I asked my dad to write this article, and he said, “Craig, you need to write it.” I wanted to say, “If you were a real servant leader, you would write it.” I realized that my response was a violation of Paul’s cautionto young Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1. I also knew my dad was deferring to me as an act of serving and encouraging me.
Servant leadership in my parents and children
I’ve always seen my parents as the epitome of “servant leadership” and “servant modeling.” My dad, Henry Webb, wrote: “Deacons: Servant Models in the Church” in 1978. That book has been a steady seller ever since. And while I would never hold myself up as a model of servant leadership, I do see this God given quality in my three almost grown children.
In fact, the reason my dad said I should write the article was that he sees this virtue in each of my children. I do agree with my dad about that. My oldest son, Aaron, is serving Christ with Campus Outreach International in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I believe that one of the most attractive qualities that draw Thai students to Aaron is his servant’s heart. My son, Carl, is helping to start a new business that will help persons with traumatic brain injuries. My daughter, Gracie, regularly serves young children in the kid’s ministry. She has a particular affinity for special-needs children and is a “buddy” on Sunday mornings for these special children.
To be sure, I am not raising up my family as the example or model. I want to lift up Jesus, the ultimate servant, and the values, qualities, and manner that He displayed. So, how do you raise children to follow after and emulate Jesus, the Servant Leader of Servant Leaders?
Learn from the Source and practice what He teaches you. Jesus, the all-powerful, pre-existent, the Word made flesh, Son of God, took on flesh and walked among us and chose the path of the suffering servant. He walked in power and humility. The way we demonstrate power as men of God is to walk as sons of God in His power and authority and lay down our right to be served by our wives and our children and instead choose to bless our wives and our children through humble service. We give up our right to have our way and choose instead to help others find their way.
Servant leadership is receiving Christ’s powerful blessing; His teachings, His sacrifice, His humility, His grace; and we, in turn, offer that same servant leadership to those around us. I can and should direct these attitudes and actions toward my wife, my young or grown children, my pastor, my colleagues, my parents, a store clerk,and any person I encounter.
So, where can you start?
Start by spending time with Jesus. He was and is the servant leaders of servant leaders. Read
His words in His Word and talk to Him daily. No other discipline will help you become a servant
leader more. Jesus chose to “disciple” the twelve by doing life with them for three years. They
listened not only to the words Jesus spoke, but they also watched his every interaction and
Spend time with other servant leaders. Identify men and women who exhibit the character and characteristics of Jesus. Observe how they treat others and observe how others react to them. Show them honor and respect and listen to them. Get your kids in the presence of these men and women who have been with Jesus and smell like Jesus. Look for those who exhibit the values, characteristics, and qualities of persons who have been transformed by the Servant Leader of servant leaders (Jesus).
Until I was in the sixth grade, our family lived on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii. When a denomination leader or special guest from the mainland or Asia would be in the Islands, my mom and dad made an effort to expose my brother and me to these godly men and women. When my dad went to work at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay), he would bring me to work and introduce me to men and women whom he respected. My wife and I have tried to do the same thing with our children.
Practical tip: Invite a man or woman or a couple of faith to your home for dinner. Have your children be a part of preparing and serving the meal. Include your kids in the conversation.
Finally, model service for your children in practical ways.
1 Serve your wife and your children through words of blessing.
Practice this also with your parents, persons you encounter throughout the day, your pastor, and your church family. Practice words of grace, thanksgiving, respect, and honor to each one.
Practical tip: Say positive words about your children in the presence of their peers and your peers. Make your correction private and your praise public.
2 Choose to serve rather than to be served.
Serving begins with your attitude toward Chris and progresses to your family, your community, your work, your pastor, and church family. Look for opportunities to help and serve your children, your wife, and others in daily activities. Yes, there are times when others decide to serve or show kindness toward you. Receive those and express thanks. Be intentional about serving rather than being served.
Practical tip: Do something that would free up your wife or kids. Cook a meal. Leave early to pick up the kids and take them to ball practice. Get up from the dinner table first and clear and wash the dishes. Have your children help you. In the church parking lot, choose the furthest rather than closest spot.
3 Be loving when others serve you.
When you are at a deacon meeting, worship on Sunday, the bank, a store, or a theater, treat persons who are serving you with honor and respect. Avoid petty complaining. Express appreciation. Smile.
Practical tip: In a sit-down restaurant, address your server by the name on their nametag. If they don’t have a name badge, ask for their name and use it each time they come to the table. In your children’s’ eyes you are elevating the role of a servant to a place of honor and respect.
4 Serve by supporting your pastor and church.
Much of the content of Deacon Magazine is devoted to helping you as a servant leader serve your pastor and your church well. Monitor how you speak about your pastor, fellow deacons, and church members in your home.
Practical tip: Create a pastor or staff member encouragement card from your family. Have the whole family participate. Include a generous gift card for a local restaurant.
5 Teach your children the servanthood of generosity.
Begin by demonstrating generosity by tithing (10%). Then give generously to your church beyond the tithe. Then use your God-given resources, influence, experience, and skills to advance the kingdom of God.
Practical tip: Gather with the family on a Saturday night and share with your children why and how much you give to the church. Pray with your family to dedicate your offering to God. Have one of your children put the offering in the plate Sunday morning.
Jesus modeled for us how to model servant leadership for our children when He said: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).