be a shambles if the violin tried to play the part of the tuba, or the cymbals tried to play the part of the trombone. They are designed for a specific sound and weaved into the music in a way that honours that sound and the overall symphony. In serving, we can become great when we let others shine in their uniqueness while also honouring our own.

In balance to that, we should never respond to a task or responsibility as if you were too important to perform it, if we are able to.

How does that land within youth ministry? I believe an example might help. Say you are running a youth church service and you are preaching that night. You feel properly prepared although maybe a little nervous. You go into the bathroom for a last minute "stop off" and when you wash your hands you notice that the bench is a mess and that the hand towels have almost run out. To me, it would be servant-like to pop your head out of the toilet door and ask one of your team to sort out the hand towel situation before popping back into the bathroom to wipe down and tidy the bench. You are then helping others to express service while still expressing an act of service. It would not be servant-like to find the person responsible for hosting and keeping the toilets tidy, yelling at them about the state of the bathrooms and telling them to sort it out, because you have just prioritise a clean bathroom over the person.

Good Servants work to their strengths, they give others the opportunity to work to their strengths but they never think of themselves as above any task.

 

Greatness is possible, but it comes to those who know know who their true Master is, they understand and adopt the priorities of their Master, they obey their Master, they understand their uniqueness and the uniqueness of others and they operate in humility.