I was nervous. I sat across the table after enjoying a nervous lunch of all-you-can-eat grilled liver and onions at a local steakhouse. I was building up the courage to ask our ministry’s major benefactor to finance a laptop. Jim and his wife, Judy, had already given exceedingly to redesign our meeting space and add more equipment to our weekly presentations.
My early years of ministry included a dedication to our city’s needy families. Over an almost ten year period, thousands of kids were ministered by our weekly “Kids Explosion,” where we bused them on Saturdays to our church’s gym. Jim and Judy saw the vision when I began and placed it on their hearts to support the ministry and us leaders as well.
Nervously, I asked the question. I had been building myself up for the whole time we were eating. I blurted out, “Jim, is it possible for you to finance a laptop to be better able to minister?”
There was a long pause.
He sat back and thought with his hand to his lips. He slowly reached into the vest pocket of his jacket and grabbed his checkbook. Pulling it out, he looked determined.
“Jason,” he said, “I will give you the money to purchase a laptop. Before I do, I want you to understand something, and I want you to listen. You minister to many people every week. Not one person is more important than this laptop, the video equipment, the buses, or the building you meet in. People are always more important than things. Do not ever think one piece of equipment is ever more important than a person. If you remember that, you will be successful.”
Today, the laptop is long gone, the buses have rusted, and another church uses the building. Still, those words – people are always more important than things – are forever stuck.
For years, leadership was about many other things. It was about me, myself, and I. What could I achieve to make me look good? What could I do to get recognized? What controlling factor could I perform to make people serve me, love me, and make me look important? A servant leader I was not.
Through God’s gracious yet maturing hand, He loved me into correction, bringing the right fire to burn away my ego, pride, and self-centeredness. He then instilled is Word, which is the foundation of my calling. Such verses as “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (Matthew 20:26).” Other verses such as “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (1 Peter 4:8).”
When a leader boils down their ministry, business, or organization, people are the reduction in the pot left. However, as leaders, we get overwhelmed with buildings, programs, projects, and the like, and people take a back seat. Their seat is so far back that they are forgotten and left to their demise.
When most things were stripped away during the recent COVID pandemic, leaders rediscovered the foundation of their ministry were people. As shepherds, we smelled like our buildings and electronics while we should have smelled like our sheep. A revival of stripped-down, genuine ministry emerged with many asking should we even go back.
Why should people be placed above things? People are the only eternal beings that exist. The Bibles shares that even the earth, as well as heaven itself, will pass away. God will renew all things, and we, who are eternal beings, will spend eternity with the great eternal God.
Servant leadership is about serving people, not properties, electronics or devices, or our agendas. People are what makes churches, businesses, and companies. Valuing people should be the priority every day in vision, mission, and products. In turn, touch the heart of the Father, for we are taking care of His highest and eternal creation.
5 ways to place people above things:
- Look at your time. Do not get inundated with your organization’s business that you fail to spend time with the people you lead.
- Value everyone the same. The lowest-paid person in your organization should receive the care and attention from you as the highest-paid person. In the church, this applies to those who give and serve as well.
- How you treat people will be long remembered after you depart from this world. Treat those with whom you come into contact with in public with the same respect you provide for those in your family and organization. Servers, cashiers, janitors, and the like are people too!
- As you take inventory of your organization or business’s assets, set this principle firmly in place. Those items will never take precedence over anyone.
- Take a personal inventory. You possess vehicles, homes, electronics, and much more. It took great work to gather those things. Yet, remember, people are more important than things.