Leader: When facing a fire do you add fuel or water?

Youth Leader, has this happened to you? A student comes to you with a secret.  A parent calls and is concerned about kids smoking outside the church. The pastor is angry about the mess you left in the kitchen after your event. What do you do? As a leader you carry a bucket in each hand. One bucket is full of water, the other is full of gasoline. The job of a leader is to determine which bucket to pour on each fire that arises, and to train your volunteers to do the same. Some leaders always use the same bucket. To them, every situation is an emergency, and they add fuel to every issue that arises. Other leaders try to minimize everything. They pour water on every issue that is brought to them. Both of these leaders are exercising  poor judgement. A wise leader has learned which situations need fuel and need to be ramped up and which situations need water, and need to be diffused.

Once as a youth pastor I was running a HS Camp where one of my volunteers came to me with a concern. A volunteer was seen giving an extra long hug to one of the teenage girls.

Decision: Fuel

I confronted the volunteer, without accusation, “This was seen… it is true? What is the extent of your relationship? Don’t do it again. Stay away from her.”

End result: The volunteer continued to exhibit physical behavior toward this minor. The leader was sent home from the camp and removed from leadership. It was discovered soon after that they had a sexual relationship prior to the camp.

Fuel was the correct bucket for this situation.

Most other times a hug is just a hug. How do you know when to add fuel and when to add water?

1. Fuel – Don’t ever ignore safety concerns. If someone brings you a concern regarding safety or health, treat it seriously. If after investigation you determine that the issue is overblown, then you can add water. But always err on the side of protecting students.

2. Water -In general, I pour water on issues of conflict between people, where motives are being assigned and assumptions are being made. I pour water on gossip and slander when it comes to me. I do not allow an atmosphere to be created that allows or encourages that sort of fire to smolder under the surface. Pour water on the gossip and actively engage in resolving the situation where appropriate.

3. What if I’m unsure which bucket to use? Solicit advice from an older / wiser figure in your life. This may be your pastor, or a mentor, or simply a parent you respect and trust. Ask around “Wisdom is found in many counselors.”

Part of developing as a leader is knowing which bucket to use when. To make a mistake in this area can have a high cost attached to it. Take the time to seek wisdom when you’re unsure. And maybe even when you are…



About markmoder

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