Child Leadership and Participation – Bible Insights and Training Principles

Many key biblical characters were used by God as children. We often do not take children as seriouly as God did and does. What can we practcally do to help children assume responsible leadership.

This article is drawn from a discussion document about Child Leadership. It can be found on Max7 in full

When focusing on the topic of leadership, our ultimate example is Jesus. When he was a child, Jesus already exhibited leadership qualities in the things he did and said. Reading the last few verses of the second chapter of Luke provides many of these details. At the same time, instructions have been given in the pages of the Scriptures to parents and members of the community in which children live about the best ways to invest in their development. Plus there are recorded instances where children stepped up, in spite of their age, to speak on God’s behalf and to challenge some of the norms of the day. Take time to reflect on these and other Bible passages as you allow God to further shape your thinking.

Reflection Activity (individual or small group) Principles:
Read and reflect on the following passages and consider the implications for motivation for developing a child leadership strategy:

• Proverb 22:6 (NIV) “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
• Deut 6: 5 – 9 (NIV) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
• Deut 11:19 “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Reflection Activity (individual or small group) Look at these examples:
• Luke 2:40 – “And the child was growing and becoming strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.”
• Luke 2:52 “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”
• 2 King 22 & 23 – Josiah
• 1 Samuel 17 – David
What other passages and examples help to shape and influence our thinking?

Important ingredients in child leadership training
As you begin to start dreaming and planning how best to integrate these leadership principles into your existing programs and strategies, consider some of the important elements that need to be included:
• Affirmation and encouragement.
Look for regular opportunities to affirm the child’s leadership through personal affirmation and public praise. Be intentional about identifying the particular elements of their leadership in which they operated at a high level.
• Feedback and evaluation
Constructive comments are always in the context of positive affirmation. Ask the child if there were any aspects of their leadership where they think they could have improved. This may highlight areas that need to develop and opens the door for your reflections from your observations.
• Good communication
This involves both listening and speaking. Parents and leaders need to model active listening with children. Children will learn so much about the value of listening by being listened to. Children also need to have forums to speak in. It is important that adults here the informed ideas of a children. Give children time to be well prepared. Help them crystallise their ideas through patience and feedback.
• Collaboration and teamwork
An important learning of working together is the realisation that a group (be it a family unit or a group of friends) can get more accomplished and in less time, rather than simply going it alone.
• Negotiation and compromise
Through the process of working in teams, children need to learn the art of give and take, being able to bend and compromise in some areas so that the task is still completed and everyone is still happy.
• Planning and strategies
Leaders have an intimate grasp on the overall picture or goal and are able to break tasks down into easily achievable groupings. Parents and leaders who design opportunities for children to undertake planning and strategising need to ensure appropriate amounts of support and time is given so that the children are able to accomplish their outcomes. Planning a strategy is a great way to empower and build children’s self esteem and confidence as well as providing them with a clearer vision of what they are about to achieve.
• Children develop at different rates.
Spiritual, biological, educational, social and emotional changes can impact a child’s leadership development and effectiveness; particularly those of a natural leader.
• Experiences
Experiences impact upon a child’s ability to lead effectively. Positive early experiences encourage and reinforce a child’s leadership capabilities. Negative early experiences may delay or curtail a child’s leadership aspirations. However, positive, timely support can produce outcomes from negative situations. Resilient children, coupled with timely, caring advice can overcome leadership challenges.
• Character
The most important trait of a leader is the character and not the skills. It is easier to train a child in skills than in developing their character. A long time is required to build the character of a child. Reflect on what processes are required for character development within the children you’re leading.
• Criticism
All leaders will have to learn to hear criticism, though this can be difficult at any age and stage. Children who hope to lead will not be adequately prepared if they are not helped to hear criticism, listen patiently, and respond slowly. In matters of leadership, learning how to test a criticism for anything helpful or constructive to take away is invaluable to the ongoing development of a leader.
• Feedback
Learning to give feedback in a constructive way is vital to leadership. For any leader to develop and manage their team well, an ability to guide, correct and even to lovingly admonish the team will help to assure the success of the team and its venture.
Reflection Activity (individual or small group)

If child leadership is regarded as important then intentional training structures need be developed and implemented.
• What is your plan for raising children as leaders?