At James River College we learn a lot of life-changing principles! From ministry and worship, to leadership and logistics, James River College sets each student up for successful transition into vocational ministry or ministering in his/her vocation. However, one of the greatest and most important principles I have learned in my time at James River College has shaped the way I lead completely.

Our director, Pastor Josh Hackworth, created four crucial pillars to establish our leadership and set us up with the right perspective on ministry; a smiling face, an encouraging word, a hard-working back, and a faith-filled prayer. These four habits have changed my perspective on how I lead, and I hope it changes yours as well!

1. A Smiling Face

One of the greatest movies of all time and a personal Christmas favorite is, “Elf”. The quote, “Smiling is my favorite!” is where our first point comes from. We teach at James River College to always carry a smiling face! Many studies show a multitude of benefits from smiling. It is a proven fact that it takes less effort to smile than to frown, that smiling is contagious, and smiling is even universal.

No matter who you encounter in our world, smiling will always minister to someone. In my first year learning about the power of smiling, I began to put it into practice. It opened conversations, brought smiles to people I didn’t know, and completely changed my perspective. If God were walking around, He wouldn’t be moping! What is there to mope about? God the Father is with us, around us, and is pushing us forward to do everything He has called us to do. Even more, God has instilled gifts and passions within us to be able to honor Him back. Now that is something to smile about!

2. An Encouraging Word

Have you ever had someone encourage you about something you did out of the blue? How did it make you feel? More confident? More excited to do something else? The power of an encouraging word can become a game changer for someone else. It can become a game changer to yourself!

Let’s try this right now; “You are a world-changer! There is only one you, and because there is one you, you are the best you! Whatever you are doing, you are immediately the best at it! If you’re the point guard for your basketball team, guess what, you are the best point guard on your team! If you are a bass player on a worship team, guess what, you are the best bass player for that team! Whatever you do, you are the best at it because you are chosen for this time, and this moment, to do your task!” Feel the love? Feel the encouragement? I hope so!

“Encouraging words have the power to bring life back to broken people, create world-changers, and alter a generation forever!”

– Tyler Binkley

Encouraging words have the power to bring life back to broken people, create world-changers, and alter a generation forever! I believe one of the greatest gifts God has given all of us is the gift of encouragement.

3. A Hard-Working Back

Learning in the classroom is essential but taking what you’ve learned and putting it into practice is a whole different level.  We believe that while you are at James River College, you are building your resume and to do so doesn’t come easy; it takes a hard-working back. In my freshman year of James River College, I chose to be in the Worship & Production Practicum. Not only was I able to learn about my craft and the heart of worship, I was able to put it into action which resulted in the opportunity to lead on stage. I was even able to travel all over the nation, playing music, and ministering on the road – all in my first year!

Then in my second year, I chose to be a part of the pastoral practicum. I had the opportunity to baptize people alongside a pastor, pray for the sick, and be a part of people coming to know the Lord at the altar. Those are things you can learn about and discuss in class, but I can tell you right now, it is different at the altar and in the baptismal waters. You actually see lives change right in front of you!

All of these opportunities didn’t come my way by simply watching what was happening around me. It took a hard-working back that my leaders could depend on, which allowed them to entrust me with these opportunities. We are told in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.


“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:23-24

Our work ethic is not for us, but to ultimately serve Christ by serving the local church. A hard-working back honors Christ. I believe you must have a hard-working back in everything you do to fulfill all that God has called you to!

4. A Faith-Filled Prayer

Prayer changes things! Prayer is what takes our natural circumstances and transforms them into the supernatural! It is what brings peace in chaos, hope in hard times, and joy in the unexpected. We believe in faith-filled prayers at James River College.

Before I stepped into James River College, I didn’t know how it would all work out. I was already fully into nursing school, was already taking the classes, and had a job in the medical field to get my foot in the door. However, God completely changed my direction toward full-time vocational ministry. I didn’t know how it was going to work out or what it was going to look like, but with faith-filled prayers, I knew God was telling me to go.

Two years later, I look back and thank God for answering my prayers and putting me on this path. It is through faith-filled prayers that I am able to be here, and it is through faith-filled prayers that I am where I am today. I have learned to offer the prayers I might desire for myself up to God, for others and their needs, and the results have been miraculous. In my time as a student, I have seen faith-filled prayers bring thousands to Christ, restore families, free addicts, heal cancer, and make the sick and injured better. Daily, my classmates and I saw God do more than we asked or imagined, and those faith-filled prayers have given me a boldness to ask for greater things and imagine things I never thought possible.

Pastor Josh shares that each of these principles are crucial to be an effective leader. They are not easy, it takes time and work, but when applied it will change your life, leadership, and ministry completely. God develops us fully equipped for every good work He’s called us to and takes us continually from glory to glory. I want to encourage you to go out and live a life with a smiling face, an encouraging word, a hard-working back, and a faith-filled prayer. Now, go change your world!