I got to spend the first part of my week at the Texas Baptist Youth Ministry Conclave in Arlington this week. For years I have always gone with the intent of connecting with friends and picking some insight up along the way.
This year, I was reminded why I enjoy connecting with other ministers.
I worked the booth for Horizon Camps and Resources, so I was able to interact with a variety of people. We gave away YooHoo (the official camp drink of Horizon Camps), but the better part was being able to reconnect with friends I have developed along the way.
One minister, in particular, I engage several times each year, but Tuesday I realized how much we had in common, and I was grateful for an opportunity to process some things together.
Today’s lesson is a simple one, but it’s this: connect with other leaders. If you are able to network regularly, keep it up! If you are one of the people who naturally engage with others, embrace that.
But, if you’re like me, I intentionally force myself to connect. Not because I think I am better, but because connections do not come easily for me.
Who are two leaders with whom you identify and respect? What would it take to call them up and invite them to coffee, or to do a video call if the distance is too great?
The truth is we pursue what is important to us. If growth is important, you will pursue it. If connection is important, you will pursue it. If relationship is important, you will pursue it. But, if your priorities are somewhere else, you will avoid the others out of necessity.
Make connecting with other leaders an intentional part of you life and priorities, and see what happens next.
I have a dirt driveway. Well, part of it is dirt, and part is caliche. When it rains, the dirt turns to mud (obviously), and I avoid driving through the mud. Sounds simple right?
I avoid the mud for two reasons: I hate getting my suburban muddy and I hate having to drive through dried ruts (created from driving through mud in the first place).
Ruts can be annoying. The make the ride rougher, because I can never seem to find the right spot to drive through the rut.
But, ruts can be beneficial. When I’m driving down the dirt road leading to our house, I can tell which part of the run is the muddiest by looking at the ruts.
We all have ruts in our lives. I bet you didn’t see this one coming, right?
Not just ruts, though. We also have routines.
I have a specific routine when I park my suburban. I always back in. I have no solid reason or justification for it, I just prefer to avoid the ruts in my driveway when I’m starting my day. Not swerve around them, but bypass them altogether.
You have routines, too. It may be exercise, food choices, weekly schedules, the order you get ready in the morning. Routines give structure to what can often become a chaotic world.
Routines are good. They help us prepare for what comes next, because we know our routine. After completing Task A, our routine says it’s time to move to Task B. It’s simple.
Until a routine becomes a rut. What used to be simple and natural, now feels forced and rough.
Honestly, I think routines and ruts are both very natural, but I do not think they are both beneficial. Ruts mean the time to change has already passed; change now becomes necessary.
I have no secret weapon today, but let me challenge you to do something: take a sheet of paper (or open a note on your phone) and write down 4 things: first write down three routines you have; then write down one rut you find yourself trying to navigate.
Now, you’ve identified a rut. What do you need to do to get out of it? Who can help? What do you need to give up?
Sometimes I wonder if everyone operates the same way I do. Today, let’s find out.
When I drive by certain landmarks and have a memory come to mind, it is generally something I was listening to at the time. As a result, I can drive by a windmill and remember the song that was playing, or under a bridge and remember a conversation I was having. Or, on a tractor, drive by a fence post and remember the point of the story I was at in an audiobook. Crazy, right?
But one place in particular is different. There is one spot between where I live and where I grew up that every time I drive by it, I feel like a 7th grader again.
Honestly, I do not know if the memory comes from that long ago or not, but it’s a spot where over time I have assigned a specific feeling: the feeling of awe at finally having arrived–being an athlete. It was undoubtedly one of my first early bus rides, but the emotion remains. Every time I drive by that spot, I feel optimistic, energetic, and old.
I may not know you well, but I’m going to guess you have something like that. It may be a spot where you fell in love. Maybe it is a note you keep in a safe space. It might be bigger, like your old car from high school, or your very first instrument. Or, maybe, it comes with a person. You think about the first person to encourage you to push for something more, or the first person to point something out to you.
Whatever it may be, I want you to think about this: you are not the same person you were in that moment, in that memory.
I am not a 7th grader anymore, though my wife may accuse me of acting like one from time to time. More than that, I had no clue I could ever become the person I am today.
Again, I would venture to say the same is true of you.
We change over time. We mature. We grow. We make mistakes. We get things right, and we grow some more.
Take a moment today and celebrate that you are not who you were in that memory. You are something more, something better, something different. And, if you’re not better than you were then, take a step today to correct that.
Last week I went to camp. One of my roles at camp was to teach leadership to a group of 12 students. What I did not anticipate, however, was the leadership challenge I was going to face in the process.
The kids were great. They were willing to step up and serve, they had humble spirits that were willing to learn, and they poured back into their own groups to make a difference.
The challenge was on my end. I had two roles while at camp: leadership and sound booth. There were certain times in the schedule where the two overlapped, and so I was faced with the tension of the 3rd question: both things need to happen, but I cannot accomplish both at the same time.
(Side note: If you do not know the 3 Questions, click here to read about them. The 3rd question asks “Who can I get to help?”)
The tension of the 3rd question boils down to this: asking other people to help actually helps us accomplish more. Revolutionary, right? Maybe not. In fact, this concept is completely logical. It makes perfect sense that the more people we ask to do something, the more we can get done.
The tension, then, comes when we as leaders would rather do something on our own for any number of reasons. Maybe there’s a certain level of glory in being in charge of something, or we enjoy accomplishing the task. But at the end of the day, if we want to lead, we have to answer the 3rd question.
So, today, what are you holding onto that you can let go? What is on your plate that overwhelms you, but you are afraid to ask for help? What can you ask someone to help with in order to create some forward momentum? Answer the third question this week and see what happens.
I love grilling. Over the past six years, especially, I have started to experiment more and more with recipes, rubs, and types of meat. It has been a wonderful journey.
Last night, unfortunately, I was reminded of something: I am not an expert, and I cannot multi-task very well.
We had some friends over for supper last night, so I decided to grill some ribs. I put them on the grill, but it was late at night so I wanted them to cook a little faster than I usually cook, so I violated a policy I have when grilling: leave the middle burner off. (My policy comes from experiences with flare ups mainly.)
I went inside to take care of something in the kitchen, and while doing so my youngest daughter comes running inside saying “Daddy, your ribs are smoking!” I ran outside to find the flare up of all flare ups.
In leadership, beware of the temptation to multi-task. There are going to be things in your experience where you know you have to keep some safeguards in place (no middle burner), unless you can devote all of your attention to the task at hand.
I truly believe trying to multi-task often only means divided attention and weakened results. Focus on the job at hand. Keep your mind on what you’re doing. Carve out time later to jump to the next project, but make the most of the time you have in the moment.
The good news: I was able to salvage most of the ribs last night.
The bad news: I lost one. Well, one rib had a custom blackened crust on it.
Beware the distractions that pop up in your leadership and keep you from focusing.