Leaders on all levels constantly encounter challenges, and they develop best as leaders when they take on challenges with a desire to turn each one into a success. Although performing a true spiritual function, Sabbath School leaders also need to incorporate simple principles of organization and leadership into their work.The Sabbath School is called “the heart of the church.” The heart is one of the most vital organs of the body, because its constant function transmits life to all body cells. Likewise, keeping the heart of the church healthy is one way to ensure the well-being of all other parts of the congregation.
There is no magic leadership formula that will fit all circumstances. Each leader must assess the local needs and the available resources to fill those needs. However, the following principles can help:
- Example. People will follow better when they see their leader set the example. Christ had no need for baptism or foot washing. He was sinless. Yet He set us an example.
- Punctuality. If we want others to be on time, we must set the pace. Whether it is a committee meeting or the regular program, start on time and end on time. This shows good stewardship of time.
- Creativity. To be creative could be hazardous, but to ignore it could be fatal. Good leaders always are finding ways to improve. Instead of just following the routine, we must use new ideas to bring new life and meaning to the program. But in the process, we must remember to take our people along with us. Creativity works best when it is the result of a shared vision.
- Delegation. No one can do everything. In this, leaders also become followers. We must learn to delegate, and then have the courage to release control and follow.
- Communication. Listening is important for leaders. It is a vital element of good communication. Sometimes the best ideas come from those being led. We must learn to listen.
- Organization. Even when our resources are few, we must never be disorganized. We must make sure all those involved know their responsibility.
- Motivation. We must keep our staff motivated. This means having regular and meaningful staff meetings, and expressing our joy and appreciation for their efforts. Even though the children’s program didn’t come out as expected, for example, let the children and their leaders know they are valuable. Nobody is perfect. I believe our children’s division teachers are true heroes!
- Evaluation. Plato once said, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” The difference between the cowardly and the courageous is not just the willingness to look inside oneself, but to recognize problems, to take the necessary corrective steps, and then to move on. If leaders don’t look at the mirror on the wall, we will never see that there are ways to improve ourselves!
- Humility. The example set by Jesus in washing the feet of His disciples is a powerful statement of servant leadership. Christian leaders are required to exemplify this type of leadership. Richard Kriegbaum, in his book Leadership Prayers, reflects: “Whenever I base my identity or worth as a person on my role as a leader, I betray myself and miss God’s best for me.”
- Responsibility. Leaders must give an account for the gift of leadership they have received from the generous Giver of all good things. Heaven’s desire is for us to achieve the highest standard of service in God’s church. But we are not left alone to struggle for such excellence. He empowers and works with us to do that which we were called to do.
Our supreme example is Jesus Himself. His legacy was passed on to 12 simple men who revolutionized the world. True leaders prepare other leaders. True leaders find real joy in seeing others emerge, even to the point of their taking up the mantle from the leader. The ultimate accomplishment of good leaders is to foster in others the desire to pursue excellence in serving God and humanity. Take your leadership seriously.
In closing, reflect on this prayer from Richard Kriegbaum’s Leadership Prayers:
“I want to be a spiritually sensitive leader, to enable people to sense more clearly and powerfully the call and guidance of your Spirit in their lives.
“I know this kind of leadership is rare because it is a matter of the Spirit, but God, that is the kind of leader I want to be.”
Dowell W. Chow
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists