By Tori Shaw
I help each Wednesday night and Sunday morning with the Upstreet Praise Team at my church, GreenStreetBaptistChurch in High Point. The team is made up of 4th and 5th grade students that lead the younger students in worship each Sunday morning. They have also been asked to lead worship within the community and occasionally lead during the worship services at our church.
The team leads through song and dance but also by example. One of the requirements to be on this leadership team is to have the “right heart attitude.” Heather Rhodes, the leader for the Praise Team has coined the phrase, “right heart attitude.” Since the first time I heard her say it over two years ago, it constantly crosses my mind. What is the right heart attitude and how does it apply to leading others in worship? How can it also apply to leadership in general?
The Upstreet Praise Team started with only a handful of students that were eager to worship God through song and dance. Over its five years in existence, the team has grown to over 30 students. It’s amazing to see these young ladies and gentlemen boldly worship their Creator. It’s even more amazing to watch the younger students, 1st through 3rd grade, look up to the Praise Team and try to emulate them.
Not all of the Praise Team members are outgoing and boisterous. In fact, many of them are quiet and somewhat shy. They have chosen, regardless of what is normally comfortable for them, to allow God to use them in this way. The only requirements for this team are to be in the 4th or 5th grade, to make wise choices at home, school, and church, and to have the right heart attitude. If poor choices are made or the student’s attitude doesn’t reflect humility and grace, they can be removed from the team. I must say, as I watch these students lead in worship, I am often moved to tears. It is a wonderful sight! Their leadership is inspiring and their enthusiasm is contagious!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could remove an adult from a leadership position when he or she has the wrong attitude? That question is somewhat laughable, but leadership is definitely place of influence that is often ruined by a poor attitude. What if leaders, whether old or young, whether having a large sphere of influence or small, kept a constant check on their attitude? I think the “right heart attitude” is easily described in the Bible and that definition fearlessly opposes the world’s definition of the right attitude.
I recently heard a sermon on the third Beatitude, meekness. As I listened and learned what this quality truly means, I realized that it could also be used as the definition of the “right heart attitude.” Meekness is complete surrender to God, being completely controlled by Him. It is being selfless and submissive. So, having the right heart attitude means submitting to God’s leadership and His guidance, putting others first and allowing Him to control you as the leader. The world would see a good leader as someone who has complete control, not someone who is letting go of control, but I believe God uses leaders who release control and realize that God is the true leader. Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Notice that it doesn’t say those who are full of themselves and place their confidence in their own abilities will inherit the earth. God encourages all of us, especially leaders, to embrace the quality of meekness.
Our world is in desperate need of good, meek leaders. We must remember that we are Plan A for sharing God’s love to a dying world. There is no Plan B. It’s our job to share the gospel and to make sure the next generation knows of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. We need to step up and lead future generations to be leaders as well. This is a major task, but through Christ we can do all things.
As parents, grandparents and church leaders, we must take the time to develop fellow leaders. Jesus spent three years with His disciples, teaching them and molding them. It didn’t happen overnight with the disciples and it won’t happen quickly with our children either. Our children are worth investing our time into and so are the people they will one day lead.
So how do we encourage our children and teenagers to become leaders at home, church, school and with their friends? I think the first and most important thing our children need to know is that God is the ultimate leader and we can do nothing of value without Him leading us. We need to pray with our children and ask God to build them up as leaders in the ways He sees fit.
Second, we need to search out the talents and gifts that our children possess. Once we know what our children enjoy doing and what things they do well, we can give them opportunities to serve and lead others within these perimeters.
Third, we need to reassure our children even when mistakes are made. Many students want to quit when things don’t turn out perfectly, but leaders must realize that things don’t always go our way. Whether our children are terrific leaders or not, they need to know that their willingness to be used by God is a valuable quality.
The fourth way to raise future leaders is by allowing them to work alongside adult leaders. Leadership qualities can be taught by mentors or those same qualities can be learned by witnessing adults actively leading.
Last, I believe many children do not feel comfortable exercising their gifts and leadership skills because adults do not encourage them to do so. Many of our children were born to be leaders and many will grow into the leadership shoes they must fill one day. Either way, we need to give them permission to exercise their gifts and skills so that leadership comes more naturally.
All the while, we need to be teaching our children and teenagers what it means to have the right heart attitude. They need to know that no one wants to be led by someone who has a poor attitude, and frankly, a poor attitude ruins a leader. Those leaders who have the right heart attitude, who are meek and humble and who submit to God’s leadership, soar above those leaders who lack these qualities.
One thing to consider as we teach and mold tomorrow’s leaders is our own attitudes. Are we allowing God to lead us as we lead them?
The UpStreet Praise Team is a great example of how to shape and encourage little leaders. It was created to involve students in ministering to their peers and to encourage them to move from just participating in worship to leading in worship. Each year a new group of Praise Team leaders emerges. Today’s Praise Team leaders are encouraging tomorrow’s leaders.
It’s the same with us as we lead our kids. As we lead them, they are watching us. What they see helps them to decide whether or not they will lead, and if they choose to lead it helps to define what types of leaders they will become. Since our children are the leaders of the future, let’s be intentional about leading them with the right heart attitude as we in turn allow God to lead us.