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My daughter Mackenzie is officially a teenager. She is thirteen and the primary reason my prayer life is alive and well! I love her to pieces, but I tell you, adolescent hormones are scary.

I have a deep and growing respect for our Middle School Pastor Dan Self, who leads about 125 of these precious creatures at Crossroads. Can you imagine 125 middle schoolers in one room? That is frightening.

Let me tell you something even more nerve-wracking. My daughter watches my every move. If I call her on something that I have not lived out myself, I'm going to hear about it.

The truth is that I'm a role model for her. Fortunately, her mom (my wonderful wife Patti) covers me well in the more gender-specific issues of being a role model. Gender aside, my life is viewed by her and what she observes shapes her life.

This is the way it is with all leaders. Whether you like it or not, you are a role model for your people. It may not seem fair and your people are ultimately responsible for themselves, but the shepherd is also responsible for the flock.

You are not asked to be superhuman or even close to perfect, but you are required to make daily decisions that inspire others to a better way of living.

If I tell my son to obey the law but drive over the speed limit, I am a poor role model. If I teach my daughter that kindness matters but do not treat Patti with kindness, I am a poor role model. If I press the congregation to get into a small group but I'm not in one, I am a poor role model. If I exhort the congregation I serve to share their faith with those who are spiritually unresolved and unchurched people but I do not, I am a poor role model.

You get the idea.

Let me repeat, this is not a lesson on perfection. Nor is it a teaching on performance-based legalistic workaholism. My desire is to call your attention to the incredible importance of living a life of integrity and modeling Christian character and ministry well.

This is a humbling topic. Who of us would dare to claim we are a worthy model? Yet as leaders that is our role. We do not claim to be Christ, but scripture calls us to be like Him. And regardless of whether we want them to or not, people watch us. My daughter does.

There are many approaches I could take with this vast and sobering topic of modeling, but for this article, I will focus on modeling in the context of leadership development. The following are four insights to challenge and encourage you as you lead those God has entrusted to you.

You can impress people from afar, but you impact them from up close.

Leaders get involved in the lives of the people they lead with an intentional focus on those who are in the process of becoming a leader. You can't model from the pulpit. Modeling is life on life. Modeling says, "Come do this with me." Modeling lets people see your mistakes and how you handle pressure.

Because this is true, we can discern that we don't truly model for large numbers. Your church may be large, but you model for just a few. Know who they are and be intentional about it. Be real and be yourself while also being the best model of Christianity that you can.

You reproduce who you are.

The principle of mirror leadership is very sobering. Mirror leadership means that after about 36 months of leadership, the people around you reflect very closely who you are.

Look closely and learn from those you attract and the people who stay with you under your modeling, equipping and developing. When good people leave you, find out why. Your skills and personality may determine who you attract, but your character, integrity, and lifestyle will determine who you keep over the long haul.

Our lifestyle influences others.

In many arenas of life, it is your skill that earns you the right to influence others, but for us as Christian leaders it is first our character—our lifestyle that earns us the right. What we do when no one is looking is as important as our level of competency. Competency is critical, but it's not the whole picture.

Modeling integrity is what makes the difference between a shallow short-term project and meaningful ministry that lasts.

We are about changed lives, changed by the power of God. Although this can happen in a moment, for most it's a process, and a slow one at that. People aren't projects and they don't fit into formulas or timetables. Meaning is found over the course of a journey.

My kids call it "party manners." Anyone can behave for a short period of time. What counts is your ability to live well over the long haul.

So, how about you? Will you take a moment right now and reflect on the kind of model you are? For what do you have to be thankful? And what might you need to improve upon?

This article is used by permission from
Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter
The Pastor's Coach available at

Author Biography

Dan Reiland
Web site: 12 Stone Church
Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

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