Lead With Your Brokenness

As a leader, it becomes almost too easy for us to pull rank, boast about our strengths or titles when it comes to our relationships with both volunteers and students. I can hear it in my head now, “I’m the leader, so you have to do what I say.” To be quite honest with you, there are definitely some moments throughout the course of my leadership that I have felt the need to pull rank in how I was communicating with students and volunteers.


I have found over time when it comes to working with youth rarely does the alpha role work in leading students. Do not get me wrong, I do think there are moments when you need it but more often than not, I have seen it backfire on the people who feel they can do it. What makes it worse is the volunteers that I lead begin to follow my example and lead this way.


This past summer I took a group of students and leaders to a weekend camp for a get away from the busyness of life and for a chance to have an encounter with God. The first day I noticed that some of the volunteers were playing the alpha role with the students.  As they took on this alpha posture, their body language and tone were, in essence, saying “sit down and shut up, I am the leader here.”


As you and I know, students do not like to be dominated nor feel like they are prey. The students began to respond back with the typical, ‘you ain’t my momma!’ response that only an urban youth can do correctly. I knew that as their leader and being on the same team we were going to have to deal with their leadership immediately. So rather than call for a big meeting and play the alpha role with my leaders, I decided that I would lead with my brokenness and show the leaders how to do the same.


After the message that night I asked my leaders to come to the front of the stage. Immediately they came up thinking I wanted them to pray and counsel the students that were coming up behind them. Not so. Instead, I explained very thoroughly that none of us are without issues. It is hypocritical of us to ask the students to come to the front and we aren’t willing to do the same. Immediately something shifted in the room.


For the first time maybe ever, the leaders went from being leaders to being the receivers. The students not only realized that the leaders needed just as much help as they do but their respect level actually went up for the leaders because of their ability to lead with their brokenness.


“People tend to respect you more when you are vulnerable about your own junk before trying to deal with theirs.” – Jose


Being vulnerable does not just work for students, but it has worked on several occasions as I lead volunteers. My ability to share my pain and brokenness gave me leverage to lead people further. Your pride will lead to you hiding your issues and this could be the very thing that keeps you from being a good leader.


Here are three quick ways to lead with your brokenness.:


  1. Kill your own ego – I cannot tell you how many leaders continue to have barriers between them, their volunteers and students simply because of their ego. If God resists the proud, people will too. (Side note: E.G.O. stands for Edging. God. Out. and when you edge God out, you automatically edge people out.)
  2. Expose your weakness – It should already be clear that you are a leader. What is not clear is that you are human just like those you are connected to. Nobody wants to follow a perfect leader because there is no way they can attain such perfection.
  3. You go first – You have to model this behavior before you ask anybody else to do the same. If you are willing to be broken and vulnerable it would be much easier to get students to open up about their brokenness and vulnerability. It is hypocritical to want others to open up without you doing so first.


I want to leave you with a challenge. I want you to evaluate your leadership style with these two questions: Are you the boss type leader? Do you have the alpha role syndrome? Are you the vocal leader? No matter what kind of leadership style you have, the way for you to be an effective leader is by leading with your brokenness. When you lead with yours, others will follow with theirs and then everyone can get the help that’s needed and get to the destination. People need your vulnerability!

I D.A.R.E. You to Believe

My leadership journey started as a young 23-year- old. I was thrown into a position of leading people who were old enough to be my parents. I remember during my introductory meeting being greeted with the “who do you think you are” eyes.


One of the first questions I was asked was not about vision or strategy; an older gentleman down front spoke up and asked, “What makes you think you can teach better than me?” What in the world!? Are you kidding me?! Who asks a question like that?! He wasn’t kidding either.


I would love to tell you that I had a brilliant retort expressed with such eloquence that it won the whole room over, people immediately respected my leadership, and were willing to follow me as I cast the vision and strategy for the dawning of a new age on how we would impact the lives of students in our community (insert epic super-hero music). But I didn’t. I sat there… eyes big, mouth wide opened, and speechless. In that moment, I began to doubt any ability I thought I had to lead.


Has there ever been a moment in your leadership where you felt helpless as you were being challenged? What did you do to move forward knowing you were called to be their leader?


My mentor who introduced me broke the silence. She spoke up on my behalf. She spoke of my ability to lead, encourage people, and how I bring energy and much-needed excitement to the ministry. As she spoke I found myself getting excited about the things that I brought to the table. Her words inspired me to BELIEVE that I could LEAD!


Who’s speaking into your life? Do you have a mentor? If not, what’s holding you back?


BELIEVE. As a leader, you need people around you to encourage you when you doubt yourself. So often, as leaders, we tend to get stuck in the area of self-doubt. Being stuck in self-doubt can cause you to look at a person, situation, or circumstance as if you have nothing to bring to the table.

My mentor believed in me, and in a time of doubt, (she) encouraged me to believe in myself. – Damean


Three quick thoughts on belief:

  • The right voice at the right time can shift your focus from what you lack to how you are gifted to effectively lead.
  • A proper belief positions you to overcome and lead when everyone and everything else around says you cannot.
  • Leaders lead with the energy of belief!


FAITH INSPIRES FOLLOW SHIP. During my years of Children’s Ministry my faith grew, my belief grew, and my ability to inspire others grew as well. In fact, the very man who asked that audacious question is now one of my biggest supporters. Crazy, right? My faith inspired his follow ship. As a leader, your ability to believe going through tough times will be an encouragement and inspiration to those who follow you.


The energy of belief spreads like wildfire, but it needs to be ignited in you first. People need you as a leader to believe. Believe that you can do it, believe that they can do it and believe that God can do it. But if we are honest there are times when we as leaders find it hard to do so. So here is a D.A.R.E to hold on to when you as the leader find it hard to believe.




D = Determine to pursue God’s vision no matter what!


A = Avoid the, I can’t do it trap!


R = Replace your limiting belief with faith in God’s limitless ability!


E = Endure struggles and never give up!


Whether you are beginning your journey in leadership or you are a seasoned leader navigating through the mountains of criticism that comes your way, it is my desire to be for you what my mentor was for me: a voice to inspire you to believe that you can lead!


I D.A.R.E you to believe!


Written By: Damean Easter


Volunteer Commitment

As a youth Pastor and CEO of a Nonprofit, my reality is that I cannot do it on my own. I need people. It is going to take building healthy teams to help us accomplish the vision that we have for our ministry and organization. One of the questions I am often challenged with, is how much is too much to ask of a volunteer?

Lately, I have had this change in my thought process concerning this question. Probably for the last 4 years, I have hesitated to ask a whole lot of volunteers because I knew that I did not have the resources to pay them.


In order to get volunteers committed to going the distance with you in the ministry or organization you are leading, here are just a couple of points on what you could do to ensure their longevity of serving:


  1. Be more invested in the people than you are the work.

When you as the leader are far more invested in the work than you are serving the people, you create a disconnect between you and the volunteers. When you make the shift from being task focused to people focused, you will find that majority of the people who are serving with you are willing to go the distance not just for the organization but for you as a person as well. How invested are you in your volunteers?

This year I know that the task ahead of me will be a heavy task and there is no way that I will be able to accomplish it all without having a group of committed and dedicated volunteers helping to carry the load. I realize that I have to be a good steward of not just the vision that I have but the people that are around me as well.

“If you invest more in the people then they will invest more in the vision.” – Jose


     2. Communicate from the beginning the workload and expectation of their role.

Going into this year, I made it really clear to all of the volunteers on my team that this would be our most busy and productive year. I even shared with them what each week of expectations would look like and how to measure if you are being a great volunteer or not. As a younger leader, I used to shy away from this part because I did not want to scare the volunteers away. Then as I gained experienced, I learned that if they could be scared away then they should be.

Volunteers who last will be the ones that are committed to both, you as a person and the mission to which you are trying to accomplish. Volunteers that do not last will be the ones that are committed to only you as a person or involved in the mission so they can get something out of it for themselves.

Volunteers will be less effective if they do not respect the leader but love the work.


  1. Do not be afraid to ask for what you really need.

It would be unfortunate for you to be able to have the right team, be invested in their growth and not get the type of results that you are looking for simply because you did not really ask for what you needed.

If you are going to grow this year, you are going to have to ask more of your team.

In order to ask more of your team, you have to move past the fear of what they might say or think. If you’ll commit to asking big of your team I am sure that you will be utterly surprised at the response you get.

This year do not let your excuse be your volunteers. Believe in them. Invest in them. Ask of them. You will find that they are on your team for a reason, they understand there is a work to be done and a need for them to be there. Do not hold back. Go after all that you are supposed to this year!

New Year, New Team?

It is the beginning of the year and there are a lot of things changing all around us. People are making new commitments in their life and letting go of things that they feel they need to let go of. Where does that leave those who work with students?

Somehow people have adopted the idea that once a youth worker, always a youth worker. Though there is an aspect of that which is true for some; however, that will not be true for everybody.

So, the question is: how do we or should we handle transitions with volunteers in the youth organization sector? Whether you are a Nonprofit leader, Boys and Girls club Director or local church youth leader—we know that one constant battle you will have with volunteers. That is figuring out when, where and how do volunteers transition and how does that affect students who already have a hard time letting people go.

Our responsibility as a youth leader to urban youth particularly is to be the antidote to their inner issues. We know that none of us are the cure, but we can very much be the factor that helps to neutralize many of their internal dysfunctions by being the opposite of what they have seen consistently in their lives. In order to do this, as the youth leader, we must learn to master transitions in our organizations.

Urban youth often times deal heavily with rejection and abandonment, largely due to father issues and other relationship inconsistencies within their household. However, there is a way that we can transition people, that helps students embrace change and transition and prepare them for the next season without them being stuck and hurt over the fact someone left them.

Step One:

  • Ask volunteers to make a year-long commitment.This gives leaders, volunteers, and those they serve the ability to work beyond their comfort and endure certain frustrations, but ultimately this allows leaders to build trust and consistency with students. This also helps the volunteers to be able to commit beyond how they are feeling at the time. Eventually, you end up with a start and stop time for each volunteer so they do not become a lifelong professional volunteer (though, some of them will become this.)

Step Two:

  • Leaders must make sure to not make volunteers feel bad for transitioning, but rather celebrate their decision to either stay for another year or transition out. At the end of each year, we organizations should hold a meeting with all of our volunteers to where they celebrate what has been accomplished together the previous year and dream a little for the next year. Then, you can give the opportunity for volunteers to answer the question, “do you think your time is up?” This allows them to assess their life in that moment and to look for the next year and evaluate if they still have the same commitment to the organization and students as they did in the beginning—or if their season has changed.

Step Three:

  • Publicly celebrate your volunteers’ transition in front of the students.The work that most volunteers do is a very visible work. So, their celebration of this work should be visible as well. No organization or ministry wants to be known as the group who never let people go or never transitioned people properly. This also allows us to help students understand the importance of people who are beneficial in their lives for certain seasons. The truth is, some people will be life-long mentors and leaders. The reality is some leaders will be seasonal. However, it is up to us as youth leaders to create opportunities and systems for seasonal people to be just that and this allows for us leaders to teach the students to embrace the people in those seasons.


Helping students to master transition in their life, starting with volunteers is a sure way to help them make the necessary transitions when seasons, relationships and people change in life. During transitions, we celebrate those who are leaving for what they have contributed in the past season. This helps us show students that changes are not bad, but they are celebration worthy! Ultimately, we want to help students understand that transitions are a part of God’s plan and students should not take them personally.  You can start your new year by celebrating transitions and by encouraging your volunteers to make a one-year commitment to the organization or ministry.