When moving out to lead for God, Christians should have a clear idea of what they hope to provide as leaders. Don't assume that everyone's idea of what leaders should do is the same. Think through these four areas considering carefully what leaders should and shouldn't do in each area.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want (Psalms 23:1).
Leaders are responsible to see that those in their charge are able to access provision for their spiritual and personal well-being and development. Note this does not mean leaders must provide all nourishment themselves, though they will naturally provide much of it. Followers are responsible to go and take available provision for themselves after leaders have shown them where and how to find food. Here analogies like that used by Paul in 1 Thess. 2 (of a mother nursing her baby) break down. Paul was primarily pointing to his feeling of love for the Thessalonians, not how dependent they should be. Part of equipping young Christians is teaching them how to feed themselves.
Leaders should provide spiritual food, such as the word of God. They should provide good Bible teaching and help understanding difficult passages. Leaders also should provide structures that are conducive to body life and spiritual growth. By structures, we mean meetings or other arrangements that enable people to gather in larger and smaller groups suitable to the functions of the body of Christ. People should be able to worship, study, pray together, share, bring non-Christian guests and raise questions. Usually, more than one meeting type is necessary to meet these needs.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalms 23:4).
Shepherds are useful for protecting their flocks from wolves. While we are never called to eliminate all dangers from the church, a well-led church is a generally secure place to grow. Leaders should strive to see that the church or ministry is relatively free of wild doctrinal aberrations, dangerous, menacing people, or disruptions that make body life impossible. Leaders must weigh the level of freedom versus control they will exercise. After all, young Christians need exposure to a wide range of viewpoints and problematic people and situations. This is real life! Leaders should be careful not to exceed their legitimate authority. God gives leaders authority in the specific area of operating the ministry. They are not authorized to direct people's private lives in non-moral areas. But if dangers begin to threaten members' well-being, leaders should act to protect. People sometimes even need to be protected from the damage they may do to themselves, and this could call for discipline in love.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters (Psalms 23:2).
The world assumes people will automatically know what to do based on following their feelings. God rejects this idea, and instead advances the idea of leadership. In his view, we often need outside advice on which direction to go. Aside from what believers can learn directly from God's word, or what they hear from his inner promptings, believers may at times need the wisdom of godly leaders. Certainly, a group or ministry needs leaders to suggest, or even at times to insist, on a particular direction in the operation of that ministry.
Again, directing does not suggest that followers cannot or should not develop their own ability to apply truth to their lives in a wise way. Therefore, the godly leader will at times withhold his counsel and call on members to decide for themselves. Only when people make mistakes some of the time, will they develop the wisdom to avoid wrong in the future. Therefore, no leader should seek to direct every aspect of a given ministry, let alone the lives of those involved.
Directing is not controlling. New leaders should be taught to shun any controlling attitude over others' lives. Direction means sounding a clear note on the trumpet. While more advanced members may benefit more from a consultative approach which refuses to say what should be done, young Christians often need direction. Groups need direction as well. Leaderless groups falter in virtually every case. But groups with strong but humble leaders who can advance a convincing case for their direction tend to flourish.
At the same time, leaders should be warned that some people want to depend on someone, and they should refuse to allow this. Group members will sometimes ask for direction in areas where they should make their own decisions, such as who to date, or how to manage their money, or how to parent their children. Leaders are free to share advice in these situations, but they should make clear that the decision is the member's to make.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4b).
Someone has said that without vision the people perish. Often, God sends leaders to impart vision to his people, and to bestow the gift of motivation. Note that motivating people is completely different from the idea of issuing imperatives, or instructions. While these may be appropriate at times, here we refer to leaders behaving in such a way that others feel a sense of excitement or need to act in a certain direction. Effective leaders are able to agitate and excite people who were formerly dull, listless, apathetic, and bored. Leaders can develop and impart a vision of godly living and accomplishment that people adopt as their own. After people act, good leaders know how to encourage more of the same through positive words.
Some leaders are able to excite, but it doesn't last. With others, their followings have continued to eagerly follow God over the years. This ability to create long-term motivation is even more complicated, because people have to be gradually brought off motivational support from leaders, and taught to draw motivation directly from God on their own. The artistry and creativity of leaders enables them to sense what is needed at different levels of spiritual maturity and respond accordingly.