I never considered myself a leader—just a mom of three kids under the age of five. I wasn’t more than a kid myself (twenty-two years old) when my third child was born. Part of a small church launch, a children’s church leader was needed. My best friend and I signed up. We had $0 for a budget so we had a simple plan. We taught the kids songs. We read them Bible stories. We helped them to memorize Scripture.
I remember the joy I felt one Sunday we led a dozen little kids to the front of the church to recite Psalm 100. “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs,” squeaky, little voices said in unison.
I replayed that event in my mind over the coming days. I was helping to input God’s word into young minds and hearts. It was a good feeling. It was only later—as my children grew (and we added on three more kids)—that I realized that even greater than my influence in children’s church was my influence at home. In children’s church I had to prepare for two hours of teaching. At home, the leading and teaching never stopped. The older the kids got, the more training was required.
Did I really sign up for this? How will I ever succeed?
Born to a single mom, and raised in a home where she ruled the roost, the model I followed was one of Mom Knows Best. Yet often I didn’t know best. I didn’t act best. As the months and years passed I was ineffective, unproductive, and overwhelmed. I needed help!
The amazing thing was that help was there, waiting. I wasn’t a single parent—God had given me a wonderful husband and life partner, John. In fact, I’d soon discovered that “family” started with John and me. The kids, in fact, were welcome members who would pass through our home into lives of their own.
More than that, John and I had Jesus.
Jesus and parenting. Jesus and marriage . . . what a concept!
What do you think of when you see these two phrases? Do they make you uneasy? Do those two sentences scream 948 ways you’ve failed? They did that to me. Through my growing up years church was a “Sunday” thing. And if we look around, our culture has perfected the art of drawing lines and keeping our spiritual lives separate from our daily duties. Faith happens on a church pew or during a 10-minute morning devotional reading, right? Or does it?
John: Tricia was only seventeen years old when we met. I was twenty-two. Though our ages were less than five years apart, we came from completely different worlds. I grew up in a solid Christian family. My parents were firm, yet loving. I saw a clear role of leadership in my father (from police officer to pastor, throughout the years). After high school, I joined the Marine Corps and quickly moved through the ranks to become a corporal in less than two years. Before leaving the Marines, I was a leader of men—men who were disciplined (most of the time) and knew who they were . . . and then I got married.
When I “met” Tricia, her newborn son’s age was still measured in hours. He was born earlier that same day. Sure, I knew of her in church, but until that day, we had never really talked before, other than in passing (the usual church greetings: shake hands and a “hearty welcome”). What started as a conversation on the day of her son’s birth quickly grew into something much more. In less than a year, we were married. Instant family, just add a ring . . . conflict would come a little later.
In the next few years, we quickly enjoyed the addition of two more children. Before I knew it, I was the leader of a family of five, yet I was barely twenty-seven years old. I knew how to lead men, but I did not know how to lead this family.
I tried to make the best decisions I could, but I always had a nagging fear I was not leading like my ultimate role model—Jesus. I always had a feeling that I would be leading and, one day look back, to find no one following. After all, a leader is often judged by the actions of his followers. What would this family, which God had entrusted to me, end up looking like? I looked to Jesus, trusting He’d guide me as I figured it out.
Tricia: Looking back John and I had a lot of challenges, but thankfully we had Jesus who was there every step of the way. In our twenty-three years of our marriage, we’ve led kids, led children’s church, led mission teams, and led organizations and ministries. We didn’t start out as great leaders, but God has grown us to become better at leading, as we do so with a servant’s heart.
Do you want to grow into an effective leader in your home, church, and community? This will only happen as you surrender all of your life (yes, even your family life!) to Him. In fact, if we could sum up this “secret” it would be found here:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
There is one phrase that is especially important: “in all your ways acknowledge him.” Not “in all your ways except parenting and marriage and family life,” but “all your ways.”
If you dig into the Bible, Jesus is clear about how He wants us to lead: He asks us to make a difference in our world, in our families, church, and community by being an effective servant leader. It all starts by understanding the ways you are weak . . . and turning to Jesus to be strong.
You may not consider yourself a leader, but Jesus wants to be a strong leader in your world—through you.