Don’t climb the leadership ladder, burn it.
Let me tell you a little bit about my leadership journey.
I spent 8 years of my ministry life serving as a volunteer Youth Pastor at small rural churches in Northern Indiana. For years I had dreamed about becoming a full time Youth Pastor. If I was full time, I would get to take my teenagers to camp, retreats, and conferences. I would get to hang out with other full time Youth Pastors and learn from them. I was so excited about one day being “full time”.
In the year 2000, Trinity Assembly of God, our Church that we had been serving as volunteers for 4 years was financially able to bring us onto a full time staff position. I was so thankful to Pastor Parks for taking a leap of financial faith. The Church was about 150 people in a community of only 4,000, so to hire a full time Youth Pastor was a big step. But they took the chance and I was finally an official Full Time Youth Pastor.
That summer I finally had the chance to take my small group of teenagers to our denomination’s Summer Camp. I was looking forward to going to camp with my youth, but more importantly, I was looking forward to sitting down and asking some veteran youth guys some questions. I was so hungry to grow! I arrived at camp with a notebook that had a list of Youth Pastors names written in it that I wanted to learn from during the next five days. I was the new guy from a small church and small town. I had only brought a few kids to camp, but I was ready to learn.
I will never forget coming up to one of the big time veteran Youth Pastors at the camp as he was walking down the road. I ran up to him and said, “My name is Kevin Moore and I was wondering if I could setup a time this week to sit down and ask you a few questions about ministry. You have about 200 in your group and I would love to learn from you.” The Youth Pastor looked at me with an uninterested look on his face and replied, “Walk with me and ask me your questions while we are walking.” I felt like a little kid, but this was the only chance I would get, so I asked him a few questions while we walked down the road. He never stopped. He never looked at me. He never gave me a sincere answer. I guess I wasn't worth his time. I was the little guy from a little town. He was the big guy that was helping run the camp. He was farther up the ladder than I was. He was too busy to give me his time.
Over the next few days, I tried to meet with the other Youth Pastors. All of them, except one, gave me the same type of response. “Walk with me while we talk.” “Sure, I have 5 minutes.” Some just flat out replied, “Maybe later, I have to be somewhere right now.” All of these leaders were at larger churches than I was. All of these leaders had a much higher position than I did in the denomination. All of these leaders were too busy for the new guy, from the little town, with only a few kids in his group.
The next year, our student ministry exploded. We grew from a few students to 200 in a year. That next summer when we went to Camp, not only were we one of the largest group at Camp, we were one of the largest Youth Ministries in the state. I was blown away when I arrived. Those same guys that would not give me the time of day the previous summer, now were coming up to me asking, “Where are you sitting for lunch Kev? Why don't you sit with us? Hey Kevin, can I have a few minutes with you after service, I wanted to talk to you about some ministry ideas that I have.” I was shocked. I wanted to ask them, “Hey bro, you did not have time for me when I was the little guy on the totem pole, why in the world do you have time for me now?”
If there is one thing that I despise in leadership it’s The Ladder. My advice for you is, Don’t climb the Leadership Ladder, burn it!
Through the years, I guess in some ways, I have been at the bottom of the ladder and I’ve been near the top.
Here are a two things I’ve learned about the leadership ladder.
1 - The view at the top is not what you thought it would be.
When you climb the ladder and get that promotion, accept that job at the big church or dream corporation that everyone you know would die to be at, you will quickly see, the view is a lot different then what you thought it would be. You still have to go home every night. You still have to pay the bills. You still have to write messages, do meetings, deal with people, and raise your kids. Life is not all that different a few rungs up on the ladder.
2 - Someone always has a taller ladder.
If you climb the ladder and become full time at a church, someone else has a bigger church. If you climb the ladder and get that position, someone else has a better paying position. If you climb the ladder and know a great leader personally, someone else has a bigger name, larger ministry, or has a more recognized leader than the one you are now friends with. The view is never what you think it will be at the top of the ladder. Someone always has a taller ladder. Because of this grab a match and burn the leadership ladder!
Here are three passages to memorize that will help you put your heart into what God has placed in your hands, and stop caring about what rung you are standing on.
Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Whether you are full time, part time, or a volunteer do what God has placed in front of you with all of your heart for God and his attention. Don’t focus on who is watching you do what you do, focus on doing what your supposed to do.
1 Timothy 6:6 - But godliness with contentment is great gain.
What if you were simply content with doing what HE has given you to do? Instead of trying to do more, why not just do what you do, but better!
Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Why do you want to serve? Why do you want to preach? Why do you want to lead? What are your motives? Is your motive to gain the attention of others? Is your motive to get on the speaking circuit? Is your motive to stay where you are until a better gig comes along? What is your motive in the ministry that you are doing? There is such great joy that comes from putting your head down and putting your heart into the things that God has placed in your hands.
Don't worry about climbing the ladder. Do what HE gives you the best you possibly can and when it comes time for a promotion, God will take care of that.
If you would like to start a brand new journey of leading yourself, your family, your team, and your organization from a healthy place, we have an online training platform that will help you grow at your own pace and right where you are!
This is a chapter from my ebook - “9 truths that will scale your life and leadership”.