So the month of February has begun and I don’t quite know where January went. I think it was possibly buried and lost under all of the snow Valpo has had: we’ve had more than twice the normal amount of snow for this area already. However, during all of the snow, I had the exciting opportunity to help lead a Christian leadership conference for Lutheran high school students towards the end of January. The 19 youth that attended were amazing and it was an incredible experience for everyone involved. So today, I thought I should reflect on leadership and what it means to be a Christian leader.
This past Monday, Rev. John Nunes, the former CEO of Lutheran World Relief, spoke to a group that I participate in on his idea of leadership. Out of my first few months at Valpo, it was probably the most impactful 90 minutes I have had. He spoke on three I’s that Christian leaders should possess to be effective: Influence, Integrity, and the Image of God. This is not meant to be a recipe for leadership, but rather attributes and visions that are useful in becoming an effective leader in your school, church, or community.
When you are a leader, influencing someone is often a primary goal. You can use speech, persuasion, action, or motivating ideas to influence someone. If you can have an impact on someone, then you can often get more done in the group that you’re leading. So do you have influence? Do people look up to you and have a good image of you? Are you persuasive? As Pastor Nunes said to me, “If you think you’re a leader, but do not influence anyone, you are merely taking a walk in a garden.” Whether it is on a sports team, a school club, or the youth group, make sure you are having a positive influence on the outcome of the group.
Integrity is often overlooked during high school I believe. Do you actually know what it means to have integrity? It is a term that is often thrown around on a broad scale, but integrity is an idea that applies to the individual. Often times, we hold our public leaders to high levels of integrity, but do we do the same? Do you actions line up with your beliefs and your speech? We often slip up and do not keep our word. Integrity also includes taking responsibility for our words and actions, accepting criticism humbly, and the ability to learn from our failures. Additionally, having courage is essential to integrity as the world likes to throw all sorts of temptations at us, but we cannot let ourselves to be corrupted in order for us to maintain the respect of our peers. Therefore, accountability and responsibility are also attributes of a Christian leader.
The final aspect of Christian leadership is particularly interesting and exciting to me. It is the idea that leaders should believe that everyone is created in the image of God. This seems to be a statement that we all believe, having been taught it in Sunday School when we were little. But do you actions say that you believe this statement? If everyone is the image of God, every person is equal and on the same level. I struggle with this, as I want to rank individuals or groups, but that cannot be done, as each person is equal to each other.
Christian leaders must also believe that each person has dignity and a purpose for their life. Every person is capable of doing something to help the world, and therefore no one should be shunned or put down. Thinking back to high school, I remember the cliques at the lunch tables. You know what I’m talking about I’m sure. You know where you can sit and where you can’t sit. Is that an image of Christian community or leadership? It probably isn’t sometimes. A big emphasis has been placed on fighting bullying in recent years, and this is true at Seward High. Why do we have to combat bullying in this day and age? It is because of the fact that not everyone believes that each person is created in the image of God. Christian leaders should believe this statement as it will empower others and create better cooperation in your groups. This does not mean that you have to “preach” to others, but rather just show kindness, care, and compassion for those that you encounter each day of your life.
So I urge the youth reading this to be leaders inside and outside of school. Be Christ-centered leaders who believe that all people are created in the image of God. Be influential in steering your friends and peers down correct and effective paths. Finally, have the courage seek integrity. Being a leader is hard and there is no denying that, but the world is desperate for strong Christian leaders and I know that each one of you can be one of those.
Have a blessed February and I’ll be back in Seward in another month for Spring Break! Again, if you would like to contact me for any reason, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.