I’m not great at celebrating the wins. It’s something I’ve learned about my leadership over the years as I’ve often moved onto the next mountain to climb rather than stopping to celebrate the climb we’ve just finished.
Celebration is a critical part of leadership, and is healthy for you and for the team that you lead. It’s also biblically instructed.
In Joshua 4, after the Israelite people cross over the Jordan and into the Promised Land, God instructs Joshua to take 12 stones from the river and set them up as a memorial for future generations to know and celebrate the great work the Lord had done. This is a common practice throughout the Old Testament as God’s people would often be instructed to build an altar, stack stones, or make a sacrifice to memorialize a significant work of God. This is an act of celebration and remembrance, and it is an important practice that we need to continue today.
Maybe we shouldn’t continue the specific practice of stacking stones or making sacrifices, but the principle is one we must hold onto as leaders. Here’s why:
Celebration helps you remember God’s faithfulness.
This is the very reason we see in God’s instructions to Joshua at the Jordan River. They were to connect remembrance and celebration so that they could tell future generations about the work of God. When you celebrate personally or with your team it helps you remember God’s work and faithfulness in moments when you’re tempted to forget. God was faithful then, and He will be faithful now.
Celebration develops culture.
Culture is developed through shared experiences more than words and teaching. When you choose to stop and celebrate the efforts of individuals and whole teams you are rooting the actions that have been taken with the value you place on people. This learning was a turning point for me in celebration: that celebration is essential for showing value in people as a leader. The truth is I valued people deeply all along the way, but my desire to just climb the next mountain said that I valued the mountain or the accomplishment more than the people. Celebrate your people and you will begin to develop a culture that values people over accomplishments.
Celebration is necessary fun!
We need to have fun with our teams. It builds relationships, lifts morale, and makes people want to keep serving with you. It’s easy in student ministry to direct all the fun towards the students and all the seriousness towards your adult leadership. It’s true that there are serious moments in leadership, and we shouldn’t neglect those, but to never drift into fun robs our teams of celebrating together and eventually will lead them to burning out in their place of service. If you’re not good at fun, you can always find someone around you to help with this part of leadership, but don’t just dismiss it.
I’ve said a lot here about the importance of celebrating with other people as a leader, but I don’t want you to miss the reality that you need celebration too. It is a healthy practice to stop and celebrate, even if no one else is. If you see something that God is doing, celebrate it, and make it a memorial stone in your mind. Keep a journal of all things big and small that you want to celebrate. Going long periods of time without celebrating will bring you to burn out just like it will with the teams that you lead. Choose the healthy, if somewhat awkward path here, and have a little party by yourself, with some close friends, or with your family. Be intentional here and invest in your own health as a leader through celebration.
That reminds me… It’s about time I do a little celebrating of my own…
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find weekly encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.