Have Some Fun

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Today’s thought is extra short, but also timely: have fun.

With March Madness kicking off today, I’m looking forward to some basketball. I just spent a few minutes with my youngest, letting her pick games. What exactly does a 6 year old think when picking basketball games? I don’t know, but we will see how she did.

Part of being a healthy leader is finding things you enjoy and embracing them. So, today, have some fun! Get outside. Watch Basketball. Play a card game with your family. Grill. Build. Demolish.

Whatever it means for you, have some fun today.

Then There and Now

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My youngest daughter took her first church trip with me this week. We decided she was old enough to handle the schedule, so we brought her along.

I am certain as I have time to reflect on the trip in the days ahead I will take some time to cherish the memories, but for now the memories are happening.

Today’s thought is a short one: enjoy the moment. Never get too wrapped up in what is coming or what has gone, but find time to embrace what is now.

For me, today, that means making memories with a sleepy, tired, eager 6 year old. And I cannot wait.

Context is Key

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I had to make a pretty major change to our summer calendar this week. It was something I never really considered until I had to give it some serious thought, and we pulled the trigger.

As I thought about the leadership principle that drove the decision, I realized the decision itself is not something that applies to most leaders, and really probably doesn’t apply to most churches. But, there’s a larger principle that luckily provides a thought for the day: Context is key.

What works in Bronte may not work in the next town over. We have a unique culture. We are different from other communities, but other communities are unique and different as well.

Part of your role as a leader is to understand the context and culture where you are leading. What things are sacred cows in your community? What things are highly valued? What quirks exist?

Think of it like this: if you and I were to sit down for coffee and talk about your leadership journey, what would you feel like needs an explanation? What aspect of your surrounding might seem strange to me?

So, take some time today and evaluate the context where you are leading. If you serve a church, what barrier are you bumping up against that is a result of context and culture? If you lead outside the church, what obstacle are you facing today because of the unique context around you?

I am not saying that we have to accept the context around us as being unchangeable, but sometimes accepting reality is the first step to making a change.

Communicating Expectations Well

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One of the things I have most enjoyed about blogging over the past year has been the lessons I have learned and processed through my writing. Almost a year ago, I broke an unwritten rule I have about not writing about an idea or topic that recently took place when I wrote about communicating expectations.

The truth is, that post came directly out of a lesson I learned while on our annual Spring Break trip. You can click the link above to read the full post, but the short version was I got frustrated because my adult leaders were not following the schedule I had worked up, but I had never given them a copy of the schedule. So, in reality, I was frustrated with myself, not with the incredible team of volunteers who serve in the youth ministry.

As I am spending this week getting ready for the same trip, I am keeping in the forefront of my mind: communicate expectations well.

I believe this is a foundational leadership principle for my personal journey. If those who serve with me do not know what I expect, how can I realistically hold them to those expectations?

Plus, I can be a rather intense person, so learning to write down and communicate those expectations helps me manage them to a more realistic level. In other words, my unspoken expectations are often unrealistic expectations.

So, I have two questions for you today.

  1. Do you struggle with communicating expectations? If I was to ask the people you lead what you expected of them, would their answer line up with your answer?
  2. On a grander scale, what leadership lesson have you learned in the last year and what changes are you making as a result?

Just a side note to finish today: this is why I am so passionate about teaching the 3 questions to student leaders. I can teach a simple concept, and we are then on the same page moving forward!

Guest Post: Don’t Carry the Load Alone

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I’m turning over a new leaf today on the blog with the intent of making guest posts a regular part of the rotation. Today’s guest post is from a good friend–Ryan Connel.

Student ministry has been my pursuit for 20+ years.  I love it!  It takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions.  You can go from the thrill of seeing students understand what Christ did for them, committing their life to Him, to the pain that every day life can bring.  Then there are all the emotions that play out in between those extremes.

Back in the day this time of year would bring about a lot of stress for me as we were in the middle of summer camp & mission trip prep.  One of the reasons it would stress me so is because I wondered if we would have enough students to make a trip work.  I remember hours spent to get speakers, worship teams, small group leaders, cooks, & on down the list, then coming down to the last week & having very few students signed up.  There is a conversation for another time about casting a vision for what you are planning.  But for our purposes today I would like to share one thing that changed our involvement on trips.

As the event came together I would eventually lay out a signup sheet, usually a couple of months out from the trip.  Weekly, I would announce the event to get student involved & excited.  Yet I would walk over to the signup sheet & only have a handful of diehard students signed up.  In my weakness as a leader, I had failed to really connect the students into what we were doing.  At some point along the way I made the choice to call students in the weeks leading up to an event & invite them to come join us.  It was definitely more effective, but I’m betting you can already hear what the first question was on the other side of the phone, “Who else is going?”  I always thought that was a funny question & understood to a point why they would ask it, but why the need to have other students validate if the event was worth while.

My answer finally came in a book that changed a lot for me.  It is called “Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries.  Why I missed this for so long, I don’t know, but I’m thankful for the incredible resources we have our disposal now days.  One of the things I remember him mentioning is how he would get his leadership students to make phone calls when leading up to events.  I gave it a try a few years back & it changed so much for us.  The first thing I noticed is the excitement in my leadership students.  It meant a ton to them to be asked to be involved in the preparation.  I also noticed that they were able to connect in more students than I ever would have thought of or had contact information for.  There was also an excitement that came from the leadership students sharing their excitement, that built the excitement of those being invited, so those being invited made things more exciting because the leaders could see the fruit of their labors, which eventually lead into a life changing event for many students.

The lesson I learned was to stop trying to carry the responsibility to get students involved by myself, because the reality is I won’t always be around & I’m limited in my connections.  God has gifted us with students that want to & should be used for the kingdom, so why not use them & grow them even in something so simple.  The other important lesson was that ministry isn’t a sit back & wait responsibility.  It is engaging at all levels.  So who are the students you can involve in your next event?

Interested in reading Sustainable Youth Ministry? Pick up a copy today!