Overcoming the Fear of Leadership

Date Posted: 
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

By Bob Cleveringa

“I don’t like the term ‘leadership.’”

“I think people shy away from leadership roles.”

“‘Leader’ is a scary title for me.”

I have heard each of these statements often as I work with people in churches, colleges, and other organizations. Whenever I hear something along these lines, I wonder what holds us back from embracing the term “leader.” Is it the fear of failure? Is it the resistance to responsibility? Is it the feeling of loneliness?

One of my deep passions and desires in ministry is to raise up new leaders, allowing them to dream and walk with God into the next steps of his plan. Perhaps what we have conveyed in the past is that a leader needs to have all the answers and needs to be the one who takes charge of a plan and sees it to completeness. When we give this impression of leadership I begin to cringe, because I know my shortcomings and I begin to feel overwhelmed with the task and responsibility.

What we have missed in our communication of leadership development is the power of a team. Whether it is a sports team, a planning team, or a working team, the key is doing something together. We don’t expect one person to come out on the field to play baseball or one person to play every position on the football field, so why would we think one person would play all the positions in an organization like a church, school, or business?

My greatest joy in leadership is to work together as a team, to accomplish a goal driven by a common mission, and to see each individual, through that teamwork, use their gifts and resources to help the team succeed.

One way I experience this joy is on our annual middle school retreat. Each year the Youth Ministry office of the Synod of the Heartland offers this retreat. We recruit one or two student leaders to dream, plan, and communicate the mission of the retreat to more than 25 students from Northwestern College. This larger team of about 30 meets regularly throughout the second semester, dividing into smaller teams to accomplish the task of leading more than 300 middle school students and adults through a weekend filled with worship, teaching, recreation, and community. It is a joy and privilege to work with these young leaders from Northwestern as they place themselves on teams of four or five where their gifts and abilities match. Each of these teams has a student leader who encourages and directs the team to fulfill its role. When everything comes together at the completion of the retreat, God is glorified and his plan is carried out.

This year’s theme for the middle school retreat was “Testify.” Students were challenged and encouraged to understand that each of us has a story. God wants to use our story to help others see his faithfulness and greatness. Our story should not bring glory to us; it should bring glory to God. Throughout the weekend, participants were encouraged to write and tell their story. At the conclusion of the weekend, they had the opportunity to share their testimony.

As the team of college students planned the retreat and made it happen, they grew in their leadership. Because they were willing to serve as leaders as part of a team, hundreds of middle school students were able to encounter God and take the next step in their relationship with him. It was all done as a team and leaders grew. Praise the Lord!

Bob Cleveringa is director of Youth Ministries for the Synod of the Heartland.

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