I pride myself in it.
And quite honestly, it’s imperative.
In every place I have ever been fortunate enough to lead a Student Ministry, I have taken the time to personally invest in my successor, or at the very least in who I thought could fulfill that role once I was gone. While I had no intention of ever leaving, it just so happened that every one I invested in eventually took over.
And in a job market and culture where we are warned to fear those that may “take our spot”, we cannot afford to not invest in others. In a society where we are told to make ourselves “invaluable”, are we really benefiting our students by not taking the time to ensure that there are those capable of caring for them if and when we move on to the next phase of our own journey?
Too many times I have seen effectiveness sacrificed on the altar of fear. Too many times I have witnessed a leader torpedo most, if not all, of their hard work by not taking the times to invest in those that would come after them.
And so, the adage holds true:
“There is no success without a successor”
The fact remains the same. One day you will cease to be the leader of your group. Whether by your choice, by someone else’s choice or God’s choice, one day you will vacate that role. And some of the best leadership advice I ever received was to plan for your departure the moment you take over. Build the processes, develop the teams to one day function without you…because one day, they will.
And while it is odd to think of your own Student Ministry mortality, it is necessary to leaving a true and lasting legacy. To have your name listed in the history books of great Student Pastors has every bit as much to do with how you leave something as what you did while you were there. How you leave it is far more important than how you found it.
So we cannot allow the fear that someone will do better than us to stop us from investing in others. We cannot let it create a competitive culture within our team. And our number one priority, apart from preaching Jesus, should be to plan for our imminent departure. It may be years down the road or just around the corner, but there will come a time when you turn over the reins to someone else.
And in that moment, you’ll thank me for this friendly reminder.
Don’t allow the fear of successfulness to stop you from investing in whoever is coming after you. For the sake of your students, and the sake of your legacy, invest in the next generation of leader.
You’ll be glad you did.