Sunday, April 20, 2014

Leadership: Enlarging My Territory

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.     1 Chronicles 4:10

Spring is a time for reflection in education, and I typically begin to look forward to the opportunities of next school year.  This morning I am reminded of something that profoundly affected my life and my career.

It is Bruce Wilkinson’s Prayer of Jabez and the sequel Beyond Jabez.  Many of you may have these books at some time in the past.  I read the Prayer in 2001 or 2002 and began to pray the Prayer of Jabez.  That happened at a time when I was transitioning into a leadership role and it made a significant difference in my life and in my work.  Then in 2007 I was drawn to Beyond Jabez during a Leadership class at Liberty University and it caused me to revisit the ideas contained in that prayer. It’s been a while since I’ve read that book or even prayed that prayer, but today as I ponder the possibilities of again enlarging my territory, I feel compelled to reconnect with this scripture.

Though I joined our school the very first year it opened, I didn’t plan to become any type of school leader or administrator.  I was just a classroom teacher doing my best to shape the lives of 20 third graders.  Those first two years were difficult in that we were involved in lawsuits and legal battles with the county school board just to maintain our existence. 

Sometime during the second or third year, I read the Prayer of Jabez and I began to pray for the Lord to enlarge my territory.  I knew that I was touching 20 lives each day, but somehow that didn’t seem to be all I was called to do.  As I prayed that prayer for weeks, and months, I began to realize the changes that would need to be made in our school as we continued to expand each year.

We were growing by leaps and bounds.  We started with 140 students in PreK through 5th grade, added sixth and seventh grades the next year, and eighth and ninth the following year, increasing to 225, 350, 400, and now that we are through twelfth grade, we have over 750 students. 

Not only did I take on more responsibilities, such as mentoring and coaching other teachers, but I also returned to school to earn a master’s in school counseling and become our school’s only counselor.   As these things began to take place, my territory was enlarging, I became responsible for many more than my 20 students.  My task load increased and my sphere of influence multiplied.   

I continued my education, eventually earning an Educational Leadership degree, and I have continued to enlarge my sphere of influence, using my skills to build capacity with our faculty. As I begin to plan for next year, I am reminded once again of why I prayed it in the first place, and why I should still be asking for God’s blessings each day.

Sometimes, we get so busy, so unbalanced, in our day to day operations that we lose sight of what we’re really here for.  I knew from the moment that God laid his hand on me back in the spring of 2000 telling me to go to work at the charter school that this school was a mission field for me.  A home mission field.  But I get busy and I forget to treat it like it is a ministry and I treat it like a job.  But it’s so much more.  Our kids need the role models that we’ve gathered on our campus. 

The four phrases of this prayer are distinct requests to God, and each of them has an impact on what God can do in our lives.  But the one that continues to stand out so much for me is that of enlarging my territory.  My territory has been enlarged – from one elementary classroom, to that of our staff, to our entire school of 700 plus students, and their parents, to even teachers in other schools whom I’ve had the opportunity to train.  The territory is there.  It’s what we do with it that sets us apart.

Some notes I took while reading the chapter on enlarging my territory in Beyond Jabez remind me of the important implications of this prayer:
  •          “to abundantly increase” -- a huge expansion
  •          sphere of influence/expanding ministry (service)
  •          Whose territory?  God’s!
  •          Prayer for territory involves change, risks; not comfort
  •          “remember that God will never expand your territory beyond where He knows the two of you can achieve his goals.”
  •          “When you realize and embrace your share of the responsibility for increasing  fruitfulness in your life, you will discover new motivation to pray the prayer of     Jabez!”
  •          “He will provide all the supernatural resources necessary to enlarge your territory, but you are the one who must decide to break out of your comfort zone.”
  •          “Taking new territory involves all of God and all of you. And if you leave out either part of this equation, your efforts will be ineffectual.”

How does He do it?
1.       “by increasing its size, enabling you to do something different or new.”
2.       “by extending its scope, enabling you to do something new.”
3.       “by sharpening your skills, enabling you to do what you do, better.”
4.       “by improving your strategy, enabling you to do something more effectively.”
5.       “by deepening its significance, enabling you to do something more influential.”

Wilkinson encourages us, and I am re-energized and recommitted to “rekindle the habit of praying the prayer of Jabez” and to “catch the vision for what God wants to do in your life, that you will experience incredible fulfillment and produce results of eternal value.”  

As I rekindle this habit, I am seeking all parts of this scriptural verse: Blessing, Territory, the Hand of God and His Protection:
  • The Prayer for Blessing:  “spiritual or material or both
  • The Prayer for Territory: “not primarily for yourself, but for Him and His purpose
  • The Hand of God: “to enable you to steward the responsibility well”
  • The Prayer for Protection:  “so that you might pursue His best for your life without hindrance”

I believe He has a great expansion in store for me, a departure from my comfort zone.  My skills have been sharpening, my strategies evolving.  Significance is on the horizon.  Use me to influence others.

What is your prayer?

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