Throughout my time as a Small Group Point Person, the hunt for the perfect gift for my leaders has been a challenge that, at times, has caused me considerable angst. I’m sure you know what I mean. Christmas is right around the corner, and you want to get something for your leaders that communicates value, appreciation and investment for the time they have spent pouring into the lives of others. Perhaps it is branded mugs filled with their favourite treats? Maybe a gift card to a local coffee shop? A card? A devotional? It has to be something unique and special.
The Gift of You
I want to suggest that while all of those things are essential tools in affirming those who lead, the greatest gift we can give them is modeling for them a life intimately connected to Jesus.
If that is not what you expected me to write, then you’re in good company because, after 17 years of ministry, it is something that I am just finally coming to grasp.
You see, we live in a world that elevates the doer. And if you are like me (maybe you’re not) there is a certain thrill to being successful in our doing. When we run an event, that works – #boom! When we have more leaders sign-up than ever before – #shazaam! When someone comes up to us and speaks profound praise – #yes! We walk away from those moments feeling like we could take on the world – “Bring it on!” becomes our rallying cry. But then we face failure, discouragement or difficult people and it can lead us to places and spaces where we question our calling.
The world says “do more,” “accomplish more,” “complete more,” “achieve more!” That the level of your output directly corresponds to your success. But in God’s “upside-down” Kingdom, he calls us to stop doing and start being. Be rooted in him. Be connected to him.
The Practice of Abiding
In John 15, Jesus is speaking with his Disciples on the eve of his betrayal and says, “Abide in me…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Nothing is such a harsh word. Nothing? Lord? I do many things every day with very little ‘you.’ I mean, I say a quick prayer, but then I am on my way doing so many things.
I’ve spoken those words more times than I’d like to admit.
But the reality of this verse is that if we want to accomplish anything of Kingdom value if our leaders want to accomplish anything of Kingdom value, it must come from a place of rootedness in Jesus. In a daily, active, resting in who he is and a reminder of who we are in him.
Spending time and cultivating habits that ground us in Jesus seems counterintuitive to our culture. I’ve often struggled with feeling like an hour of reading, praying, and studying first thing in the morning (or whenever is your best time) is not the best when there is so much to do!
But as I continue in ministry, I am finding that it is the most crucial habit I can instill in my life and model for my leaders. By abiding, we will accomplish more in and for the Kingdom of God than all of our ‘doings’ combined.
So give your leaders the most incredible gift they will ever receive—model for them a life of abiding in Jesus. Guide them towards that life. Help them cultivate spiritual disciplines that draw them into the intimate relationship God longs for, and then stand back and watch God work.
Three Practical Tools
Trying to be more intentional in prayer or reading God’s word can often be challenging when caught in the whirlwind of busyness. That is where habit stacking can come in. Do you already do something each day with regularity? I love coffee, and I never miss my morning cup. And since this is a habit that I have already established, I can leverage it and add a new activity to it. Now I read a chapter of the Bible and pray during my morning coffee. I use an existing habit to start a new one. Over time these practices will become intertwined and create a new pattern. That’s the beauty of habit stacking!
Life is fast, made even faster by all we have experienced over the past two years. Burnout is a genuine possibility, with so many leading these days. While it may seem counterintuitive, intentionally slowing down and even stopping will do more for your soul and the souls of your leaders than sticking in the grind. Dallas Willard was asked what was needed to stay spiritually healthy and replied, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” How can you, intentionally and practically, slow down today?
We cannot do life alone. Right from the advent of creation, God designed us to be in community. You and I know that, which is why we do what we do!
We are often so busy getting others connected that we can often neglect our own connections.
Finding community yourself offers you a group of people to do life with and models the importance of community for your leaders. People who help you learn, grow and see Jesus in the midst of it all. If you haven’t done so, find and join a Huddle with other Small Group Point people (it’s like a small group for small group ministry leaders). It will be life-giving for you.