Servant leadership: Family faith formation for October 17, 2021


Invite various persons to bring a designated item and use this liturgy as a way to begin your time of learning together.

One:    Come, let us gather around and see how the Spirit will nurture our faith today.

All:      Who is with us?  

One:    Christ, the light of the world.

(Place a candle on a table in your gathering place and light it.)

All:      Who is with us?

One:   The Love of God, who came to meet us in the world.

(Place a cross on a table in your gathering place)

All:      Who is with us?

One:    The Wisdom of God, who speaks through the scriptures  

(Place an open Bible on a table in your gathering place.)

All:      Who is with us?

One:    The Grace of God, who proclaims we are children of God

(Place a symbol of baptism – a bowl of water, a seashell – on a table in your gathering space.)

All:      Who is with us?

One:    Our risen Lord, who meets us at the Table.

(Place a symbol of Communion – a plate and cup, a loaf of bread and grapes – on a table in your gathering space.)

One:    We are here, Holy Spirit, ready for your leading.   

God sightings and prayer offerings

Invite each person to share where they saw or experienced God this week. Invite each person to share something a person, community, experience, event, etc. for which they want to offer prayer.

Good and gracious God, we thank you for all the ways you were and are present in our lives and in the world … [Invite each person to say aloud the sighting they named earlier.] We bring our prayers to you, prayers for … [Invite each person to say aloud the prayer need they named earlier.]. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.

Connecting with Scripture  — Mark 10:35-45

Read the scripture aloud the first time using the New Revised Standard Version or the Common English Bible.

As you listen to the text read a second time, map out the story. Who are the characters? How are they related to one another? What do they want? What is important to them?

Connecting through Story

Watch this video from the University of the Southwest on Servant Leadership

  • What are the main characteristics of a servant leader?
  • How is a servant leader different than any other kind of leader?

Connecting with our Lives

Engage in dialogue

  • Why do you think James and John wanted Jesus to do anything they asked?
  • Why did they want to sit on the right and left hands of Jesus?
  • Why did it make the other disciples angry?
  • How did Jesus respond?
  • What were Jesus’ priorities?
  • What were James and John’s priorities?
  • What did Jesus expect of them?
  • As disciples they were called leaders, what kind of leaders did Jesus expect them to be?
  • What’s the difference between being a servant and being a leader?
  • Why did Jesus emphasize being a servant as being a leader?
  • How is discipleship lived out as a servant leader?
  • What are the characteristics of a servant leader?
  • What are their priorities?
  • Whom do you know, or who can you name, that exhibits these characteristics of a servant leader?
  • How does one become a servant leader?
  • In what ways are you a servant leader?
  • What would you need to change to become a more faithful servant leader?

Teaching Points that can be incorporated into your discussion

  • Jesus’ ministry was one that reoriented priorities and reversed the social norms – the first shall be last and the last shall be first, a child as the greatest in the kingdom, the powerless elevated and the needs of the least of these foremost in God’s care.
  • Even those closest to Jesus didn’t always understand the weight and significance of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.
  • It is not surprising then, that we find James and John vying for elevated places and power as they sought to be at the left and right hand of the Son of God. They even went to far as to confuse Jesus with a genie who would grant wishes, “Teacher, do for us whatever we ask of you.”
  • The problem is they missed the whole point. Jesus goes on to teach them what it means to be a disciple:
    • It’s about service, not seats.
    • Disciples are given the mantle of leadership but it is a completely different style– servant leadership.
    • Our priority is not ourselves but others.
    • Discipleship means abandoning preoccupation with self and getting ahead of others. It is about taking on the way of Christ – sacrifice, service and devotion. Doing as Christ did – working to realign the world according to God’s best intentions.

Watch this interview with Nelson Mandela as he talks about leadership. In what ways did he exhibit servant leadership? 


Close your time together by praying for one another, your neighbor, your community and the world.

Rebecca Davis is the associate professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. A teaching elder and certified educator, she served congregations for over 20 years before moving into academic teaching. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, her passion is child advocacy and ministry.