It’s not unusual to hear from youth leaders who feel like their calling puts a lot of pressure on them. They wonder how they can take care of themselves, their families and be a youth leader. Here are a few rules that, when observed, can help you put first things first and keep the burden of your calling manageable.
Take care of yourself first
You are your own best resource. If you are feeling empty and weak, it will be hard to serve others. So please, make time for personal prayer, scripture study, exercise. getting enough sleep, exercise and other appropriate forms of self care.
Learning to lead requires self-discipline. If you can’t “lead yourself”, you will struggle to lead others.
Take care of your loved ones next
It’s important to take time to nurture out relationships with those closest to us. For those who are married, it matters to find time to strengthen your marriage. For those who have kids, it means also working on those relationships. If neither applies to you, who are your family and friends who are closest to you.
“As a leader, the health of your marriage directly impacts your effectiveness. Nothing will undermine it faster than a bad marriage. And few things will advance it like a good one.” -Michael Hyatt
Why is this the case? Your spouse, children, family and friends are your support network. They are people who are a great influence on you and you greatly influence them. Without their support, you will struggle as a leader.
For me, it’s incredibly important to block out time for regular date nights, family home evening, family prayer and scripture study. Both date night and family home evening go on the calendar to help us follow through on our commitments to each other. There have even been stretches of time where we’ve set aside extra one-on-one time with our kids because we felt they needed it. When your calling demands a lot of your time, putting first things first with your family and your spouse can go a long way. It can even help you get clarity about what needs to be done most in your calling and what you can delegate, postpone or simply not do.
Delegate everything you possibly can
There will always be things to do. Always. Make the time to get clear about what things only you can do and what really must be done. Do all you can to delegate the rest.
Keep it simple
Sometimes we’re a lot like the sister that President Uchtdorf talks about who stayed up all night the night before her Relief Society lesson to finish a quilt she wanted to display during the lesson. The quilt had the word simplify in the center of it.
Simplicity will do two things: it will lessen the burden of your calling and it will lessen the burden of those called to serve with you.
In all you do, start with the instructions the Handbook gives you. It will help you to be clear about what absolutely needs to be done and (sometimes) how it should be done. i find that there’s more than enough for me to work on right there.
Allow people to make mistakes and learn from them
Let’s face it. We all make mistakes. The people you work with, youth and adults, will make mistakes. Part of delegating means that you need to be able to allow that to happen. It’s important to stay calm when people mess up and guide them through learning from their mistakes.
Doing something imperfectly does not equal failure
Occasionally, I hear from youth leaders who are worried they will make mistakes and “fail” their youth. Of course you will make mistakes! However, doing something imperfectly does not mean that you failed! Let me share a quick story to illustrate this point.
Last Sunday, I was asked to play the piano in sacrament meeting. I am a very out-of-practice pianist. Unfortunately, there was no one else who could do it. Even worse, by the time I was asked, I was on a family camping trip and wouldn’t be back in time to do any practice. So… I showed up. I did my very best one-handed versions of the hymns and made a lot of mistakes. Did I fail to help provide the music for sacrament meeting? No! I simply did it (very) imperfectly! Without me, we would have been figuring out how to play recordings of the hymns so we could sing.
Holding a leadership position does not mean you know how to lead
When I started out as a new Young Women President, I knew almost nothing about leadership. Most likely, you don’t know a lot about it, either. After all, we are all volunteers. I still have a lot to learn. If you truly want to lead the youth (or anyone else) I strongly recommend investing some time to learn about leadership. Some of my favorite places to learn from are Michael Hyatt, John Maxwell and Leading LDS.
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