As my boy grows older, I’ve been watching him with an eye to developing his ability to lead (a family, in particular, but also in other areas of life as well). I’m encouraging my daughters in leadership as well, but with a different emphasis (They may not lead a family, but they will certainly have opportunities to exercise leadership as adults.) I want all of my children to be bold for Christ: to act with grace and truth even if nobody else is choosing right.
What does it look like to have a child learning how to lead?
- Bossy. Trying to lead in everything, down to the smallest detail. Siblings don’t typically appreciate this approach, and we end up with some significant conflict!
- Confusing the need to confront a brother, with correcting every time my brother sins. (I struggle with this problem as well: knowing what to overlook. I’ve also had some significant discussions from siblings who don’t understand why I’m overlooking a sin of another sibling.)
- Misunderstanding the limits of authority. Do we have the authority to correct our brothers?
- Misunderstanding the nature of leadership. One conversation with my daughter after a group activity with several families: My daughter commented that one new child had a “leader personality.” When I asked what she meant, she said, “She likes to tell people what to do. She likes to plan how people play.” Then she commented that she wasn’t a leader, because she doesn’t like to tell people what to do. This observation led to a short discussion on leadership styles. Not every leader likes to “tell people what to do.”
- Laziness: Telling siblings or friends what to do so they can take it easy.
- Always needing to choose the activity. Having difficulty following another leader.
- Over teaching. Making every question for help into a lengthy lecture.
Many of these behaviors reflect a misunderstanding of one’s responsibility to one’s neighbor. Some are simply immature efforts to do good. Others a sinful manifestations of a desire to lead that need to be corrected.
My tendency is to stop all of these behaviors instead of encouraging and redirecting them. I want to acknowledge the many times that the motives of my children are to do good, even if they’re ineffective or counterproductive! I’ve been deliberately identifying some of these behaviors with leadership terminology: authority, leadership, delegating, following, and so on.
I also want to think about behaviors that are annoying to me (and need correction) with an eye of grace. We learn to lead by trying and failing and trying and succeeding. Sometimes I just need to overlook the awkwardness of learning a new skill. I’m learning the skill of cultivating leaders. I learn by trying and failing and trying and succeeding. I’m praying for grace as I work to this end.
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:13-16
I also love this picture of an immature Joshua coming to tattle on someone, and Moses’ response:
But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”
29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel. Numbers 11:26-30
One more, interesting that at times, Paul recognized that he was at unable to convince someone of a particular opinion. He left it in God’s hands.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Philippians 3:15