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.
Today’s post is going to be ministry specific, but it plays a role in leadership as well.
When I think back to the influential ministers in my life, very few of them became influencers because they stood at the front of the room.
There was my youth pastor who would stay after Wednesday service for an hour or more talking with me and a friend or two about all sorts of random things, until my parents called the church to see if I was okay.
There was the pastor who saw something in me and started spending time with me each week, helping me grow in my faith.
There was my coach/youth pastor who would put in extra time with me on the basketball court, giving me tips for improving my jump shot or baby hook.
Ultimately each of those people spent that time with me away from their “stage”. As a result, when they stood on the stage (or at the front of the room), their words carried so much more weight. They cared about me, and I knew it.
The same is true for us in leadership, especially in ministry. We have to be willing to spend time investing in individuals. When we do, the words we say from the stage carry more weight.
But there’s more to it than just being able to influence someone. Investment makes a difference.
When we invest in someone, we experience compassion for what they’re going through in life. Learn how to ask questions about what is going on in their life, and take a genuine interest.
When we invest in someone, we experience frustration because people are flawed (newsflash–you’re flawed too, and that may be where your frustration comes from).
When we invest in someone, we experience hope. As we get to know someone, we get a peek into what they could become, and then as a leader we get to help them realize that potential!
The bottom line is this: in leadership, never lose sight of the one. Foster relationships that provide a greater opportunity for impact and watch what happens next!
Where I live in Texas we have mesquite trees. They are everywhere. I have a few around my house that have been alive undoubtedly for decades.
Years ago, I spent a a month or so trying to grub mesquite trees. The trick, however, was you had to get down into the root system to truly get rid of them. Generally about 1 foot under the surface, there would be a bulb in the root system, and that was our target. If we could get the bulb, we could get the tree.
Our words should be the same way. As leaders, the things we say need to have roots, need to have substance.
Too many people get by in life by saying things that sound good but really have no substance. Or they say things that stand up until you think about what they’re actually saying, then you realize there is no root in their words.
Some people specialize in surface statements. They want to be quotable and tweet-able, but upon further thought, their statements have no root in truth or reality.
We, as leaders, should be different. Let your statements have root, let them carry weight.
Surface flatters someone for the sake of flattery, but substance points out and highlights the positives in their life.
Just like the mesquite trees that cannot be pushed over, I want what I say to the people around me to be filled with truth, with encouragement, and with love.
The truth is that regardless of what we say, our words have a lasting impact. I’m challenging you, as a leader and as a person in general, to let what you say mean something.
I geek out over data. I wouldn’t consider myself a full on nerd, but I am well on my way.
Personality profiles fall into the “data” sector for me. I have taken quite a few over the past few years, including the Myers-Briggs from 16personalities.com for a 3rd time the other night (INFP for the 3rd time in 3 years).
I took one toward the end of summer last year that dealt with leading from my strengths (not strengths finder), and printed out the results. As I read through them, I was intrigued. I showed them to someone who had been working closely with me for the previous few months, and they said: “You know, I think these results are more honest than you would be with yourself.”
Now, I wasn’t being called a liar, but instead having it pointed out there were some deep truths in the lines of the report.
Personality tests aside, I want to surround myself with people who will, in a loving way, be honest with me. I want someone who will tell me the things they think I do not want to hear.
I had a similar conversation recently, where as I was talking with someone I trust, they felt the freedom to ask a probing question about a statement I had made, and then proceeded to explore the implications.
Now, there’s a difference between someone coming at you with spears to point out faults, and someone who genuinely wants the best for you being honest with you. Proverbs puts it this way: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV)
The bottom line is this: surround yourself with people who feel the freedom to be honest with you. If you want to grow, you need someone who can see the food stuck in your beard, so to speak. Guard yourself as to who it may be, but when you find someone like that, embrace it and grow.
Leadership in itself can be a stick situation. The temptation is to always think someone else is going to step up, but a strong leader is able to realize when the situation calls for someone to step up who wouldn’t normally be expected to do so.
Think of it like this: when i was a freshman in high school, i was one of the oldest kids in the ministry. As a result, my attitude toward how old a teenager has to be to lead has been altered.
The temptation in youth ministry is to wait until a student is a junior or a senior to give them leadership responsibilities, because they’re older and more mature by that time. And that makes sense.
For me, however, I want a kid who is willing to step up and make a difference, regardless of age. Sometimes this means we have 8th graders on our leadership team, other times it means we have mostly high school.
Part of my role, as a leader who seeks to develop other leaders, leads me to encourage younger students to step up to a role they may not think they fit.
The same idea applies to you: you are going to be presented with opportunities to step into a position for which you may not think you are ready. Too often, however, leadership opportunities arise because we are willing, not because we are ready.
Are you willing to step up? What situation are you facing that feels like you’re on the edge of a cliff trying to build the courage to jump? What’s holding you back? What fear do you need to give up? Why have you not given your fear up yet?