The Last Shall Be…

Kara Powell | Aug 17, 2009

Photo by Pan Xiaozhen

I love reading about, thinking about, and talking about leadership. With the January 2010 release of our upcoming FYI book, Essential Leadership, FYI Advisory Council member Mark Maines is helping us think about how to share the most important and most overlooked ideas about leadership with youth workers and parents.

He recommended I read a few chapters in The Three Tasks of Leadership: Worldly Wisdom for Pastoral Leaders, edited by Eric Jacobsen. It’s a book that highlights the profound insights of Max De Pree, who was the longtime chair and CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., and has also been a very loyal Trustee for Fuller.

Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, professor of Psychology at Fuller, contributed an excellent chapter on leadership and service. All too often, we embrace service because we think it will eventually make us great. It’s the somewhat bitter pill we swallow on the way to the feast of greatness. At least that’s the trap I fall into.

According to Siang-Yang, if that is our mentality, we’ve already missed the point. Real service isn’t motivated by greatness. It’s motivated by doing things for a great God instead of doing great things for God.

It reminds me of a story I heard about a very well-known speaker in the youth ministry and parenting speaker circuit. One day after he was done speaking to a few thousand teenagers, he stayed around and picked up trash. No special green room, no cushy car ride, no fancy meal. He stayed afterward to pick up trash.

My husband is like that. Last week he stayed later at a friend’s birthday party with our kids than I expected. I asked him why, and he said it was because he helped clean up. He’s the real deal when it comes to servanthood.

Would we still be willing to be last if we didn’t have hope that we’d somehow eventually end up first?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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