Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. — C.S. Lewis
In my 20 years of experience in Student Ministry, leaders generally tend toward one of these styles of leadership:
Leading from the feet: Always interested in the newest technology, the latest methodology, the hottest bands, and the most relevant new curriculum, these leaders are early adopters who place their highest value on the latest trends.
Leading from the head: Always ready for a good argument about the minutia of challenging doctrine and always critical of the local pastor’s last sermon, these leaders are heavy on doctrine and the intellectual pursuit of Scripture. Their highest value is knowing the right answers.
Leading from the belly: Always going with the flow, never rocking the boat, and always falling in line with the pastor’s approach without advancing ideas of their own, these leaders are primarily interested in conformity. Their highest value is keeping their jobs.
Every Student Pastor I’ve ever known tends toward one of these approaches to ministry. But there is a better way.
Leading from the chest is keeping all of these in balance and leading a student ministry with courage. Courageous leaders recognize the value of new technology and are aware of the best new curriculum and methods, but are not consumed by them. Courageous leaders are always seeking to understand the deepest doctrines of the Christian faith and to know God more deeply but don’t communicate over the heads of their students and don’t develop a critical spirit. Courageous leaders understand the necessity and value of submission to leadership, but keep their voice and speak up when leaders stifle the advancement of the gospel through new and creative means.
When we keep balance in this way, we are able to focus on those things which are most important in ministry without giving up the things that make it fun and meaningful (and without losing your job!) But it takes courage when the church down the street is doing all the coolest new things or your church leadership has some legalistic expectations. It takes courage to set a course for ministry and see it through, even when some don’t understand and the leader receives criticism.
Stay strong. Be courageous. Lead with balance and integrity.