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What Does It Mean to Be a Servant Leader?

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Helping Your Son Live Out the November Virtue of the Month

Welcome to November! Our virtue of the month is the Servant Leader. Not sure what that means or how to help your son live that out? Keep reading for an adapted excerpt from our new book 7 Virtues of Godly Manhood:

The Servant Leader

What do you think of when you picture a leader? Is it a king or a general? Somebody who can tell other people what to do? All over the world, our leaders are the people who get special privileges and honors. They get to talk first, and what they say becomes the rules for everybody else.

How Jesus Defines a Leader

But Jesus gives us a completely opposite definition of leadership. He told his disciples, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them have themselves called ‘Benefactors’” (Luke 22:25). In other words, for the rest of the world, the leaders boss everybody else around. Then Jesus said something else:

It is not to be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you should become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. (Luke 22:26)

In Jesus’ kingdom, the leaders don’t boss everybody else around. Their job really is to help.

In the last chapter, we learned that Humble Heroes help and love other people, instead of grabbing all the best stuff for themselves. When Humble Heroes lead, they are focused on helping others. They use their leadership to serve others. That’s what it means to be a servant leader: to serve those around you for their good.

Why Servant Leadership Is Hard—and How to Lead Well Anyway

A lot of us like the idea of being a leader. It sounds exciting and glamorous. But being a servant leader is not easy. It’s one of the hardest things you can do, because it is not natural.

We are naturally selfish. We like to do what is easy, what is normal, and what makes us look good. It’s not always cool to stop and help somebody else. Or maybe we’re in a hurry, and we don’t think we have time to help. We are focused on our plans and on what feels fun for us.

God is calling us to something better. He is calling us to follow the lead of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins—that is the greatest act of servant leadership ever. He gave his life in place of ours. Because of his sacrifice, we can know Jesus and be part of his family. Like we talked about in the last chapter, his love for us helps us want to love others. We serve others because Christ served us.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Matthew 20:28

There are so many ways you can bless your family! Don’t get hung up on finding the perfect idea. Your willingness to serve and help is what counts. Remember that you are serving not for a reward or a pat on the back. Servant leaders serve because they know they have everything they need in Christ, so they love God and they love others.

As a Parent, You Are a Servant Leader

As parents, we know about servant leadership. We have changed diapers and stayed up at with babies that can’t sleep. We work hard to provide our children with necessities and luxuries and we often reorder our lives for them.

We make these sacrifices because we love our children. That is a beautiful thing, and it helps us see how God loves us and sacrificed so much for us.

But there’s even more for how we serve our kids. When we have Jesus as our King and our Savior, we know we are first serving God when we serve our kids. And remembering that helps us serve them gently and graciously even when they are anything but gentle or gracious with us.

Taking this through this perspective of real-life, everyday sacrifice can prepare your children for ways that they may be called to sacrifice for and serve others. Next time you are eating dinner together or talking in the car, talk with your kids about servant leadership and explain how you have served them as their parent(s). And talk with them about what it’s like to be a Servant Leader in other parts of your life—whether that’s at work, in church, in your city, with other relatives, or somewhere else.

It might sound awkward or uncomfortable to talk about your sacrifices, but you can take the focus off yourself by focusing on how much you love your children and the other people you are serving. And you can talk about God’s love and how serving is a way that we live like Jesus, the greatest Servant Leader.

Ideas for Boys to Practice Being a Servant Leader

Here are some questions to help your son think through how to be a servant leader:

  • Look for ways to be a Servant Leader at home first. Sometimes, boys your age forget that your mom serves you in so many ways. How could you help your mom this week? It could be as simple as making your bed or even your brother’s or sister’s bed without being asked.
  • At school, is there a student who is having a hard time in one of your classes? Ask them how you can help. Maybe even start a study group.
  • Is there somebody in your class or on your sports team who might be feeling lonely, left-out, or sad? Look for ways to spend time with that person.
  • At church, look for people who might need help. Do moms or dads arrive with their arms full, pushing strollers while trying to open the door? Hold the door open and offer to carry something.
  • As a growing boy, you might have some extra strength and energy that could be a lot of help to older people in your community. Is there someone in your neighborhood, your church, or your family who might need help mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or (in a couple of weeks) shovelling snow?

Howard Graham

Howard Graham served as Chaplain at PDS and Executive Director of the Building Boys, Making Men program from 2018-2020.

Building Boys, Making Men is a PDS-created program designed to give boys a godly vision and definition of manhood. We believe that boys should be intentionally taught about authentic manhood and have a biblical framework for making wise and edifying choices during their teenage years and beyond. The definition of manhood we teach our boys:

A real man glorifies God by seeking an adventurous life of purpose and passion as he protects and serves others.