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student ministry, youth ministry, youth leader

Are You A Compass or A Clock?

By Leneita Fix May 13, 2014

There are so many personality quizzes, spiritual gift assessments, and placement tests out there. We’ve made an art form out of learning our leadership styles and discovering where we belong. But yesterday I heard a new analogy that struck a cord. I was asked this question:

clock compass

Images courtesy digitalart and graur razvan ionut /

Are you a compass or a clock?

If you are a compass, you set direction. Your role is to tell others where we are headed. Then you keep everyone going the right way. You cast the vision and mission over those in your sphere of influence. Someone might come along and say, “Hey! That other path looks awesome. Let’s go there.” The compass’ role is to say, “If you want to be there, I support you. However, if you are with me, we are not going there. We are headed in this direction.”

On the other hand, a clock sets the pace. You let the compasses determine the route. But you let others know how and when to get there. You say things like, “If we keep this pace, then we ought to complete the task by Tuesday.” Your role as a clock is to make sure no one goes too fast or slow, and that no one stops or gets stuck. Clocks keep us moving. They fill in the details for the compasses. A compass has the tendency to only see the destination, while the clock can tell us the details.

The compass and the clock need each other. Your tendency may be to say, “I am a little bit of both.” In my experience we want to be both, but few visionaries can keep a steady pace and few clocks are passionate about continually casting direction. That doesn’t mean one can’t do the job of the other. But for our leadership to be truly effective we need to know who we are. What is our natural tendency?

Close your eyes and take a second to think and pray about who you are: a compass or a clock? Be honest with yourself. Don’t just imagine who you would like to be. Envision who you are. What is your passion? Do you want to direct the vision or the pace of your group?

I would love to be a clock. I can figure out the details of pace for a time, but eventually I get bored. My real passion is for vision. I love to say, “Hey guys let’s go this way!” I am a compass.

Now embrace who you are! It is who God made you to be. Perhaps you are a compass in a clock’s role or visa versa. That is a different conversation altogether. If you are in a role that doesn’t embrace who you are, then you need to make a decision. If you truly are called to be there, try to figure out what it means to be in that position. But if you just don’t fit the role, chances are, you’re miserable. And you probably aren’t doing your organization any favors as a square peg in a round hole. You may need to shift roles. Or perhaps you should invite in the support of someone with the opposite leadership type. You may simply need to ask the Lord to grow you.

So are you a clock or a compass? Let me know in the comments section below.


About the Author

Leneita Fix

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace  to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each…  Read More