“Do you know who I am? I don’t know how to put this, but…I’m kind of a big deal. People know me, I’m very important.”
This declaration from Will Ferrell’s character Ron Burgundy cracks me up every time I hear it. Blatant narcissism is funny because it’s a magnified version of that whiny little voice we all have inside…
For far too many youth workers, becoming a “Big Deal” is on their bucket list.
Of course, we would never outwardly admit this embarrassing reality, but our actions (as they say) speak when our silence won’t.
Because I speak and write, I’ve recently had several conversations with newbie youth workers about how they can become a “known” speaker—they want tips on how to “build their platform.” Of course, speaking (and doing it well) is not a bad thing. But the strategic intention to pursue fame (such as it is in the niche world of youth ministry) is most often misguided ambition.
Nobody knows who first said it, but I love this quote: “Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader…they set out to make a difference. It’s never about the role; it’s always about the goal.”
Jesus may call you to speak to thousands, but that’s no higher calling than to speak to dozens. Consider these five reflections—chew on them as you wrestle with the tension between your calling and your ambition…
- Giftedness and maturity are not synonyms. You may be gifted, but you might not be ready. Sharpen your gifts and skills, but keep your focus on growing as a Jesus-following person and a lay-down-my-life shepherd of sheep.
- Don’t treat your church as a prep school for something bigger and better in your future. Your calling as a ministry leader means you’re a giver, not a taker. Sure, learn all you can where you are, but not with an attitude of looting whatever treasure you can find before you move on.
- Put your head down and grind! Jesus does hard work—that’s what bringing “freedom to captives” is all about. When we accept His invitation to join Him in His mission, we’re signing on for hard work. So, grow and develop the gifts Jesus has given you, always with an eye to the mission of Jesus, not the mission of Me.
- Bloom where you’re planted. Live in the now—the only reality we have—not in your future. Whatever is in front of you right now is the mission Jesus has for you. And “what’s next” is not synonymous with “bigger and better.”
- Grow in your emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Pay attention to what’s growing in your soul, and what “triggers” a momentum in you that’s self-destructive and narcissistic. Notice what you notice about yourself, then act based on that understanding.
Jesus may invite you to speak to thousands, but please remember the teenagers who need you now. They’re not your training ground; they’re your mission field. Be faithful in the little things first, and guard against being impressed by bigger things. The goal is not to be known, but to make Jesus known.
Build your organization, not your resume.
Focus on bringing out the best in others right where you—that’s the best way to grow into a “next-level” leader.