The traditional way of arranging classroom activities has been heavily teacher-centered. Some estimates say that the teacher occupies as much as 85% of the speaking time during lessons. If the teacher acts as the-manager-of-all-matters in the class-room, when do the students get a chance to practice and develop in leadership skills? Consider these scenarios:
Scene 1: A class of preschool children has been divided into teams. Each team has a leader. The leader goes to the teacher to get an assignment. The teacher tells the assignment shortly and gives a bag with material. The leader goes back to their group and organizes the work. The teacher does not interfere. When the work is done, the leaders report to the teacher and the teacher briefly gives encouragement to the leaders. At the end of the lesson or the day, the teacher gives each leader a tag for a monetary reward and asks them to go back to the group and choose which team member they want to give it to and on what grounds. The next day, another child from the same group is chosen to be a leader.
Scene 2: A class of first-graders has a newcomer who is very shy. The classroom teacher asks a team of children to go and ask the new child to join them. “Please, come and join us,” they say cheerfully to the new child. The newcomer is too shy to join, but he sits on a chair close to the group and observes and reads a book on his own. The teacher goes to the child and says: “Well done! Today you may sit here and read, but tomorrow, you will move your chair and sit closer to the group.” The next day the same thing is repeated, and again the day after, until he finally has the courage to participate fully.
The previous scenes are from Finland, where the “Young Leader” teaching method has been developed especially by Maritta Lamponen and put in practice in Christian schools. Teachers who use this method believe that leadership is for everybody because most people end up leading others at some point in their lives. The older the student, the more demanding the leadership tasks and roles they can assume. When the training of leaders starts as early as preschool, the results are more lasting, and the young adults become more mature leaders earlier on.
If leadership skills are not taught systematically, possibly only a few students get any chance for practicing. The unfortunate result is a lack of leadership skills that encourages a stick-to-the-power-once-you-get-it leadership formula, which is affecting our church life negatively. If we changed the way we look at leadership, then perhaps power shift in the local church might become less painful a process, among other benefits.
A successful leader needs an extensive set of leadership skills, even more important is an attitude of servitude, like our Lord Jesus had. The disciples who studied with Jesus were originally ordinary men, but through His divinely-orchestrated process, became powerful apostolic leaders. By helping our students learn to be leaders and to lead through service, we can equip them for a lifetime of positive leadership.