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3 Ways to Keep Learning as a Leader

One of the most critical things you can do as a leader is to keeping learning. Here are simple ways you can do that with your team.

1. Reflect

Leaders who take the time to contemplate themselves, their experiences, and their relationships are more apt to remain fresh and stable.

Lessons learned, failures experienced, and successes gained can be building blocks toward wisdom, but we need to review them to use them. As we scurry to answer emails, remain current in our reading, and attend our kids’ soccer games and socials, we’re deprived of the moments for asking the deeper questions of life. Jesus and many great leaders throughout history made it a practice to get away, to retreat. Most of us don’t need to schedule long retreats. Weekly, if not daily, ponderings are sufficient to stretch us.

2. Adapt

Remaining open to learning makes us better leaders during changing times.

As human beings, we’re always tempted to resort to the familiar. But in changing times the familiar quickly starts to feel antiquated and irrelevant. “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17). Leaders are in the new-wine business. They must remain fluid and supple themselves if they’re to introduce appropriate changes to the people they serve.

3. Stretch

Embrace creativity and innovation.

Old wineskins tend to be inflexible, incapable of expanding as the fermenting wine needs room to “stretch.” Inflexible leaders provide diminishing benefits for churches that require both greater wisdom and increased flexibility. Farm living shows that even cows don’t always take the shortest path to a pasture. They tend to take the well-worn one. Humans, too, are creatures of habit more often than they are innovators.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19). God has new things for us in business, ministry, and life in general. That’s exciting! Let it energize you for new things on the horizon.

Team Training: New Wineskins

Twenty-first century leading requires more and better leaders who possess qualities of new and old wineskins—old in that they are seasoned and mature, and new in that they are flexible and supple. Unless we stretch frequently, even the best of us are bound to “burst.” Leaders must continually embrace growth to inspire others to do the same.

Use the following three-part lesson with all your team members to help them keep learning.

Activity 1

The goal of this lesson is to remind everyone that to lead well, they need to keep learning and changing. To remain pliable, leaders must be curious and maintain teachable attitudes. Our natural tendency is to become set in our ways and rely upon past experiences. But rigidity often disrupts effective leadership in times of change.


  • What is something new you’ve tried in the last month (such as a restaurant, an experience, or a visit to a new town)?
  • Why do we tend to avoid new experiences?
  • What recent change has succeeded in our church? How did it evolve?
  • Identify one rut you or our church may be in—a habitual behavior or process that has not been confronted in recent weeks or months.
  • Why is innovation indicative of faith? How does adherence to the status quo require less faith?

Activity 2

Sometimes innovations emerge from problems or apparent failures. Form groups of three or four. Give everyone five minutes to think of and jot down notes about a life or leadership lesson learned from failure. Ask participants to describe how these lessons changed the way they responded to similar circumstances later. Give members of each group 10 minutes to share this information with one another. If you have more than two groups, wrap up with having each group choose one story to share with the larger group.

Activity 3

Try the following activity with members of your team to highlight the importance of remaining observant and aware of changing conditions.

Form pairs, and have partners face each other for about fifteen seconds. Then instruct partners to turn around so that they’re back to back. While they’re turned away from each other, tell participants to change one thing about their appearance within thirty seconds. When time is up, tell partners to turn around, face each other again, and try to identify what has been changed.


  • Was it easy or difficult to spot the changes?
  • Think about how you can cultivate a habit of careful observation. How might this habit benefit the people you serve?

Want more articles for children’s ministry leaders? Check these out.

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3 Ways to Keep Learning as a Leader

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