If you are leading a sidewalk team, or hope to one day, you may discover that leadership has unique challenges. Being a good leader is not an easy job, and, when coupled with a very difficult ministry like that in front of an abortion center, it can be overwhelming. In this article, we cite some excellent advice largely gleaned from an article by Scott Hagan (read it HERE.) We apply his seven excellent principles to leadership in sidewalk ministry.

Great leaders pay attention. Poor leaders seek attention.

Pride is the mother of all sin. It caused Satan to fall, Saul to turn on David and ultimately lose his position before God and men, and the disciples to bicker and lobby for favor prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. When we are more interested in everyone seeing how great we are as opposed to helping others to become greater than they are, we lose our ability to lead most effectively. Ultimately, great leaders do not seek attention but pay attention and learn all they need to know to transform those they lead.

On the sidewalk, we appoint team leads. They are in charge of their teams with many responsibilities. The best team leads are universally loved because they seek to advance the skills of those they lead. 

The focus of the best leaders is not on self, but first on God, and then on others.

Leaders turn personal criticism into personal improvement.

Hagan makes a very good point about  the difference between criticism and accusation. Valid criticism has at least an element of truth that can be useful if carefully considered. Accusation is not truth, and is deflating and evil. Leaders learn to sift out the accusations and unjust exaggerations, and find the kernel of truth in criticism.

Great leaders listen carefully to criticism and discern what portions of that critique are valuable. This can promote positive change. We all have blind spots or imperfections. If we consider criticism with an open mind and lack of self-defense, we can grow and improve not only in how we lead, but how we do anything we do! 

Sometimes, I have seen experienced leaders on the sidewalk bristle at the idea they should consider some sort of change or strategic improvement. This is a red flag of an immature, prideful leader. Being a great leader usually means a humble attitude and teachable spirit in the face of criticism.

It’s not what you achieve – it’s what you set in motion.

We often warn our sidewalk counselors that what they are doing is planting seeds. They may rarely see tangible results. The results are up to God. The same is often true in leadership. You may not see immediate results in the work you pour into the people you lead, or the results may be delayed or  inconsistent. As in other areas of sidewalk ministry, do not expect credit, immediate results, or gratitude as your reward. You might end up quickly becoming disillusioned or bitter. The reward of good leadership is fulfilling what God has called you to do.

A biblical example that came to my mind immediately was Moses. He was a great leader, yet his people were continually grumbling, backsliding or rebelling. He never gave up because he answered to God. Ultimately, the people followed and made it to the Promised Land. 

We answer to God, as well. We set in motion what God has called us to do, but the results are up to Him. All great leaders in any kind of ministry recognize this truth.

Insecurity will emotionally rearrange everything you see and hear.

Insecurity will not only derail leaders, but anyone in any relationship. It can be especially harmful in prolife ministry where the spiritual battle is so intense. Satan will use that insecurity to full advantage. 

A common result of insecurity is assuming the worst in others. Taking offense and mistrust will often follow. No leader will be effective if these are part of his character. Such a leader will often try to control all the negative things he perceives through manipulation, anger or dominance.

Few people respond to dominance or manipulation as a leadership tactic. Humble spirits are pleasing to God and to those around us. None of us want to follow a tyrant. The biblical story of King Rehoboam comes to mind. He became king as a young man, and asked the elders how he should lead. The elders told him to lead humbly and gently, and people would follow him; but he rejected their advice and consulted his friends who told him to double down on harshness with those in his kingdom. He followed that terrible advice and ultimately the kingdom of Israel was divided as a result of his foolish leadership. Insecurity and lack of discernment can cause very serious damage.

See 1 Kings 12:3-4; 6-11; 13-14; 16-19

We have found that when a new sidewalk trainee responds to our correction by seeking the counsel of others to dispute what we say or by defensive insecurity, he or she will probably not last as a sidewalk counselor. A teachable spirit is crucial in those we lead and in us as leaders, too. It shows a secure and humble character which is a critical component in great leaders.

Leadership happens over time – not overnight.

The Bible speaks often of seeds that will take time to grow and bear fruit. Jesus frequently used parables of seeds. Just as the results from leadership take time to develop, the leader himself will not likely be a great leader from the beginning. Most great leaders grow in leadership skill as they humbly continue to lead and to learn.

This personally gives me hope. I read Hagen’s article on great leaders with a lot of “ouch” moments because I didn’t really believe I was a bad leader until I read what qualities exist in great leaders. I take heart that leaders CAN develop, and it takes time.

This is again a principle that can be applied to what happens in sidewalk ministry itself. We always share the Gospel and include the message of sexual purity; however, it is RARE for the women we counsel to be suddenly and completely transformed. It often takes YEARS as they grow in God … and there are often setbacks. This is true of great leaders, as well as for those they lead.

Leaders must make complex things simple.

One of the biggest turn-offs for me personally in following a leader is if they are so full of themselves and have such a need to impress that I have no idea what they are trying to say. I love honest, simple truth which I can apply to my work. If I cannot follow impressive and complex thoughts, I cannot use them to help me do what they are hoping I will do. I always used to think this was a fault in ME … but maybe it was the fault of my leaders!

Jesus comes to mind as a master at this. He expressed some VERY profound truths to the disciples and those who gathered to hear Him. The disciples were simple, uneducated people. Jesus spoke to them in language they could grasp. He taught using parables and concepts they could easily relate to and understand. He is our model!

In sidewalk leadership, it is important to share information with those we lead in a similar manner. Make it directly and easily relatable to the immediate issues they face. Keep it simple. Similarly, when we are trying to lead women to make a choice for life over abortion, that is not the time for confusing or complex arguments. They most clearly respond to very simple truths. The unborn child is human. Humans have sacred value before God, made in His image. Murder is wrong as it is the taking of innocent human life. The unborn baby is innocent of any crime. Abortion destroys an innocent human life. Abortion is murder. Abortion is wrong. 

The attitude is louder than the answer.

We often say our tone sets the tone on the sidewalk. People respond to and remember tone more readily than our words; therefore, our attitude should reflect compassion, kindness and a true desire to help those we are leading. If this is our attitude, it will be conveyed.

The same is true when we counsel abortion-minded mothers. If our tone is anger or condemnation, that will be conveyed. This is unlikely to draw them to us or to the truths we hope to express.


In John 13:12-17, Jesus commends His disciples for recognizing Him as Lord and their leader after He has washed their feet. Then He explains that He is their example. His example points out that great leaders serve others, are humble, do not exalt themselves, and never ask others to do what they themselves would not do. I think that this passage perhaps most perfectly illustrates what a great leader looks like:

“So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” 

Vicky Kaseorg

Vicky Kaseorg

Vicky Kaseorg is a missionary with Love Life. An author of over 25 books, she is ardently pro-life and deeply desires to share the hope and truth of the Lord Jesus Christ through her work, writing, and life. Read her personal blog at vickykaseorg.blogspot.com.


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