Category: Big Picture

Growth Arcs

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I’m getting soft in my old age.

I tend to have a pretty intense personality. I’m not good at small talk, but if you want to talk shop, my wheels are turning pretty much all the time.

I love what I do. I remember having a conversation with my dad towards the end of my time working with him where he simply pointed out my heart wasn’t in farming. It wasn’t a criticizing conversation as much as a “this is what I see” moment. He shared that when he was my age, his focus was on farming and what he could do to help the farm succeed.

At the time, I was farming as a way to finance my being a bi-vocational minister. I don’t think I did a bad job farming, but my time on the tractor would often drift to dreaming about ministry, not the farming operation.

My heart is in ministry. My heart is in helping students (and adults) grow in their relationship with God. That’s what gets me up in the morning. That’s what excites me.

But I’m getting soft in my old age. I’m gaining more compassion. I’m displaying more sympathy for those who are different from me. I’m seeking to understand how someone thinks before I respond to them, instead of assuming I know.

And you know, I think I’m okay with that.

A balance still exists where I’m not making excuses for people. I still have expectations for students to reach. But maybe, just maybe, having a little more compassion and understanding toward those I serve just makes me better.

So, what about you? Do you need to soften a little? Or do you need to intensify a little? Take some time today to do a little self-reflection. Ask God to show you how you can grow. You might be surprised at the result.

Why? Just Why?

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I have a business minded mentor with whom I try to connect on a regular basis. One of his favorite questions to ask me when we get together is about 3QL. I usually respond with a comment about my loyal readers with my tongue firmly in cheek.

The answer I give comes down to three things, so why not go ahead and put it out there? Here are the three reasons why I keep blogging here at 3QL:

  1. I Believe in Developing Student Leaders. Seems simple, right? Right around the beginning of my blogging journey (two and a half years ago!), I started asking youth ministers what they were doing to develop student leaders. The answers I got back were incredibly enlightening. I think we (me included) make excuses for not developing student leadership the way we can, but when someone commits to it, the game is changed. I know of several youth ministers in my circle of influence who have upped their game in student leadership over the past few years, and the results are mind blowing. Their impact has grown, their reach has expanded, and their ministry is benefitting. Bottom line, I want to be the guy beating the drum for student leadership. I want to provide food for thought, as well as tips and strategy for developing a ground up leadership structure, not just a leadership program. It’s not trendy, and it’s certainly not easy, but the payoff is remarkable.
  2. I Believe in Developing Leaders. My mentor, mentioned above, told me this week “Your ministry will never out grow your leadership, and I don’t mean just your personal leadership.” If I learn to develop leaders around me, then my influence multiplies. John Maxwell calls it the Law of Explosive Growth – To add growth, lead followers; To multiply, lead leaders. I can accomplish some pretty great things on my own, but if I can learn to develop other leaders, then the possibilities sky rocket. If you’re reading this, I want you to become a better leader. Other than my wife, who stockpiles and reads about a month at a time, I don’t know of anyone in my current context who regularly reads these posts, which means I may never experience the fruit of your growth as a leader. But I’m perfectly okay with that, because if you’re reading this, I want to help you expand your leadership influence. That means I write with youth ministers in mind, but I also write with people who aren’t ministers in mind. When you grow, I grow.
  3. I Believe in Developing My Leadership. The reality of 3QL is that this has become an avenue for me to process what is happening around me. Since I began blogging, I’ve see three transitions (two pastor transitions, and my own transition to a new ministry). I’ve seen the death of my father-in-law, and encountered some incredible new people. I’ve seen my oldest daughter enter my ministry. I’ve seen ministries around me grow and flourish because of the growth of leadership. All of these things, plus so much more, have happened in what seems to be an instant, and this blog has forced me to process leadership lessons along the way. Every time I sit down to write, my goal is for me to grow. So, at the end of the day, if you were to map out the 289 posts since February 2017, you would be able to see, in part, the arc of my life during that time. When I reflect and process, I believe I am able to grow.

The bottom line is this: leadership development rarely happens on accident. We have to be intentional.

Today, let me ask a favor. I don’t do this often, but if you are a regular reader and feel like you’re a better leader because of your time spent at 3QL, would you be willing to share a post that has resonated with you? You could share the link to an actual post, or just share a thought and a link to the blog ( is a great place to send someone who hasn’t been here before). Together, let’s increase our leadership influence.

3 Thoughts on See You at the Pole

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Yesterday was when schools all around the nation observed See You at the Pole. This event began almost 30 years ago as a group of students planned to gather around their flagpole and pray for their classmates, teachers, administration, and country. Over the years, it has grown, even crossing national borders.

Last week I heard someone allude to how they thought it was played out. That got me thinking about my experience with See You at the Pole (SYATP), so naturally, you get to peruse my thoughts.

  1. SYATP works best when it is student led, beginning to end. In fact, that should be the only way it’s run. As a Youth Minister, I get to share in the routine of my work. Why rob students of the opportunity to share?
  2. SYATP is an incredible leadership development opportunity. While I always encourage students to take the lead, I do offer suggestions to help them process through the emotions that some of them are facing (fear of speaking in public, being afraid to start, unsure of how to organize, etc.). In my previous context, I watched Junior High students stand up and lead High School students at SYATP. When else does that happen!
  3. Praying for schools, classmates, teachers, administrators, and our country is never played out. Having a prayer time at a flag pole just to be seen, well Jesus addressed that mindset. I do see my role as a spiritual leader is to help students process through their “why” – is it to pray or to be seen? Does it have to be on the 4th Wednesday of September? Is there another way to accomplish the same thing?

Full confession: I’m in a new context this year. We had a solid rhythm in our previous context, but this year I chose to sit back and observe. As a result, I saw a student step up in a way I did not expect. Again, leadership opportunities. Other campuses were underwhelming. Missed leadership opportunities.

What are your thoughts on See You at the Pole? What has your experience been?

The bottom line is this: your perspective shapes the way you see the world. When you look for opportunities, you find them.

The Practice Field

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Football. I grew up in a time before turf fields were readily accessible to small high schools. That meant two things: 1) our main field was grass and had to be watered to be maintained; and 2) we had a practice field.

Now, our practice field was slightly more than dirt. We would utilize every spare patch of grass for tackling drills, just so we didn’t get unnecessarily scraped and cut on the dirt.

Now, schools have turf fields and I regularly see high school teams practicing their game field, which makes perfect sense.

But I realized something yesterday. There’s a disparity between practice and performance. Growing up, I think people expected we had spent time practicing during the week, but the crowd showed up for the performance.

If you do the math, we spent significantly more time on the run down practice field than we did on the lush game field. Why? Because our development in practice meant success in the game.

Let me say that again: Our development in practice meant success in the game.

The same is true of leadership. The amount of time I spend preparing myself to lead through reading books and blogs, listening to podcasts, and seeking to learn from other leaders helps me develop as a leader. My development outside of leadership situations means success in leadership situations.

The same is true with student leaders. Throwing someone into a leadership situation is a tried and tested way to grow their leadership, but if we want their leadership to multiply, it happens away from the situation as we either prepare them beforehand, evaluate afterwards, or some combination of both. Put another way, their development in practice means success in the game.

How are you developing yourself? What are you doing to develop your leadership understanding? Have you built leadership development into your rhythm?

What about those of us who lead students? Are we preparing them for leadership? Are we helping them grow by being intentional away from the opportunities?

2018 In Review

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I have been blogging for almost 2 full years. First of all, let me say that if you’re hanging in there with me, thank you so much. I cannot describe how much it means to me to have people who click to read my incoherent ramblings.

My goal in starting this blog was to help you grow as a leader. Sometimes, that growth comes in growing and developing others around you (student leaders, in my case). Sometimes, that growth comes when you expand your own leadership influence. But, in the end, every keystroke I make is intended to help you grow.

So, once again, thank you for joining me.

Now, I’m going to get a little numbers nerdy.

In 2017, when I started my blog, I wrote a total of 28,010 words. Take Time to Say Thank You registered the most views. And August was my most viewed month, averaging 14 views per day.

In 2018 I wrote a total of around 32,750 (depending on the final word count of this post). 3 Fundraising Tips registered the most views. And November was my most viewed month, averaging 10 views per day.

Because the “view” stats can be superficially inflated (redesigning my site registers as views), I usually measure visitors instead. In 2018, I surpassed my 2017 visitor number in early November, so more people are at least clicking.

Facebook is my biggest traffic driver. Because of this, if you haven’t liked 3QL on Facebook, you can click here and do that right now! Also, if you ever read a post that is helpful to you, please share it.

Email subscribes have gone up 25% in 2018. I know everyone processes content differently, but email is the most consistent way to make sure you receive the 3QL posts. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the email goes out at 10am Central with a new post for the day.

Finally, one last thing. Of course I want 3QL to reach more people in 2019. Of course, I would love to surpass my 2018 visitor total in the summer of 2019. But the truth of the matter is this: I will continue what I’m doing for one person that engages. I intend to grow as a leader and I want you to do the same. Along the way, if other people join us, that’s great. But for now, let’s expand our leadership influence.

I’m going to take a couple weeks off and will pick back up in January 2019. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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