Big Picture

Take Time to Unwind

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Years ago, I remember traveling over a holiday break with my new wife (the same one I have currently). I remember where we were exactly on the road to my hometown as I shared with her my passion about some ministry ideas I had recently discovered. It was a pivotal moment for me in my early ministry, and a topic about which I was extremely passionate.

This week, as we traveled again, our conversation was slightly different. Okay, not slightly. Instead of ministry theories, I was serenaded by my wife and daughters to the soundtrack of Annie. It is a hard knock life, after all, for our family in our fully functioning gas guzzler, but let’s save that thought for another time. We still talked about life and about ministry, but I wouldn’t trade my in-car-musical for the world.

Instead, my challenge to you this week is simple: unwind.

Not every moment this week has to be filled with a discussion about ministry or next steps or leadership development. Enjoy a conversation about sports, or weather, or life, or anything besides your roles and responsibilities this week.

Thanksgiving is only two days away, so mentally prepare yourself to be present with the people around you. Unplug from distractions and pay attention to those around you this week.

Not to get too agricultural on you, but even the best wheat field needs a break from being grazed to recover. The same is true for you and me.

Take a break this week, even if it’s for one day. It’s worth it, trust me.

 

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Leadership Journey

3 People Who Need a Note From You

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Hey, you there. You reading this. I’m talking to you. Today’s post isn’t a pie in the sky theoretical thing. It’s a nuts and bolts post. Aimed directly at Student Pastors, but applicable to anyone in leadership.

Did you know the most read post on my blog in 2017 was about taking time to say thank you? I think most people resonate with the challenge of thanking people around us, but find it difficult to make it a regular part of our routine.

On Tuesday, I posted about the effectiveness of hand written notes and challenged you to write one note. Well, today, let’s look at three different types of people who need a note from you.

Your Youth Workers and Volunteers

These people are the real heroes of youth ministry. Their role is crucial to any success or growth you may experience. Don’t believe me? Try serving in a church where you cannot pay a volunteer to show up versus a church where you’re able to establish a 1 adult to 3 students ratio–the difference is staggering.

Take time to show your appreciation for these incredible people who work full time jobs and volunteer their time. Write them all a note at one time, or tell yourself you’re going to write one or two each week. Whatever it takes.

Your Students

You may not have continual contact with students, but you can make their day by sending them a note. One story in particular comes to mind: I sent a note to a student when she was in 8th grade, just to let her know I was praying for her. Around five years later, we were visiting while she was home from college, and she told me she still had that note. You never know what a student might need to hear, or just being reminded that you’re praying for them.

Your Family

I alluded to this previously, but if I can make my daughters feel special with a note, why wouldn’t I do that? The same is true for my wife and my family. You may not have children or even a spouse, but I bet you have family of some sort that would love to get a note from you. Write a thank you or a “thinking of you” note to an aunt or uncle who played a significant role in your life and you’ll have the chance to be a blessing to them.

 

So, there you go. Pick a category, and write another note today. It’s worth the time it will take to write, trust me!

 


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Incoherent Ramblings

3 Reasons to Hand Write a Note Today

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A few weeks ago I had the honor of speaking with a group of student leaders. Their leader is someone I respect, and I was grateful for the opportunity in and of itself.

Then, I was blown out of the water. About a week later, I got a handwritten note in the mail. The note immediately went up on my bulletin board as a reminder of being appreciated.

So, this week, let’s talk about writing notes. Here are 3 reasons to hand write a note today and make someone’s life a little brighter:

Physical Mail is Special

Snail mail is the new personal touch. Think about it: who doesn’t love getting something in the mail that is not a bill or a credit card offer? I love getting mail that is hand addressed to me because it’s usually someone who took time on me!

I see this with my kids. My girls LOVE getting cards in the mail. One of them even pouts when someone else gets something and she doesn’t. And honestly, I do too!

The Recipient Feels Valued.

My handwritten thank you note went on my bulletin board not for people to see when they come in, but because it’s something I love seeing and remembering. I feel valued every time I look at it. I have thank you notes from graduates that will not get thrown away (especially ones with a personal touch), because a handwritten notes communicates value.

It Sets You Apart, Hopefully as Someone Who Cares Deeply.

A few weeks ago my oldest daughter forgot her lunch. We have a rule that if she forgets her lunch, she has to deal with the consequences, but I decided to make an exception that day. So, I wrote a note, put it in her lunch box, and dropped it off at school for her. A few days later, I put a note in my youngest’s lunch box. I don’t remember a follow up conversation with either.

Last night, however, my wife told me our youngest told her she wants notes in her lunch box, that it was special and made her feel good.

If I can take a few moments to surprise my child with a note, why wouldn’t I do that? At the same time, if you take time today to write a note of some sort, what’s the most you have to lose?

 

So, there you go. Today’s challenge is to simply hand write a note to someone. Tell them thanks, or that you’re thinking about them, or wishing them luck.

Grab a stamp and make a difference today!

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Leadership Journey

The Poor Reader’s Tools for Reading

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I have talked about this several times, but I currently do not have a strong habit of reading. I could say I’ve read more this past year than in the past, but honestly anything above 0 constitutes “more”.

So, as I have journeyed along trying to develop a habit of reading and consequently, learning, here are some tools I have found along the way.

Audible – Audiobooks have their downside, but the upside is still worth it for me. I get presented with ideas and thoughts, and it’s an easy win for an audio addict like me. The selection is incredible, and the variety is impressive–I just finished Nick Offerman’s book Good Clean Funand it was great fun for a wannabe woodworker like me. If you sign up for the Audible trial, you’ll get two free books, so at least check it out to see if it would fit you.

Kindle Unlimited – The strength here isn’t necessarily the books you have access to, which can be spotty depending on the topic. The biggest benefit for me is the summaries. I’m not spending $10 and countless hours on a full book that I will likely never finish, but instead, I’m getting a summary of the ideas, and get to process them in my mind. I know I miss a significant part of the benefit of reading a book, but I’m exposed to the ideas and they get to bounce around my head for a while. At the same time, with the Unlimited membership, I am able to stock my kindle with books worth reading without breaking the bank. You can have 10 books loaned out at any point, and I stay around 9 or 10. Click here to learn more.

Libby – This is our local library audiobook app. I have discovered it, and have been using it along the way the past couple months. The selection is low, but it’s free with a Library card! I already have a John Grisham novel picked out for Thanksgiving travel, and I’m looking forward to it!

 

The bottom line about reading is this: you have to make time for it. With apps like Audible and Libby, it fits my routine better because I listen to so much anyway. Kindle Unlimited is nice because when I hit a spurt, I have access to books that stir my curiosity. But reading is a habit, and one I think is worth investing the time and effort to make.

 

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Leadership Journey

3 Tips to Develop a Lifestyle of Learning

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I have been very fortunate in my life. School came easy to me. I rarely had to work on school work. I grew up in a small school, and was generally able to finish most of my homework before heading home for the day.

Going through college, I had to make some adjustments. I realized some of my friends could calculate the number of days they could miss class, and plan out how many times in a semester they would sleep instead of going to class, whereas I needed to be in the classroom, listening to the lecture and discussion.

Then I graduated, and was faced with a new realm of life: learning away from the structure of school.

Over the past 10ish years since finishing my masters degree, there are a few things I’m starting to pick up. Oh, who am I kidding. Most of this has developed over the last couple years as I realized I want to develop habits now that will help me continue to grow 30 years from now.

So, here are my three tips to develop a lifestyle of learning:

  1. Learn From Everything. This comes natural, and it’s something I’ve written about previously (click here to read the post). The concept is simple: in every situation, take mental notes about the systems taking place. Go to football games and watch how coaches interact with players, coaches, officials, and fans. Watch a public tragedy and ask yourself how you would handle those situations. Allow children to remind and refresh you along the way–enthusiasm, excitement, and growth.
  2. Learn From Others. Surround yourself with people who are a notch (or three) above you (I have another post about this here). Be curious about what makes them tick, and take the initiative to ask good questions. Be willing to learn from them–quick to listen and slow to speak. I had one interim pastor tell me I may not have the wisdom of an 80 year old pastor, but I can always ask an 80 year old pastor for wisdom. You will be amazed at what you can pick up when you set out to learn from other people.
  3. Learn From Books. I wrestle with this on a regular basis, because I’m such an auditory learner (I think). The reality is, however, I still learn more when I actually read. I listen to podcasts at an almost nonstop rate, but if I am being honest with myself, the written word is still my greatest retention and implementation strategy. Audiobooks are simpler to finish, but several of the ones I’ve finished lately still deal with being able to see images and diagrams, requiring visual effort. On Thursday, I will share some things that have helped me as I try to make reading a regular part of my life.

 

 

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