Assertive Leadership

In the last couple of months, I have been leading worship for the Unchained youth ministry at CrossRoad. This is after a 5 year hiatus from the youth band. It is a pretty cool experience to work with young musicians. It is also a great opportunity to hang with one of my best friends in life, Bruce Carder, who leads the youth band. We’ve had some pretty strong nights in the last couple of weeks. And there is nothing like watching a group of teenagers visibly open up to God and sing their songs to Jesus. In the coming weeks, I will be holding auditions and raising up a brand new crop of young worship leaders. So excited about where things will go from here.

With over 15 years of worship leading experience, I am still learning how to do it. Leading worship for youth is like no other worship environment. Keeping them engaged in the moment may be one of the most challenging tasks. Their hearts are definitely there, but their attention spans can be tiny. Each week, I have to work hard at finding the balance in keeping it light and accessible to all of the teenagers while having a good amount of depth and focus. Sometimes, I have to deliberately call for everyone’s attention. With my personality, I can only hold the assertive face for so long. I’ll spend a few seconds quieting the crowd only to make a joke a minute later. Nevertheless, part of the job of worship leading in youth (and maybe in general) is being assertive.

I was reflecting on all of this and began to think about the massive amount of leadership talks and seminars I have sat through over the years. I have heard it said often that true leaders take people in the direction of a preferred future. To do this, the leader must be intentional about leading decisively. This kind of leadership is critical especially when the people being led do not want to go where the leader is going. I have watched this happen several times. I am currently watching it happen in a number of churches, but also in our government and in a few families as well. How does a person lead with assertiveness and decisiveness without it becoming aggressive and overbearing. I think the key is commitment to the people.

No one wants to feel like they are expendable. Leaders and followers alike want to make their lives count. We all want to know that we matter beyond the work that we do. The challenge for leaders is that we are so razor-focused on the vision ahead that we forget to communicate just how much we care for the people around us. As a leader, I have found that the words I mean the most (“I love you, I am thankful for you, I am here for you, I count it a privilege to be on the journey with you”) are said the least. But when people know you care about them more than the destination, they will follow you anywhere.

I am praying for this kind of grounding in my leadership…particularly at youth. I do not simply want to have their attention as I ramble on about the importance of worship. I want them to focus so that they will find the satisfaction of their souls —  Jesus. I am praying that as I lead worship on Sunday nights, my commitment to the kids, not just to the worship set and crowd control, would be more evident. Still not completely sure how to do that, but I am looking forward to figuring it out. I love those kids more than any mystical worship moment. And Jesus loves them more than I ever will.

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