Month: May 2020

Three Struggles of Leadership Development

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I work in a world where the next “event” is always coming. There is always another lesson to prep, a service to plan, an event to brainstorm, and a calendar to create. There’s a frantic pace to what we do in churches.

That’s why over the years I’ve noticed something. As I started this blog back in 2017, I started to ask around about how my peers were developing student leaders. And do you know what I found?

Leadership development was an important part of what these incredible ministers wanted to do, but there were usually three things that held them back, and I think the same three things are true for all of us.

Developing Leaders is Important, but Not Critical.

The truth about leadership is that if I’m a good leader, then I can generally fake it until I make it. A strong leader can plan, execute, adapt, and perform in the moment. So if I’m capable, the temptation is to do everything myself. In fact, I might enjoy most of what I do, so it doesn’t always even feel like work. That means I may agree that developing leaders is important, but I can survive without it.

And so leadership development gets pushed down on the list somewhere between cleaning out the youth ministry closet and washing the church van. It’s something we know needs to be done, but it’s probably only going to happen occasionally.

Developing Leaders is Messy.

I mean, seriously, have you ever dealt with people? Some of them just wear you out. They have a different sense of humor, or a different set of priorities. They don’t prioritize the way you think they should. Some are just downright flaky.

Worse than all of that, sometimes after you invest in developing someone, they leave. All that time poured into them is now wasted because your organization doesn’t get the benefit.

I saw this happen in a previous position. As I helped students grow as leaders, their schedules became more and more packed because other people started to see their potential. As a result, the time I had with them to help them develop and grow was diminished.

Developing Leaders takes Time

Finally, one of the biggest struggles in developing leaders, whether it be students or adults, is the time investment. I can train a group of students in a workshop, but that limited investment doesn’t pay off fully without months and months of real life experience.

The same is true for me, and for you. I’m not the leader I was 10 years ago. I’m not the leader I was 5 years ago. I’m (hopefully) growing. I hope I’m taking steps so that I’m not the same leader I was 1 year ago.

How can I expect anything different from the students (and adults) I lead? Training take time. Developing leaders is more of a low and slow process, not microwave.

So, what’s your greatest struggle when it comes to developing those around you? What holds you back? What steps do you need to take today to move forward?

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This is Why

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Sometime last year I read through Michael Hyatt’s book Free to Focus. One of the takeaways for me was to establish a startup/shutdown routine for my work days. Being that I love routine, I’m still doing it, for the most part.

One adjustment I’ve made is to start my day with reading. When I sit down in my office, I pick up a book and read a couple pages, writing down quotes I want to remember. It’s been a pretty fun way to kickstart my day.

The book I’m currently reading is Jesus on Leadership. I bought it on a whim when a friend said they were reading it for a class, and it’s been one of the best impulse buys I’ve made since that pack of gum at the grocery store. Maybe even better.

This week, I came across this line:

To equip the church is to prepare its members to perform their part of the mission.

Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership

And that’s why I want to develop leaders. I want to develop leaders, students and adults, who 1) are performing their part of the mission and 2) are developing others who are performing their part of the mission.

If you’re reading this, I’m writing this to you so that hopefully because of the dialogue we have, you can 1) perform your part of the mission and 2) develop others who are performing their part of the mission.

So, how are you performing your part of the mission? How are you developing others who are performing their part? Is there a step you need to take today?

I want you to grow because of the time I spend word vomiting my thoughts two mornings each week. Thank you for journeying with me. Let’s continue to grow our leadership influence.

Authenticity Wins

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I stink at social media. I have often said that Instagram is my favorite social media platform, but I very rarely ever post on it.

Why Instagram? I love the idea of a well taken photo. I’m not a photographer, and I rarely remember to take one when I need to do so, but it’s still such a fascinating premise.

Why do I rarely post on the ‘Gram? Because I worry that my posts won’t live up to the hype. I mean, really, who cares what I’m cooking for supper? Or who really wants to know what I did today? And if they want to know, do I trust them? And if I post myself cooking something on my Weber Kettle, will I get metaphorically roasted for doing something wrong? Worse still, if I post a picture of those ribs, what happens if they’re not good?

One thing I’ve learned through our recent cultural shift is this: authenticity wins.

On Instagram, that means this: people will “like” something authentic in my life. It doesn’t have to be polished and perfectly staged. And generic certainly doesn’t move the needle.

In leadership it means this: share your struggles. There are things you wrestle with. People want to see that. They want to know you’re trying your best, and that doesn’t always mean fully polished.

Full transparency: I almost erased this entire post to start over. Even when writing about authenticity and pulling the curtain back, I struggle with authenticity.

I wrestle with decisions. I wrestle with direction. I wrestle with vision, purpose, and direction. I debate things in my head all the time. I’m not advocating being wishy washy or flaky, but sometimes the best things we can do as leaders is open up to those around us-to show vulnerability.

Jesus showed vulnerability when he washed the feet of his disciples. His act of service didn’t make him less of a leader.

The same is true for us. Don’t turn into an Eye-ore, but don’t feel like you have to have everything together. You can do this. Just be real about it along the way.

Relational Investments

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Early yesterday morning my junior high daughter realized her band audition video was due by midnight last night instead of Friday, as she thought. So she spent the day practicing her pieces. And I mean the day.

Every time I came home, she was playing, trying to figure it out. When I came home for the final time, she was almost in tears. So I sat down with her and helped her figure out how to practice.

At first, because #teenager, when I would suggest something, she would push back. But eventually, we were able to start making some progress on the trouble parts. She would play through, and channeling my best Herb Brooks from Miracle, I would say, “Now, do it again.”

Finally, around 9:45pm last night, my sweet procrastinating angel, submitted her three part video. It was not perfect, but she wasn’t in tears either.

Our interaction embodies a thought I’ve been wrestling for the past few weeks. How many times do we expect someone to accomplish something, but don’t help them figure it out.

In other words, when assigning a task or setting a goal, where is the balance between completely hands off and micro-managing? I didn’t play her instrument for her (I wouldn’t know where to start if it doesn’t have 6 strings, which it doesn’t). I simply helped her break down the challenge into smaller pieces, using principles like: practice slow, then speed up, then repeat; visualize playing the piece before playing; and power through the mistakes.

As you lead, you are going to ask people to do something they’ve never done before. Sometimes you need to throw them in the deep end and let them sink or swim. But sometimes, you need to sit down with them and give them principles to help make progress.

Who around you needs you to come alongside them this week and say, “here, why don’t you try it this way?” Spend some time investing in someone. You never know what the payoff may be in the long run.

3 Ongoing Conversations for Growth

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Have you ever driven somewhere only to think back on the journey and realize you had stopped paying attention? I hate to admit this, but one time on a trip I realized I didn’t remember driving through a town (sleep may have played a part, but it was a small town). I immediately pulled over and got out in an effort to wake myself up.

As I lead, there are three conversations I have with myself on a regular basis. They serve as my “get out and wake up” questions. I’m just over a year into my new position, and these questions continue to help me work through some of the changes we need to make. These are not the only conversations taking place, but they are key to moving forward.

  1. Where are we? It’s very difficult to do anything with success without knowing your starting point. Your starting point is where you are now. Learn to assess and discern where the ministry stands in relationship to the church, the leadership, the age and maturity of the group, the adults who are invested, and the history of how the ministry got to where it is. Trying to ask and answer the next questions are pointless without knowing your starting point. It would be like trying to hit a bullseye on a target that doesn’t exist—you have to have the space around the bullseye to know where to aim.
  2. Where can we be three years down the road? The reality in ministry, especially in youth ministry, is the landscape can change drastically in three years. By beginning to paint the picture of what can be down the road, you help clarify the changes that need to take place to get there. There’s also a tension in three years. Three years can feel like an eternity in youth ministry, but keep in mind you are moving forward. Sometimes you will get there before the three years, but if you can get there in a year, you’re not dreaming big enough.
  3. What steps get us there? Finally, once you start to establish the beginning and the goal, you get to fill in the middle. What changes do you start making now to help you get to the place you want to be? You don’t have to be there tomorrow, but you need to start taking steps toward your goal.

The bottom line when leading a ministry is relationships. None of these changes take place in a vacuum. Spend time building relationships and bringing others into the conversation. Genuinely listen to their input, and be willing to admit your own inadequacy in assessing. Get to know your leaders, your students, and your leadership. Continue to build a team and cast a strong vision. Seek out the Lord consistently, and listen to His guidance, and watch what God does through your ministry!

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