I’m pretty fortunate. Many years ago, when I was working my first full-time church staff position, my pastor made sure to invest lots of leadership training in me. We watched leadership videos together, had lengthy discussions about leadership, and he was willing to send me to any conference that would grow me as a leader. It’s an investment I’m incredibly grateful for and it fostered a desire in me to keep on growing. To this day, there’s almost always a leadership book in my reading queue, I subscribe to several leadership podcasts, and I’ll snatch up one on one time with great leaders whenever I can get it. (Side note: if I know I’m going to have an opportunity to shake a great leader’s hand, but no opportunity to really talk, I’ll ask him/her what the most important book they’ve ever read was. If it helped shape them, it will help shape me too!)
I’ve noticed, over the years, that many leaders share similar qualities: lots of vision, a strong work ethic, the ability to inspire, generosity, passion, and the continuing pursuit of leadership knowledge.
Being in ministry for so many years, I’ve had the honor of investing in many young leaders. It’s such a privilege to speak into their lives and give them opportunities to cut their leadership teeth and watch them grow.
There’s been a lot of rough, ragged, inexperienced, ragamuffin guys and girls that I’ve gotten to work with and I’ve loved working with almost every one of them. They come with lots of different issues: insecurity, lack of discipline, poor communication skills, and more. In fact, I’ve even received criticism a time or two for not having higher standards for those I’m willing to invest in.
Truth be told, there’s really only one thing that will make me hit the brakes and say, “No!” Only one thing that will make me immediately deny leadership roles, influence, promotion, or investment. It’s when the potential leader seems to feel entitled to it. When they feel they deserve that role, it’s a sure sign that they don’t. These position jockeys can be toxic to an organization leaving the leader and themselves frustrated and exhausted. Here’s why:
They won’t receive instruction. Ask them what their growth plan looks like (or even recommend a good book) and they’ll probably tell you about a program they went through a few years ago and how they’ve been too busy to read.
They won’t take direction because they think they know better. You couldn’t possibly provide relevant guidance because of your age and context. After all, they did it a particular way at their old church and it worked so it’s practically sinning to do it any other way.
They contribute very little. There’s an appearance of serving there (especially when opportunities come to be on the platform), but they’re suddenly unavailable when it comes time to do the dirty work. Don’t expect them to contribute financially either.
They love the spotlight. (See above.) They can even be very good from the platform. Their giftedness and talents are often great, but those talents can be a major contribution to their feelings of entitlement. When given the choice, choose humility and teachability over talent every time!
If you’re in a place where you’re bringing up leaders, let me encourage you to have a deliberate process in place to deal with this character trait or keep it from coming into your programs altogether. Have an application process that will identify it.
If you think that you may have a spirit of entitlement (hint: if it seems like church leadership keeps you at arms length when you’re trying to get close so you can help, you probably do) then humble yourself. God opposes the proud but favors the humble (James 4:6). NEVER STOP LEARNING. Repent of your pride and show that you’d be just as happy scrubbing toilets as you would be leading worship or teaching.
I’ve found God to be an incredible contrarian. When we really want it, He asks us to lay it down. When we’re content without it, He gives it to us. Lay it down and let God decide when your ready for service.