UNIQUE REQUIREMENTS FOR LEADERSHIP IN YFC
We sometimes find that gifted grassroots workers don’t always make good leaders in YFC. This is because leadership brings with it certain challenges that require gifts other than what we consider as essential for grassroots work. Below I have listed some of these things which are crucial to leadership. It must be noted that I am speaking primarily of leadership in Youth for Christ.
- Let me first say that grassroots ability is essential for leadership too. In YFC that means commitment to and experience in youth evangelism among unchurched youth. Leaders supervise grassroots workers and also they must be in touch with the grassroots through their own personal ministry and through experience and sympathy with what happens at the grassroots. But there are some other factors which may not be so crucial to grassroots workers which are crucial to leaders.
There are different styles of leadership, and because of this, organisations will take on different organisational cultures based on the style adopted by the leader. But all leadership styles must have some essential features.
- One of these features is visionary leadership. A leader must have a vision and must be willing and able to communicate this to the others in the group so that they too would catch the vision. Jesus exemplifies visionary leadership in the way he burned into the hearts of his disciples his vision of the Great Commission. This is recorded for us towards the end of all four Gospels and twice in Acts (see 10:42). The variety of his presentation is impressive. He focuses on his authority to give such a commission (Matt. 28,18), on the content of the message to be preached (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 10:42), on the nature of the work (Matt. 28:19), on the scope of the Commission (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8), on his life as an example (John 20:21) and on his provision to us so that we can fulfil the commission (Matt. 28:20; Luke 25:29; Acts 1:8).
Leaders without a vision must desperately pray to God to lead them to one which will drive their group in its activities. Some leaders simply follow the rules. That is not enough. Rules are a means to achieving ends to which we are passionately committed.
- This vision and how it is being fulfilled must be shared with the group that this leader is accountable to. To members of the leadership team of Sri Lanka YFC that would include the leader’s supervisor and leadership team.
- Leaders have to spend time on a lot of things that they do not like to do and which they do not feel comes within their giftedness, such as counselling, visitation of the sick, conflict resolution and writing letters and reports and administration. Indeed they must learn the art of delegation, especially delegation of duties in areas they are not capable in. But often before the delegation is done there are things which crop up that must be attended to at once. Even after delegation there are a lot of things which they must do which they cannot delegate to others.
As I think of these past 23 years that I have led YFC Sri Lanka, I think for most of this period a majority of what I did was not what I relished doing. They were things I felt did not involve the use of the primary gifts I have (preaching, teaching, writing). But I think doing these things is what has helped me survive in YFC. Also I think that the struggle to do these things has really enriched me and as a result helped my preaching, teaching and writing immensely. Perhaps this long-term experience in YFC has helped give me some credibility too! Yet I have had the opportunity to do those things I love—preaching, teaching and writing—”on the side,” whether in Sri Lanka or abroad (as YFC’s missionary), all as part of my ministry with YFC/Sri Lanka. This has been like a tonic that has helped give me strength to do the things I don’t like to do and still be happy in my work in YFC.
- Leaders cannot only fulfil their own work responsibility faithfully and simply leave others to fulfil theirs. They have to supervise the others. They have to communicate the vision of the group in such a way that others are motivated to be committed to it. They have to minister to the spiritual, mental, emotional and social needs of the team members. They have to be alert to deviations from the ethos of the group and take corrective action at such times. In other words, they always have to be thinking of the group. “You in your small corner, and I in mine,” does not apply to leaders!
- Therefore leaders must be people who must be able to think of several things at the same time. They can’t abdicate responsibility in a crisis saying things like “I have a message to prepare” or “I am tired.” This may be hard at first, but, if they want to be leaders, they will have through practice to acquire this discipline of multiple vision.
- Maintaining ones spiritual, personal and family life in such an environment is tough! But the balanced life is our cross. It is easy to concentrate on a few things and do them well. Often this is a luxury we cannot afford. We have to fulfil our leadership responsibilities while being faithful to our families, keeping our relationship with God warm and also seeing that our personal dreams are fulfilled. This requires dogged discipline, the dropping of many things that we like to do, and the refusing of many invitations which seem to bring great opportunities. Despite this divesting of opportunities, we will have to live with stress, strain and tiredness. Yet this cross that we bear is what gives us credibility. Sometimes when Paul made an impassioned appeal or exhortation, he appealed to his sufferings as his qualification to say what he was saying (Gal. 6:17; Eph. 4:1).
It has been our experience that when we have a leader who does not work very hard, motivated and mature volunteers usually drop out after a time. They lose the desire to be active in a movement where the leader takes things easy while they have to struggle so hard to mix studies, job, home-life and ministry. Therefore I now feel that one of the keys to developing motivated volunteers in YFC is hardworking full-time workers.
- Leaders have to give time to administration. They may, with time, be able to hand over admin responsibilities to others who are more skilled in this. But they must always be thinking administration because, if the group they lead falters here, the programme will be hindered and unity will be broken through people being hurt through things not been done or done improperly. For preachers like me this is a huge challenge!
- Leaders have to regard public relations as a major responsibility. Our work is done in the context of church and society. Therefore the group we lead must seek to have a good relationship with church and society. The leader has to ensure that this happens. The rank and file may be so engrossed in their ministries that they have no time to think of those outside their circle, but the leader cannot be like this.
- Leaders are ultimately responsible for the raising of funds for the ministry of the group they lead. Again they may delegate this to someone else. But if adequate funds are not raised, they are responsible.
COMMITMENT TO UNITY
- Leaders have to ensure that the team they lead is united and works harmoniously. They can’t simply say that the people are incompatible and cannot work together. They have to ensure that they work together and that their problems with each other are adequately dealt with.
Sometimes there are situations where the personality of the leader seems to clash with that of a person he/she supervises. I believe that here we have to let our theology overcome our hesitancy to believing in the possibility and to working towards a solution to this clash. Our theology of the body gleaned from the inerrant Word of God forces us to conclude that if the two workers are open to God and are willing to work hard at walking in the light with each other (and that is hard work!) God will lead them to a resolution of these problems. In fact the differences could help contribute to a situation where the strengths and weaknesses harmonise to give rise to a beautiful partnership where one complements the other.
- Leaders will also need to be “in one accord” with the fellow leaders in their organisation. While the family feeling within organisations changes as they become large and members do not know everyone in the group, the leadership of an organisation must be united so that the family feeling is perpetuated at a different level. Therefore the leadership team must be united with each member having a relationship of trust with the other. Leaders will have to work hard at breaking barriers to this trust.
- As leaders are human they will surely have problems with their fellow leaders. At such times they must bring up the problems with their fellow leaders rather than taking it to the larger community. “Rabble-rousers” cannot be leaders.
- Leaders have to ensure that the group they lead is in harmony with the wider body of which they are a part. Therefore they must keep their team aware of YFC happenings outside their own YFC group and also of happenings in the church at large. They must also communicate the broader vision of YFC to their team members so that they know that they are part of a larger body. Often leaders say, “My people are mad about what is happening in this division.” But usually the leader is the one ultimately responsible for that attitude. It is his or her responsibility to bring up these problems with the other leaders and be satisfied that they are being adequately dealt with. In other words they have a major part in ensuring the unity of the national movement.
In my years in YFC the last four issues mentioned which relate to unity have been the most emotionally draining responsibilities I have had. They have also been areas where I feel I have often failed to give proper leadership.
WHO IS EQUAL TO SUCH A TASK?
I suppose when we read this we will get frustrated and will want to cry out with Paul, “Who is equal to such a task?” (2 Cor. 2:16). As I read this I see so many areas where I have failed. We must remember that God uses us despite our weaknesses so that all the glory goes to the Lord (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Paul says that we have this ministry because of God’s mercy, not because of our abilities (2 Cor. 4:1). Ministry is done entirely by the enabling of God who uses us despite our weaknesses. None of us are perfect leaders, but we must all have standards to aspire to.
A CALLING TO LEADERSHIP
Also we must remember that the Bible does speak of giftedness being related to the call we have, and that different people have different callings. Therefore we can assume that leadership is also usually a calling related to giftedness. Thus when appointing leaders it would be good for us to look whether the person has a calling to leadership. Romans 12:8 presents leadership as a spiritual gift, thus implying that not all Christians have that gift. A person gifted for leadership should usually be fairly capable of a majority of the abilities mentioned above. So the calling to leadership is an important requirement in the appointment of leaders.
godliness, Christian character and behaviour
But more important than everything mentioned above are the qualifications related to godliness, Christian character and behaviour as Paul’s instructions on the appointment of elders makes clear (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9). That, however, is not a topic covered in this study. I have dealt with that in my book, Leadership Lifestyle: A Study of 1 Timothy.