For the past thirteen years, I have had the joy and responsibility of professionally coaching lots of young leaders.  For the most part, they are full of joy, vitality, biblical ambition, with a strong desire to make a lasting contribution that would honor Jesus.

Some of them will unfortunately, over time, flame out, burn out or fall into major sin that could very well disqualify them. Many are aware, and afraid of this, which is a good thing.  At times I’m asked what is involved in finishing well–being a “Leader Who Lasts,” which is the title of my first book?

Here is Part 1 of a list ~ “Advice to Young Leaders:”

1.  Keep your knees on the floor: Be a leader who spends plenty of time alone with God in prayer. This demonstrates your dependence, trust and clearly acknowledges the fact that you can’t do it without the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself, every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” Matthew 19:22 (The Message). Trust doesn’t mean less effort, but less dependence on yourself.

2.  Keep your nose in The Book: Be a man/woman of the Book…not books, but the Book. It is tempting for young leaders to read, listen to, or watch other leaders preach and teach Scripture, as well as discovering what great minds think about various portions of scripture, and not get it first hand from spending personal time in God’s Word…reading, studying, memorizing, meditating and applying what you learn. Ezra 7:10 (ESV) is instructive on this issue, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” Passing it on was after study and obedience.

3.  Keep your pants zipped: It has been my observation that leaders who crash and burn often do so over either sex or money. Something often happens to a young leader who experiences success early in his/her career. Arrogance and independence can set in and make them think they are “above the law.” This can open the door for some really stupid personal decisions and choices that can cause the curtain to close early on an otherwise promising future.

4.  Keep your family as a top priority and don’t serve leftovers: If young leaders aren’t careful, most of their time will go toward other people and their personal life and family life will get the leftovers. Wives and children are not okay with this. It takes a good deal of intentionality and discipline to keep a healthy balance between one’s ministry life, family life and personal life.  It is a good idea to set boundaries and work a range of hours (50-60 suggested) per week so you and your family know when you are not working which is where all the non-work activities go-sleep, exercise, dates with wife and kids, fun and recreation. It is the non-work activities that lead to strength and health, which will result in longevity in ministry.

If you are not careful, the ministry can become like the crabgrass in the lawn of life.  Pretty soon you won’t have a lawn…you won’t have a life. Poor health, resentment toward those you lead, and burnout will not be far behind. Learn to say appropriate no’s to those you lead so you can say yes’s to those you love the most; your family!