Have you ever been in a confined space with someone who is clearly sick? The worst example I can think of is a crowded flight. You know how it goes. You board the full-flight plane and squeeze your way into seat B; the middle seat. You are squished between two big dudes in A and C and they are both hogging the armrests (ugh). You haven’t started to taxi and you are already feeling claustrophobic. You reach up and twist open that tiny air vent over your head to try to at least get a little air. That’s when you hear it. HACKKK! AAACK! WHUARRF! Someone on the flight is coughing up a lung. The pervasive echoes of their phlegmy expulsions make it difficult to tell exactly where the germ-spreader is seated, but you suddenly become acutely aware that it really doesn’t matter: the very same vent that moments ago brought you a sense of relief is funneling the stale recirculated air of the enclosed cabin right onto your face. The very same air that Mr. Hacky Hackerson is poisoning with his expectorations. You try pulling up the neck of your undershirt to cover your nose and mouth like a makeshift SARS mask, but you realize that resistance is futile. Within this closed environment, everyone on board is going to catch whatever the contagious person has.
This story is meant to do more than merely make you uncomfortable. There’s a powerful principle here that we need to understand as leaders in ministry. Are you ready? Here it is: Whatever you have is contagious. While you are (hopefully) not literally coughing on the people you lead, in a figurative sense you spread your DNA onto the people you lead every time you interact. The question is: what will they catch as a result of their exposure to you?
It is important for leaders to acknowledge that our attitudes, opinions, moods, values, and work ethic are contagious. We need to choose to vaccinate ourselves against carrying and spreading negative, sickly, poisonous perspectives into our culture. While some people are more naturally inclined towards a sense of positivity than others, we are responsible to maintain a healthy mental, spiritual, and emotional perspective on our ministries and ministry teams.
Don’t be a grouch. Kids ministry can be the most exciting and enjoyable place to serve and minister, but every ministry takes on the tone that is set by its leader. Determine to be positive, and set an expectation of joy in your work and service. People love a joyful leader and are drawn to want to be part of whatever they are doing. On the contrary, people reject negative leadership and avoid following leaders who are not pleasant to be around. Your attitude is a choice. Choose a positive one.
Be careful who you grumble to. It can be easy for leaders (even those who are predominantly positive) to inappropriately voice complaints and disappointments to people on their teams (and beyond). Wise leaders take care to keep criticisms private so they do not taint the opinions of those who do not need to hear them. It is wise to maintain a few close friends and advisors that you can go to with your struggles. It is not a good idea to air your grievances publicly.
Attitude is everything. At the end of the day, the attitude that you choose to exhibit will influence everyone around you. Lamentations 3 teaches us to look for hope through God’s mercy. Lamentations 3:40-41 challenges us to check our hearts and, if necessary, change our attitudes, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven.”
May we be faithful to maintain healthy hearts so that we may infect the people we lead with hearts that revere God’s Word, love His Son, and encourage others to do the same.