My first job after graduating from college was serving as a youth pastor in the Redneck Rivera - Panama City, Florida. Tough job, but somebody has to do it. My first year on the job I decided that we would have a “Christian prom” for our teens. Being the creative type, I made most of the decisions about the event by myself because I thought no one else could “capture the magic” I had planned.
The theme was “Over The Rainbow.” It was based on the Wizard of Oz movie. I found a local college that had recently done a production of the musical and secured the Yellow Brick Road, the Munchkin Village, the Emerald City, and costumes for the Cowardly Lion, the Tin, Man, and Dorothy. My leadership failure was that I simply tried to do too much of the work myself without recruiting help and casting my vision to them. About three hours before the party started I found myself hauling props over the main bridge from the beach to the city during rush hour traffic. At the top of the bridge, a gust of wind caught the props and blew them out of the back of the truck and into the middle of the bridge. You can imagine the reaction. Cursing. Yelling. Horns. Gestures. And that was just me.
When I finally got everything loaded back on the truck and traffic started moving again I was in a panic because time was running out. Panic normally leads to bad decisions. As I sped up to the front door of the hotel, I failed to notice that the props stood higher than the neon-clad overhang. Bam! Broken overhang. Broken neon signs. Broken props for the banquet that started in less than two hours.
That was a very expensive prom.
What did I learn about leadership that day?
1. You can’t be successful alone; it takes a team.
That was a hard lesson for me to learn early in my ministry. I imagine it is hard for many people to learn, but it is a lesson that you must learn if you are to succeed. God teaches this lesson to church leaders about the Body of Christ. Each part of the body has a function and a job. We are a team and as a team, we can do the job God has given us.
2. You must give away ministry.
I learned a valuable lesson on the bridge that day. Leaders must give away as much as possible. As a younger man, I felt guilty about that. I felt like I was being lazy. Real leaders learn that less is more. You must give away ministry.
3. Giving away ministry means you have to plan ahead.
I believe one reason I failed to give away ministry in the beginning was I did not plan ahead. If you are going to involve others, then you must be organized and plan ahead.
4. When you get in the middle of the bridge don’t panic.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a bridge during rush hour with a flying Munchkin village. That is not the time to panic. That is the time to reach out and get some help. Step back and get a plan. Talk to someone. Get a coach. Get a mentor that can help you pick up the pieces and get out of traffic.
5. Learn from your mistakes.
If I honestly evaluate my performance on the leading that prom, then I have to admit that it was an unequivocal disaster. Thankfully I learned from my mistakes. In fact, I have a Ph.D. in making mistakes. But most people have an amazing ability to cut you some slack if you learn from your mistakes, grow, and don’t keep on making the same mistakes over and over.
I have learned many leadership lessons since then. One of which is that you must never stop growing, improving, and learning. Stay at it. And if you find yourself in the middle of a bridge in rush hour collecting pieces of Munchkin Land, then smile and take a deep breath. It will get better soon.