Picture the perfect leader. Got that person in mind?
What does he or she look like? Does your perfect leader have the
charisma of a Kennedy, good looks worthy of People Magazine, and
the genius of a Stephen Hawking?
The Myth of the Perfect Leader permeates our society. We love
believing that somewhere out there is a man or woman who's able to
defend us from our enemies, provide a chicken in every pot, make
the sun shine a little brighter, and be a role model for our
children. We desperately want to believe in this do-all and endall
Perfect Leader, and that desire plays out in a variety of ways in
• In business, we bankroll CEO's with gargantuan salaries and
give them privileges and perks to match. Why? All in the hope that
the Perfect Leadership will protect our jobs and investments, and
lead us all to wealth.
• In entertainment, Marvel Comic Heroes attract record crowds to
the theaters. We'll gladly pay a small fortune for a ticket and bag
of popcorn so we can watch Perfect Leaders use their super powers
to protect us from super villains.
• In politics, every four years Americans look for a Perfect
Leader to run the country. Americans want a president who can
handle economic forces and foreign policy with equal, excellent
skill. We want a president who'll inspire us, lead without
compromise, tame Congress, love his or her spouse, and guide
America into peace and prosperity.
The Perfect Church Leader
Unfortunately, churches have bought into the myth of the Perfect
Leader, too. We want a pastor who preaches like Billy Graham,
counsels like Dr. Phil, budgets like Donald Trump, strategizes like
General Patton, comforts like Mother Teresa, and inspires like Bill
Clinton-and we want the leader to perform each of these functions
with equal levels of brilliance.
Here's the bottom line: Most people are looking for a leader who
can do all, be all, and solve all. One person who'll be everything
Friend, that sets you and me up for failure. Why? Because when
we're introduced as the "leader" of a children's ministry-even if
our entire organization is ourselves and two volunteers-people
compare us against the myth of the perfect leader.
Even worse: We compare ourselves against that myth.
Everyone who measures herself or himself against that perfect
leader yardstick feels inadequate. Buy into the myth and you'll
either kill yourself by trying to live up to it, or you'll feel
inadequate and underachieving. Either choice is an ugly one,
because both options force you to distort who God has called and
equipped you to be. When we try to be someone God didn't wire us to
be, we make it very hard for God to use us.
Shattering the Perfect Leader Myth
It's time to shatter the Myth of the Perfect Leader once and for
all. Here's how we'll topple that statue: by looking at what's
required of leadership in a "five star" children's ministry.
"Five star" is a designation of excellence. Entertainment
critics award a five-star rating to an excellent production-a play
or movie that runs in the theater for months and that hits a level
of excellence that's not often attained.
Nobody gives a play a five-star rating; the producers earn it.
They earn it by making sure every piece of their production is
outstanding and that every element works together. Down at the
community playhouse nobody notices that the set design is
spectacular if the acting is terrible. You can always spot a
five-star production at a theater.
The reviews are respectful. Lines wrap around the building as
sold-out shows are filled by enthusiastic patrons.
In some way, an outstanding children's ministry is a lot like a
five-star theater production. Five-star children's ministries
attract crowds of parents and children. These ministries sustain
momentum for years. They're designed to thrive over time. And just
as a winning theater production has outstanding producers providing
leadership, there's excellent leadership in a five-star children's
Lead With Your Strengths
God has put you in your role, which means that how he wired you
to lead others will work. It just won't work if you insist on
trying to handle all the leadership functions yourself or if you
pretend to be the Perfect Leader who can cover all the bases.
Imagine how dramatically you could improve your ministry-and
your own attitude-if you led others from your strengths instead of
feeling like a misfit. How secure would you feel if you didn't have
to fret about whether your leadership style was okay? Things would
get better, trust me. They got better for me-and they will for
Take the Dramatic Leadership Assessment Test. Don't
worry about the name: I promise you won't be tested on your
dramatic abilities. No singing or dancing is required.
The word "dramatic" refers to the process by which groups of
people put on a play in the theater. There are six distinct
leadership functions required to pull together a successful
play-and each function connects to one of the five stars I just
You'll soon discover a great deal about your natural leadership
style. You'll then explore how your style (or styles) complement
other styles, and how you can work with team members to accomplish
So get ready to be amazed at what God has done, and is doing, in
Leadership Style Summaries
Use these handy handouts to share what you've learned with your
DIRECTOR: Leadership Style Summary
Description: Possesses the ability to visualize
what "the play" will look like on Opening Night and is able to
communicate that vision to an entire team. The Director uses that
picture to motivate his or her team to action. In a ministry
context, the Director is able to see what the children's ministry
can accomplish for God if it steps boldly into the future.
1. I constantly find myself dreaming about the unrealized
potential of my ministry.
2. I study both Scripture and other thriving ministries to discover
what direction I should lead my ministry.
1. I feel satisfaction when I'm able to mobilize my teams to
tackle a big, formidable goal.
2. I enjoy being a pioneer and blazing a new path for my
1. I lead by telling others' stories of what our ministry could
2. I have an easy time asking people to make deep personal
sacrifices for the sake of the ministry and achieving "the
1. I often feel as if I'm waiting for others in my ministry to
catch up or get "on board."
2. I'm annoyed by people who have a hard time seeing the big
Ministry Star(s): The Promised Land,
Leadership Energy: Vision
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Leadership Style
Description: In theater, this person works
closely with the Director to help him or her move the team to the
goal. The Production Assistant develops the master calendars-the
rehearsal schedules, advertising schedules, and set design
schedules. In a ministry context, the Production Assistant bridges
the status quo to the Director's vision through a series of
well-defined and logically progressing steps. A skillful Production
Assistant is able to manage the change of attitudes and "buy-in" of
teammates and influential people in the congregation.
1. I quickly break large projects into a series of manageable
2. I'm able to quickly identify what resources, volunteers, and
budgets need to be in place in order to lead my organization
through change in an orderly fashion.
1. I enjoy it when my team leader turns to me to develop the
plan to make his or her vision become a reality.
2. I feel most valuable to the team when my skills are used to help
the team move through change with efficiency and minimal levels of
1. I lead by developing calendars, timelines, and to-do lists
that help our team measure its progress as we move toward our
2. I lead by helping the team and congregation manage its emotional
responses to a large task or change by giving them constructive
opportunities to share their opinions and feelings.
1. I'm frustrated by leaders who initiate change before thinking
through implications of that change.
2. I'm frustrated by leaders who deviate from a plan on which the
team has agreed.
Ministry Star: Maps
Leadership Energy: Strategy
STAGE MANAGER: Leadership Style Summary
Description: The Stage Manager has an eye for
all the details that need to be attended to in order for the play
to be successfully produced. In a ministry setting, the Stage
Manager has an eye for the systems and to-do lists that need to be
attended to for the ministry to run efficiently.
1. I'm able to mentally organize my ministry into a series of
systems that need to be organized.
2. I constantly look for new ways to improve the efficiency of how
things happen in my ministry.
1. I take pleasure in creating an orderly environment in which
people can serve.
2. I feel secure when I operate within clearly defined boundaries
1. I lead by creating policies and systems to help others do
their jobs well.
2. I have an eye for detail and am constantly generating to-do
lists to organize my day.
1. I have difficulty understanding those who ignore details and
2. I dislike working in unstructured environments.
Ministry Star: Muscle
Leadership Energy: Organization
THEATER MANAGER: Leadership Style Summary
Description: In the world of drama, the Theater
Manager provides a healthy environment in which everyone can work.
He or she pays the heating bills and makes sure the rehearsal rooms
and stage are clean. In a ministry environment, the Theater Manager
creates a healthy relational and cognitive environment that
promotes productive ministry.
1. I'm primarily motivated by the belief that healthy ministries
flow from healthy teams and individuals.
2. I constantly gauge the emotional and attitudinal health of my
1. I feel most satisfied when there is a positive sense of
well-being among my team members.
2. I enjoy tending to the personalities of my teams and
1. I'm able to lead my teams through powerful emotional
experiences that shape my team's attitudes and morale.
2. I'm able to unite a diverse group of people into a common
culture using training, symbols, experiences, and music.
1. I become frustrated when I see team members exhibiting
attitudes that harm our group's well-being.
2. I'm frustrated by leaders who act without considering how their
behavior will affect the team's morale.
Ministry Star(s): Has a global influence on
Promised Land, Maps, Toolbox, Heart, and Muscle.
Leadership Energy: Health
DRAMA COACH: Leadership Style Summary
Description: In theater, the Drama Coach leads
by teaching others the skills and competencies needed to become
skilled actors. In a ministry context, the Drama Coach leads by
teaching team members the competencies, values, policies and
procedures, and philosophies needed for the team to become master
children's ministry volunteers.
1. I'm able to teach skills and concepts to my team members so
they have the best chance for being successful in ministry.
2. I can present both Scriptures and my children's ministry
knowledge in simple and memorable ways that prompt people to change
1. I enjoy studying Scripture as well as a broad field of
literature in the business and education fields so I can bring the
best ideas into my ministry.
2. I feel most used by God when I'm leading a classroom, whether
it's filled with children or adults.
1. I constantly create opportunities to equip my team members in
group or individual settings.
2. I have identified a curriculum of skills and theories that I
believe my team members need to understand in order to be effective
1. I'm frustrated when my team members don't take advantage of
the teacher training opportunities available to them.
2. I often find myself analyzing teachers whom I sit under and find
myself developing better ways to present the same material.
Ministry Star: Tool Box
Leadership Energy: Equipping
STAGEHAND: Leadership Style Summary
Description: In theater, the Stagehand advances
the progress of the team by meeting the physical needs of the team.
Stagehands build the set and make sure all of the props are
acquired and working. In a ministry setting, the Stagehand serves
the team by meeting their physical needs and allowing other leaders
to focus on their roles.
1. I'm able to anticipate what supplies and labor the team will
need to order to accomplish its goals.
2. I'd rather be of assistance to the people who are doing the lead
1. I enjoy working behind the scenes to support my more visible
2. I take pride in my flexibility and willingness to do whatever it
takes to get the job done.
1. I tend to volunteer for the set-up and tear-down phases of
2. I lead by doing all the menial jobs that can pile up and get in
the way of the team accomplishing its goals.
1. I can find myself feeling forgotten by the rest of the
2. I can be judgmental of team members who overlook the physical
jobs that need to be done in the ministry.
Ministry Star: Muscle
Leadership Energy: Servanthood
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