Leadership and Homeschoolers, Part 1

In the homeschooling community, one of the big things that I hear from parents is that they want their kids to be “leaders” rather than followers. I understand what these moms and dads are saying. They don’t want their kids to follow the crowd in doing terrible stuff. However, is that what really makes a strong leader? I’ve been pondering leadership and homeschooling a lot lately.

Many homeschooling parents want their kids to be strong leaders, and they try to develop those “leadership qualities” in their kids. But sometimes, I don’t know that parents have fully thought through what good leadership means. They see the fruits of leadership–their kid is doing right, and helping others to do right; their kid is often in the limelight; their kid is “in charge” of a group; their kid is organized; their kid is developing skills that will serve him well in the future–and they are pleased.

I get it. I am pleased when my kids demonstrate these qualities too. However, as Christians, leadership is so much more than this. The previous list does not define what a good, Godly leader will be like. And, because homeschooled kids’ environments are just a little bit different than those of kids in conventional classrooms, it’s easy to mix things up. We have to directly lead our kids in developing leadership skills, and we have to point out things that our kids might miss or wrong assumptions they might be making.

Here are some common misunderstandings about leadership that I frequently see in homeschooling circles.

  1. A strong personality with strong opinions makes a good leader.
  2. If you’re in charge of something, you’re a leader.
  3. The ideas of the “leader” or one with “leadership skills” are better than those of others in the group.
  4. The leader is “above” the menial, day-to-day duties. That’s for everyone else.
  5. The leader should not compromise with others. That takes away from the leader’s authority.
  6. Because people follow you and like your ideas, you’re a good leader.
  7. Leadership is about looking good and getting the attention and credit for things.

There are probably others, but these are the ones that stick out most in my mind. And you know, if you put it like I did, many people would not agree with the above statements. However, there are many people in leadership who live like the above statements and think that it’s okay because they are “leaders.” When mentoring my kids in leadership positions, I try to actually mention the above statements, so they will be conscious of these errors in thinking. Actually saying these things out loud and talking about how common these problems are to leaders can help your kids avoid these pitfalls.

The best place to learn about leadership is the Bible, and in its pages, Jesus was the best example of leadership.

Servant Leadership

Jesus turned worldly ideas about leadership upside down. If you look at many of the misunderstandings above, you can see that the leadership model I described is more about the “leader” than it is the group or the project that is being accomplished.

Jesus decried these worldly leadership models. In fact, he condemned the religious leaders of his day (Pharisees) for behaving in this manner. (Matthew 23:1-7) These people saw leadership as an opportunity to gain power, status, attention, and prestige. Instead, Jesus presented a different model: that of the servant leader.

Matthew 23:8-12 “But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth for you have one Father who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself, will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

All through the Gospels, Jesus reiterates the message that Christian leaders are to called to serve rather than to be serve. Their highest goal should be to focus praise to the Lord and to put others first. In fact, the night before Jesus gave his final sacrifice for our sins, he bent the knee to do the most menial of tasks–washing the filthy feet of his disciples. Even as his followers bickered about who was going to be greatest in the Kingdom, Jesus gave a tangible symbol of servant hood and gently chided them for their selfish ambitions.

Luke 22:24-27 “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, the one who reclines at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.'”

So you can see that the first qualification of a Godly leader is not personal charisma. It is not having a strong personality. It is not necessarily being completely and fully qualified for a job. The most important qualification for a Godly leader is to have a servant’s heart. That servant’s heart is the thing that will make other people follow. The servant’s heart will be displayed in everything, from the way that meetings are conducted to who gets the credit for a well-done project.

When we, as Christian homeschooling parents, emphasize leadership to our kids, the most crucial element of that leadership is servanthood. If our kids do not want to serve, if they’re caught up in who gets credit for a job, if they feel they are above the menial work, they are not displaying a servant’s heart.

In another future post, I will discuss further characteristics of a Godly leader. However, to follow in Christ’s footsteps, we need to encourage a heart of service in our children.

 

 

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