Don’t Settle for Cookie-cutter Leadership

By Guest Contributor April 14, 2015

By Brad Widstrom

Today is my father’s birthday. Jim Widstrom was born 84 years ago in 1931. He is a kind and simple man, and I say that with deep love and appreciation. His father died when he was young, so my grandmother, a Swedish immigrant with few marketable skills, was left alone to raise four children through the tail end of the Great Depression. Their picture could be placed in Wikipedia to illustrate the poor but proud people who barely eked by during those difficult years. His family had a spartan home, threadbare clothes, and cardboard in their shoes. Food was hard to come by. He had no father to love and nurture him, or to teach him what it meant to be a husband, a father, and a mature man. And my dad, as the youngest, was the only child to complete high school.

But they did have a commitment to each other, an understanding of what was truly important, and a deep faith in God. These features are what truly mark my father and set him apart from most other people I have known. They form my dad’s character, his values, his work ethic, and they make him the man that he is, even into his 80s. I hope to be even half the man he is in these attributes.

Why do I share these family stories? After all, my father is not the first person most would approach to join their leadership team. But a look back at my father’s life shows that he—and people like him—should be at the very top of that list. Was he a good speaker or teacher? No. A wise planner or visionary? No. A flashy dresser with a suave personality? No. Did he have a professional job with deep pockets to pad the budget? No. But Dad loved people, loved God, and was willing to sacrificially plug in wherever the need existed.

cookiecutter_quoteAs a young man, he stepped out of his comfort zone to help plant a church. Over the next 60-plus years, he stepped into numerous other roles of impact: Sunday school teacher, Christian Service Brigade leader, youth group leader, baseball coach, basketball coach, trustee board member, Christian education board member (including chair), church council member, Sunday school class officer, camp volunteer—the list goes on and on. And that doesn’t include the tasks he took outside of church. Dad was also my Cub Scout pack master, the president of my high school’s booster club, and more. Like the apostle Paul, he entered these tasks with fear and trembling, not with wise or persuasive words, boasting only in the Lord so that the Spirit’s power might be demonstrated through him (1 Cor. 1:26–31; 2:1–4).

The full measure of my father’s impact will never be known this side of heaven. But recently I have received messages from numerous men and women who are privileged to have had my dad join them on their journey. The common thread is something like this: “Please let your dad know the important role he played in my life. He is a big reason I am the person I am today. Thank him for everything, big and small, that he did over the many years.” Not bad for an unschooled and ordinary man (Acts 4:13). But, like Peter and John, he has spent many years with Jesus. This changed him, called him, empowered him—and many of us are the beneficiaries.

So, when planning who to pursue for your leadership team, keep your eyes open for a few Jim Widstroms.

CC Image courtesy Dave Fayram on Flickr.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More