One topic that I’ve been reflecting upon recently is the whole concept of “servant leadership”. It is a word that is thrown around Christian leadership circles, though the actual outplay and practice of “servant leadership” differs from place to place. As I thought about this concept in my ministry and recent events, the reality of life slowly shapes it day by day (though I’m sure this will be a lifelong process for me).
Often, the context of servant leadership pertains to the relationship of one who has authority over another; that is, the pastor/elders who lead ministry teams, the leader who leads youth, the team leader of a short term ministry team, etc. In these scenarios, the example is taken from Jesus and His disciples: that Jesus, while having the authority of God, washed His disciples’ feet. So, likewise, leaders are to serve the people over whom they have authority.
However, one particular aspect which I have not found discussed in great deal is servant leadership in the context of a leadership team, that is, a pastoral leadership team, a youth leaders team, etc. How does servant leadership play out among teams of leaders? Does it apply?
In a recent event, I’ve found myself asking these questions, particularly being in a case of leading under authority. What did Jesus mean, when He said to His disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) While Jesus set an example, it seems to me that He was setting an example, not only for those in leadership over others, but for the context of teamwork.
While Peter may have taken pole position among the Apostles, he was no greater than the others. Each one of them was equal, submitting to the authority of Jesus, not Peter. So, where many have spoken about servant leadership for those in positions of authority, it seems that there is something about servant teams which needs greater exploration.
In fact, is a team of leaders is unable to set the example by serving one another, as Jesus did, how are they to fully serve those over whom they have authority? To that end, there is no one who is exempt from being served by the leader who seeks to be a servant leader.