Non-Negotiable #6: Personal Growth

growthWelcome back to the Non-Negotiables series.  In this series, we are examining a variety of things which you must make time for in your life regardless of how busy you think you are.  Whether you are a full-time children’s pastor, a bi-vocational children’s pastor or a volunteer, these are the things that must remain top priorities in your life.  So far in this series, we have looked at:

  • An Introduction to the Series
  • Prayer
  • Time in God’s Word
  • Church
  • Your Spouse
  • Your Children

There is one thing noticeably missing from our list thus far.  It’s you! It’s you!  How much time do you spend on yourself?

Take just a second right now and think of the top three leaders you know of.  Think of three leaders who you truly admire and who you feel like you could learn from. Awe, that was so sweet of you to think of me.  I guarantee you those people thought of all share one thing in common.  They spend a fair amount of time developing themselves before going out and trying to develop those they lead.  You cannot give something you do not have.  A good teacher must always be an exceptional learner.

Just like you have to make it a habit to spend time in prayer or take time with your family, you have to be very intentional about spending time developing yourself.  It doesn’t just happen by itself.  You have to come up with a plan and stick to it.

Here are a few strategies that will help you in this area, but this is certainly not a comprehensive list.  You will also need to pick and choose strategies that work best for you.  There is not one path to self-development which works for everyone.

Network: You need to have other leaders around you who do what you do.  These leaders bring other perspectives and ideas that help to sharpen your skills.  And it’s a two way street.  You get the opportunity to develop yourself by spending time with other leaders and in the process you learn skills which will help you as you train those you work with.  My favorite thing about networking is that it helps me to avoid the mistakes because someone else has already made them and can warn me.  Utilize blogs and social networking sites to your advantage with this.  There are various resources for finding local groups which gather from time to time for purposes of networking as well.  Networking has never been easier than it is today.

Read: Leaders are readers.  Dan Miller of says that if you read three books on any subject you are already in the top 10% of that field.  I don’t know that this is entirely true, but I do know that some of the best leaders I have ever known also have the longest reading lists.  They are intentional about what they read and they typically read a lot.  Think about that list of leaders you came up with earlier, how often do you hear them refer to something they learned from something they were reading?  I recommend that you do not limit your reading to only those books that you know you will like or that will reinforce what you already know.  Purposely read books that stretch your thinking and challenge you.  Pick books and authors who you think are “beyond your level of understanding.”  If you haven’t grown spiritually by the end of the book, then it was only recreational, not leadership development.  These days, there is so much reading material available that there is no excuse not to be a reader.  Do not restrict your reading to just books either.  Read blogs and magazines and newspapers and journals and whatever else you can find to help you develop.

Listen: Find a good podcast or two (or twenty) and listen to them regularly.  Anymore, there are plenty of podcasts from a variety of experts in nearly every field imaginable.  Podcasts provide a convenient way to develop yourself when you may not be able to do much else.  They are perfect for then you are riding in the car or while exercising. 

Evaluate: This one is easy to miss, but its value is undeniable.  You should constantly be evaluating yourself as a leader.  Am I growing?  Where do I need to grow more?  Am I positively influencing those around me?  Are they growing?  Without evaluation, it is easy to get stuck in a rut but self evaluation opens your eyes to areas where change are needed.  If self evaluation is just too difficult, find a trusted friend, a spouse, or a pastor/leader and ask them to honestly evaluate you.  Part of your goal should be to surround yourself with people whose opinions and insights you trust and then encourage them to evaluate you.

Find a Mentor: Evaluation leads seamlessly into our final category – find a mentor.  It may not be one of your “top three,” but find someone whose leadership you respect and admire.  They may not be in your field, although that would be a plus, but find someone who can speak into your life about how you conduct yourself, what type of leader you are, balance, and a multitude of other issues.  Give that person permission to be real with you.  A real live personal mentor will help to keep you spiritually grounded and on the right path.

This is just a beginning of a list.  We haven’t even touched on things like continuing education/seminary courses, conferences, associations, etc.  I know there are other strategies out there for leadership development so share your favorites in the comment section below.  Whatever strategy or combination of strategies you find works best for you, take a hint from Nike and just do it!  Start this week dedicating a little time to developing yourself.

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