3 Questions

Pass the Shovel

Pass the Shovel
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Have you ever been asked to dig a hole and not been given the proper tool to accomplish the task?

A few years ago I took a group of kids on a mission trip. The group I had proved a little more efficient than the host anticipated, so we started working on random projects around the property. One of the projects was digging holes for a future gate.

Now, growing up on the farm, I’ve had my share of digging holes. We used tractors, post hole diggers, and shovels to accomplish the necessary task at hand. But, I had never experienced having to dig a hole like this.

The ground below the top soil was almost solid rock. So, for the first time in my life, I learned to use a digging bar.

A digging bar, to jazz it up, is a metal spear that chips rock away bit by bit. And it’s work.

Each person in our group would take turns, about 10-20 strikes per person, trying to chip away at the rock. Then, after we had made some progress, someone would swoop in and clean out as much debris as possible. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The funny thing is this: the owner of the property didn’t look at me and say “you have great hole digging potential” and walk away. Instead, he walked us out, gave us the tools we needed, demonstrated what it looked like, and let us get to work.

Developing student leaders is very similar. A lot of people will tell a student “you have leadership potential”, but are we walking away or putting a digging bar in their hands?

If we want to develop student leaders, then our job is not complete at recognizing ability. We need to equip them to step up and lead. We need to find the shovel, post hole diggers, and digging bars necessary to help them grow and accomplish the task.

How do we do that? I’m glad you asked. Go here to read about three questions I’ve developed to help put a shovel in the hands of a student. My desire is not to simply acknowledge someone’s potential, but to give them the opportunity to serve.

As we teach students to lead using the three questions, we are providing them with the opportunity to grow and to come to know understand leadership more clearly. The three questions are definitely not the end game, but they sure do open the door for further conversation.

And who knows, as we teach ourselves to pass the shovel, maybe we will grow as leaders along the way, too.

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Incoherent Ramblings

Understand Your Impact

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Leadership so often boils down to the impact we make.

Think about someone in your life who has had a leadership influence on you. How would you describe their leadership?

The number of books they read?

The size of their house?

The way they made you feel?

The way they made others feel?

Each of those things, in their own way, reveal the impact they had. Some, more than others.

I think some of the best leaders are not necessarily people who set out to be great leaders, but those who set out to be faithful.

What if our greatest impact as leaders is not because of any program we adopt or implement? What if our greatest impact as leaders occurs because we choose to be faithful to our calling?

Let me rephrase.

Our greatest impact as leaders does not come because of a program we adopt or implement. Our greatest impact as leaders occurs because we choose to be faithful to our calling.

How are you being faithful today?

Tim Elmore has a habitude called the Starving Baker. The idea is simple: a baker who neglects his own hunger in order to bake more will eventually die of starvation. Seems brutal, right? But does that mean it’s not true?

Invest in someone today–yourself. Take a 30 minute silent walk. Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read but just haven’t made the time for. Listen to a podcast that nourishes you. Listen to some classical music, or some classic rock.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, if our desire is to impact others for the long haul, we have to remain emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Take a moment to eat some of your bread, baker.

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Leadership Journey

The Leadership Current

The Leadership Current
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I was scrolling through Facebook this weekend and saw a post that made me raise my eyebrows. It was a picture of a group of seniors and the statement was something along the lines of “these seniors are ready to be the leaders of their school.”

I think the sentiment behind the posting of the photo was right, but I would push back a little.

Leadership doesn’t show up when the title shows up. Leadership runs like a current beneath the surface, and a title helps bring the current to the surface.

Those students aren’t leaders because they are seniors in high school. They are seniors in high school. Granted, being a senior puts you in positions to lead. Being a senior gives you a level of gravitas to step up and lead. Being a senior allows you the potential to have more influence. But being alive longer (than younger students) doesn’t automatically mean you’re a leader. It just means you’ve been alive longer.

Maybe what I push back on the most is the idea that you have to be a senior to lead. I didn’t believe that when I was in school. In fact, I was not taught that. I was taught the opposite.

At my home church, starting my freshman year, we had a vacancy of leadership, so I found ways to step up. I didn’t wait to have the title. I was given the opportunity and did the best I could.

I’ve seen this play out in the lives of other students. The strongest leaders are the ones who, in the absence of leadership, step up. Perpetuating the thought that “now you’re a senior, you’re a leader” communicates to juniors that they have not yet arrived. Or that a freshman doesn’t stand a chance.

Here’s what I would say: senior year provides a sense of urgency to lead, and that’s completely natural. But, if we aren’t teaching students to step up and lead as middle school students, as freshmen or sophomores or juniors, then when the title of senior arrives, they will be in a sink or swim situation.

If you work with students, find ways to provide opportunities for them to expand their leadership influence. Let’s help students learn to take a stand regardless of their age. Then, when they become seniors, they will have been trained to make the most of their title.

But if you are alive, let me challenge you: If you’re waiting for your “senior year” (literally or figuratively), stop waiting and find a way to step up and lead today.

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Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Reframing Student Leadership, pt 2

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One of Maxwell’s Laws of Leadership is the Law of Explosive Growth – If you want to grow, lead followers; if you want to multiply, lead leaders.

Here’s what I’ve found in ministry: I have to lead both.

Hear me out. I’m not contradicting one of the foremost leaders on leadership.

Instead, what I’m saying is that if all I do is spend my time and energy looking to find leaders, then I’m spinning my wheels.

But, if I develop a mindset that says “I’m going to develop anyone who shows interest”, then I have a system set up for greater leadership potential to rise to the top.

Once I have identified a student with a higher leadership ceiling, then I can spend more time trying to draw that out of them, helping them grow and develop.

The truth of the principle is still there–leaders make a greater impact. I believe that with all of my heart. But willing leaders still make the difference. I can never lead someone to a place they are unwilling to go. I can take a little willingness and help them achieve new heights, but I cannot make an unwilling jumper a world class diver.

What system are you putting into place that allows students to explore their leadership leanings? Do you have ways of identifying leaders with higher ceilings? Do you need to add something like that?

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In the Trenches, Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Reframing Student Leadership

Reframing Student Leadership
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I saw a youth ministry related facebook post the other day asking how the collective hive mind selects student leaders. I think this is an extremely legitimate question, but one that needs a quick reframing.

Let me start by zooming out. The bottom line when it comes to leadership development is that I am not the only person interested in developing students into growing leaders. In fact, depending on their extracurricular activities, I may be one of multiple people interested in helping them expand their leadership influence.

As we zoom in, however, we start to see a few key differences. Of all the people in a student’s life who want them to grow as a leader, I may be one of a select few who are interested in teaching servant leadership, and more specifically, servant leadership as modeled and taught by Jesus.

So, when I look at a room of students and want to select a few student leaders, my approach is a little different. I have written about two key traits for student leaders previously (you can read that here), but one of my criteria is willingness to serve. If a student is unwilling to serve, then neither of us grow from the time we spend.

I watched this play out first hand. I used to think if I saw leadership potential in a student, they would benefit from me calling it out of them. But there was a flaw in my approach. I was calling something out of a student who wasn’t willing to serve, and as a result their commitment level was abnormally low, and even started to resent me for expecting them to show up.

Now I take a different approach. Most recently, I have students fill out an application and sit down for an interview before joining the leadership team. If a student is willing to put forth the effort of filling out an application and scheduling an interview, then we have an agreement there will be a time commitment to what they’re doing.

I cannot call something out of someone who is unwilling to grow.

Guilting a student into leadership misses the point.

Only allowing the popular kids to lead misses the point.

Establishing leadership as a higher rung misses the point.

On Thursday I will continue this thought, but for today let me ask you to join me in considering this: is your approach to developing leaders around you a healthy one? Are you willing to make the changes necessary? Are you willing to keep what needs to be kept?

Watching leaders grow their leadership influence is one of the most exciting parts of what I do. But that doesn’t mean everything is a win. I have had to adapt over the years. Maybe you need to do the same thing.

Want to stay in the discussion? Click here to subscribe to make certain you get Thursday’s post continuing this thought.

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