Lead by Example…Really
There is a phrase I have used since day one as a full time youth worker.
“Never ask a student to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.”
This is a concept that I have tried hard to live by. It is a concept I have tried hard to instill into my volunteer youth staff. It is a concept I hope the students at our church see modeled. During the process of becoming a youth staff member we discuss this concept. I have always said “this applies to everything we do, from doing daily devotions to scrubbing a toilet on a retreat to playing a gross nasty game, don’t ask them to do it if you wont do it.”
Over my many years of serving teenagers, there have been few times I have struggled to live up to this concept. But on our recent mission trip toPuerto Rico, it happened. Jobs were being delegated out at our dorm facility when the next job offered was guys toilet duty. I looked at the other two guys still left to get a job, and they looked at me. Before I really knew what was happening, I heard the words come out of my mouth; “I will do it.”
I grabbed the cleaning supplies offered, and the rubber gloves, and headed off to my doom. As I went from stall to stall, scrubbing away at all eight toilets and four urinals, I kept thinking over and over again in my mind “never ask a student to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.” (I also repeated the name of the cleaner over and over again, “fabuloso”, just because it was fun to say.)
I see two major reasons why this concept needs to be forefront in the mind of every youth worker.
1. It is the Biblical standard of leadership
Jesus certainly led this way. He asked the disciples to feed the 5,000 before he did it himself. He sent them off to cast out demons and do miracles only after they watched Him do it. He asked Peter, James, and John to pray in the garden of Gethsemane while he himself prayed. The apostle Paul instructed the people of Corinth to “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
2. People (especially teenagers) can easily spot a fake
No one likes to be dictated to. Don’t delve out all the cleaning jobs then sit down and drink coffee. No one likes a hypocrite. If you expect students to turn off their cell phones during an event, you better not get a text message half way through your message. (that one was kind of a confession for me…) No one likes to be tortured. If you force a student to eat a live gold fish in the name of entertainment, keep room in your own belly for one. Almost everyone learns by example. If you teach a lesson on ACTS prayer, close that meeting by praying Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication more sincerely than ever before.
As I reflect on this concept, I don’t remember who instilled it in me or who I stole it from. I do know that living out this concept has been one of the keys to my success. I had to live up to my own words a few weeks ago by cleaning toilets, and I am completely O.K. with it. Are you living up to your own words? I hope so.