You’re enthusiastic. You’re innovative. You’re hungry. You have hustle and grit. You have vision, motivation, and drive. You have what it takes to make the dream become a reality. You want to make your church or ministry the best it can possibly be. There’s just one problem…
You’re young, inexperienced, and you feel like no one is interested in your ideas.
It is a testament to your love and commitment to your church or ministry that you have such big dreams for it. However, very rarely do young leaders have the position or the influence needed to enact the change they hope for.
There is a delicate skill known as “leading up”— the ability to effectively influence those who hold more positional authority than you do to bring about a desired change.
All young church leaders would love to have this skill, but many don’t—and likely never will.
Why? Because it’s an art, not a science. It involves a delicate balance of humility and boldness. It involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness. It involves patience, empathy, and global thinking. It requires a certain type of leadership that some people just don’t have.
And that’s okay. It really is. You don’t need to “lead up” to have a healthy, thriving impact in the lives around you.
However, if you feel God might be leading you toward this, here are a few tips and reminders going forward…
1. You’re young.
Even if you legitimately have solutions that will work or an idea that everyone will rally around, you’re still the youngest person at the table. When many places have a “pay your dues” mindset, sometimes all leadership will ever see in you is foolish idealism and inexperience no matter what you do.
2. Ministry is personal.
If you bring an idea to leadership, it means you’re bringing a suggestion for change. Whatever your current reality, it came to be because of the blood, sweat, and tears of the leaders who came before you. They didn’t arrive at their decisions easily or lightly.
3. They have likely heard your idea before.
Most people have good ideas—even great ones. However, there’s nothing new under the sun and you’re idea might not be as novel as you think it is. Also, a great idea sometimes stays an idea due to a lack of resources or a lack of margin in the schedules of staff and leadership.
4. Make sure your own life and ministry are healthy.
There’s no reason anyone should listen to your ideas if you can’t handle what God has already given you. If you aren’t faithful with little, you have very little right to offer advice in areas outside your current influence.
5. Do it for the wise and holy reason.
Your job is not to show off your leadership skills, nor is it to let people know how creative you are. Your job is to advance the Kingdom, collaborate with your team, and to keep a servant’s heart throughout.
6. Have a trustworthy sounding board.
Before you approach leadership, bounce your ideas off someone with maturity and wisdom who knows you and your ministry context. Many times I’ve been saved from making monumental mistakes in leading up because I had someone helping me see other perspectives—or to tell me how foolish I was being.
7. Be ready for more responsibility.
Many places have a culture that says “you brought it up, so you deal with it.” If leadership likes your idea, there’s a solid chance you’ll be placed in charge of it.
8. Be prepared to have your feelings hurt.
Leading up is almost always a risk. A leader you report to who feels insecure or threatened can sometimes get defensive or accusatory. They might bite back. Or you just might have a really bad idea and they will honestly tell you what they think about it.
9. Think long term.
Whether or not your idea is accepted, these are people you work with. How you respond to leadership’s appreciation or their rejection speaks volumes about your motivations and your heart. People need to know they can trust you and that you have the ministry’s best interests at heart—not your own.