Training Your Mind to Think Like a Leader

You don't have to be 100 percent confident in your own skills, you just have to be 100 percent confident in God.
6 min read

One specific line in a particular sermon from my home church in Tennessee will forever stick with me: “Quit your stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Whether you are a ministry veteran or new to this gig, there is one fact that you probably know: Leadership is hard. Often our own brains make it even harder than it actually has to be.

Romans 12: 1-2 encourages us not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Allowing God to transform our “stinkin’ thinkin” concerning leadership, increases our capacity to be the leaders He has called us to be.

Which of your mindsets might need to be transformed and renewed?

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Think of Yourself as a Leader

You many not feel equipped. You may not feel good enough. Or you may not feel like you know enough. But the good news is that God has given you this position.

Whatever your leadership role is, it is not an accident.

You are the right person for this role at this time. God has entrusted you with this responsibility, and you’ve got this.

You don’t have to be one hundred percent confident in your own skills, you just have to be one hundred percent confident in God.

Remember, He said, “My strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

As a who is leader confident in God’s strength, take the words “I can’t do that” out of your vocabulary.

Own your role and make the hard decisions. Have the tough conversations. Speak in front of the room full of grown-ups. Dream big.

Take responsibility for the goof-ups and point all of the praise toward Jesus and your team.

Think of Yourself As a Servant

Yes, you are the leader but it is not about you.

God calls you to own the leadership role He has given you, but not for your own benefit. It is for the purpose of serving others.

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Philippians 2 reveals a beautiful description of how Jesus led. Paul uses words like “humility” and “emptied himself.”

Make an effort to serve your leadership.

Too often, leaders keep a running internal list of the things they wish their leadership would do differently for them. Instead, what if leaders looked for ways to serve those above them and make their jobs easier?

What if leaders looked for ways to serve those above them and make their jobs easier?

In much the same way, you also need to be intentional to serve your volunteers.

Remember that they aren’t employees, but people who give up their time because they love Jesus and love kids.

They are ultimately serving God, not you. Consequently it is your responsibility to serve them well.

And, of course, you need to strive to serve the kids and families God puts in your ministry.

Take the opportunity to model servanthood by being willing to do whatever it takes to serve those God brings to your church.

See Yourself as a Developer of People

Children’s ministry involves an overwhelming number of details and tasks that have to be done.

God doesn’t call us to do everything all by ourselves. In fact, I would argue that if you are doing everything yourself, you aren’t actually leading—you are just doing.

The Bible makes it clear that ministry leaders are not responsible for doing all the work on their own. Ephesians 4:12 states that leaders are to focus on “equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.”

If you are doing everything yourself, you aren’t truly leading—you are just doing.

You can’t do that if you are the only one doing all of the things.

Let’s be real. Sometimes leaders are overly concerned that others won’t do a task exactly the way they want it done. Or they feel they can’t depend on people to actually fulfill their commitments.

They fear that if they release control, ministry won’t happen at the level they think it should.

Some of those things will happen. But that’s ok! It’s all part of the process of building leaders, and—in the long run—your ministry will be much healthier for it.

As you bring others along to serve beside you, you’ll gradually be able to hand off responsibility as volunteers and/or staff grow as leaders and develop ownership.

You will discover that God has gifted others in amazing ways. And there will be aspects of ministry that they are better suited for than you are.

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And by freeing yourself up, you can expand your capacity to focus more on what He’s specifically called you to do.

Remember That Conflict Is Normal

No one loves taking out the trash. But if you don’t take it out, you end up with a nasty mess on your hands.

Conflict is the same way.

No one likes conflict. We tend to avoid it at all costs. But a leader realizes that conflict is a normal and necessary aspect of dealing with people. Leaders fight the fear of conflict and are proactive to address situations.

It might feel easier to simply avoid addressing difficult issues or having hard conversations. However, problems rarely disappear on their own.

Thinking like a leader means stepping up and addressing the hard things with much grace and love.

When conflict happens, a leader remains level-headed instead of being controlled by emotion. People don’t always react well when they are confronted on an issue or have a strong opinion. But a leader remains calm and listens objectively.

Acting in this way allows you to sort out what truth may exist in the person’s reaction, learn what you can, and filter out the parts that don’t make sense.

Another key factor is that a leader recognizes that people are sometimes upset about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. As someone in authority, you bear the brunt of their emotions.

Part of a leader’s job is to try to discern how to minister beyond the conflict on the surface and try to reach people’s hearts.

Believe the Best

We live in a negative climate where people tend to automatically assume the worst about everyone else. Consequently, you can be a leader who is set apart simply by choosing to believe the best of others.

If a co-worker offends you, don’t immediately decide it is personal.

When a volunteer doesn’t show up when scheduled, don’t automatically assume they are terrible, irresponsible people.

If someone drops the ball, it’s highly unlikely their motives were actually nefarious (or that dropping the ball was even intentional).

Instead, you need to choose to believe that most people are truly doing the best they can do.

People won’t live up to our expectations. Ever.

So, be prepared to give them a break, believe the best, and not add to a culture that immediately highlights the worst possible scenario.

Leaders who make a difference for the gospel learn how to forgive quickly and show much grace. Be a leader who makes a difference!


Did you identify with any of these areas? Changing your leadership can begin with simply changing your thinking.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Ask God to renew your mind and help you think like Him. See what He does through your leadership as you align your thinking with His.

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  Updated on June 4, 2020

About the Author

  • Jenny Funderburke Smith is the wife of Dan and mama of three sweet and crazy girls. She is the Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. She is a founding leader of Gospel@Center and blogs at jennyfsmith.com because she is passionate about equipping the church to disciple children to follow Jesus. Jenny also loves investing in other children's ministry leaders through one-on-one conversations, informal gatherings, or speaking at national conferences (such as CPC or Lifeway's Etch). She really loves ice cream, Tennessee football, and the beach.

© 2020 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
© 2019 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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