Servant Leadership 101: Find a Need and Meet It
by L. J. Harry
Loches Road. Some can’t even pronounce it much less find it, but that’s where I went to church when I was nine. It was out in the country, in the little village of St. Louisville. We packed in around thirty people on a good Sunday. That’s where I grew up, and that’s where I learned servant leadership.
My pastor was Harry Miller, and he believed God had a call on my life, so he asked me to minister in the church every Sunday night. I was only nine years old and I was already ministering every Sunday night. But ministry looked a little different then. While everyone was shaking hands and deciding what toppings to get on their pizza from Nick’s, I was walking around the sanctuary with a new tissue in one hand picking up the pre-owned tissues.
We were having good church when bobby pins flew like missiles and tissues were strewn around the sanctuary like confetti. Pastor Miller asked me to make it my ministry to clean up those tissues to get things ready for next Sunday. That was my introduction to servant leadership.
A few years later, I was walking along the sacred softball field at the Ohio campground the summer after I graduated from high school. One of my ministry heroes was Dan Monk, and he was walking the grounds with me giving me some last-minute advice on ministry before heading off to Gateway College. I was ready to write down every tip on holding a microphone or how to give an altar call. Maybe he’d teach me how to save my voice when I was preaching four revivals in three weeks. Instead, he reached down, picked up an empty soda can, and said to me, “Don’t ever get so big you can’t pick up trash.”
I’ll never forget his words. I’ll never forget his example. Men of God most of you have never heard of or heard preach taught me leadership is about serving. Each day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I try to remember God called me to serve long before He called me to lead.
A few summers ago, I was at a youth camp somewhere between the Atlantic and Pacific. I’m a morning person. I woke up early, had my talk with Jesus, and walked out the cabin door toward the basketball hoops. I was going to shoot a few free throws before breakfast, and that’s when I saw some trash on the ground. I picked it up and threw it away. And then there was more. I picked it up, threw it away, and—wait a minute! Where did all this trash come from? I left the basketball at the court, found a trash bag, and walked around the camp picking up trash. That’s when the Lord reminded me of Bro. Monk’s wise words, “Don’t ever get so big you can’t pick up trash.”
That week a couple of the maintenance guys were out cleaning the grounds and saw me. One of them was working for the camp but hadn’t gone to church in a while. But that week he came to hear me in the day session. He figured if the speaker was willing to help him, he was willing to hear the speaker. Servant leadership can lead others to Jesus because, believe it or not, Jesus was the textbook servant leader.
But be careful. Servant leadership can also lead to pride. It should keep us humble, but sometimes it can make us proud that we’re the only ones willing to do the jobs nobody else wants to do. Be sure you are serving to keep yourself humble, not to make yourself visible. If you make it your ministry to pick up trash, pick up trash before anyone else comes or after everyone else is gone. Be sure your motive is to serve, not to be seen.
Servant leadership is very simple. Find a need and meet it. If nobody is folding the bulletins at church, fold them. If there are more doors than greeters to man them, greet. If vans stay parked because nobody will drive them, ask your pastor if you can drive a van to bring people to church. If Pastor approves, work on your wide, right turns, and drive a van. If the sanctuary looks like it hasn’t been vacuumed since the 80s because it hasn’t been vacuumed since the 80’s, take some time during the week to come to the church and vacuum. There are more areas to serve in the kingdom of God than there are servants. That’s why Jesus prayed for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest.
Servant leadership is a way of life, not just a season in life. Be sure no matter how famous you are or how many places you’re invited to go, you never get too big to pick up trash. Bro. Monk would be proud. So would Jesus.