How to Lead and Follow

A leader leads. But how does one lead without following? That’s difficult, at best. What characteristics does a leader need to lead, and more specifically, what characteristics does a leader need to become a follower? One might argue that it’s not necessary to follow if you are the leader, but I think that Jesus would beg to differ with that opinion. (See Matthew 19:30 and Mark 9:35.)

There are several major characteristics that a leader needs. Let’s examine three:

  1. A good leader is willing to listen. Often people might be hearing what you are saying, but are they really listening to what you are saying? Hearing involves the ability to take in sound. Listening involves really becoming one with the person who is speaking and putting one’s self into that person’s situation; e.g., “How would I feel if they moved my Sabbath School class to the cold basement without discussing how that would affect my senior citizen class members?” Empathizing and sympathizing are key points to being a good listener, a leader who can follow. Being good in this instance would include follow-through, looking for optional locations and being willing to move if moving is the best option for all involved.
  2. A good leader coordinates. Whether there are three or 23 Sabbath School classes, coordination is a major key to success:
    • Making sure that classes are taught by those who have studied and understand each lesson.
    • Ensuring that presentations are interesting and thought provoking. Making certain that classes are cohesiv 
  3. A good leader rolls up his or her sleeves. Being a follower might involve:
    • Passing out the quarterlies instead of having the secretary do it.
    • Participating in each class if only for 10 minutes in each class.
    • Sharing one class’s materials and methods with other classes that would find the materials useful. Also this will help to downplay competitiveness among classes 
  4. A good leader encourages team members to develop their God-given skills and talents. With this comes the responsibility of helping each facilitator set goals: i.e., bringing three new people to join a class per month, making decisions about who might be better qualified to present on a given program topic, who might be more apt to sing a solo, and encouraging class members and teachers alike to “think outside the box.” This could mean planning a skit within the class about the lesson and how it relates to real-life issues.

Sabbath School Needs Support Teams

The difference in any team comes down to commitment. Are people committed to Sabbath School? Is it really an important part of the structure of the church, and if it is, what can each department do to ensure its success?

One of the chief characteristics of any successful venture is that people follow the leader! So it is paramount that the followers believe the tenets presented and the need for the success of these tenets. This involves the demonstration of caring by both Sabbath School leaders and followers, their credibility and dependability.

Both the leader and the follower become visionaries, seeing and creating new directions, possibilities, and skill sets to make Sabbath School the best that it can be. Both the skill sets of the leader and the follower are paramount to the success of any good Sabbath School. Without both, the Sabbath School becomes drab and meaningless. Good leaders know that they don’t know everything, and so they know how to follow. The best leader grows to be a good follower and the best follower grows to be a good leader when they follow the example of Christ’s humility.


Gina S. Brown
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists