Category: Leadership Journey

In the Trenches, Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Reframing Student Leadership

Reframing Student Leadership
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I saw a youth ministry related facebook post the other day asking how the collective hive mind selects student leaders. I think this is an extremely legitimate question, but one that needs a quick reframing.

Let me start by zooming out. The bottom line when it comes to leadership development is that I am not the only person interested in developing students into growing leaders. In fact, depending on their extracurricular activities, I may be one of multiple people interested in helping them expand their leadership influence.

As we zoom in, however, we start to see a few key differences. Of all the people in a student’s life who want them to grow as a leader, I may be one of a select few who are interested in teaching servant leadership, and more specifically, servant leadership as modeled and taught by Jesus.

So, when I look at a room of students and want to select a few student leaders, my approach is a little different. I have written about two key traits for student leaders previously (you can read that here), but one of my criteria is willingness to serve. If a student is unwilling to serve, then neither of us grow from the time we spend.

I watched this play out first hand. I used to think if I saw leadership potential in a student, they would benefit from me calling it out of them. But there was a flaw in my approach. I was calling something out of a student who wasn’t willing to serve, and as a result their commitment level was abnormally low, and even started to resent me for expecting them to show up.

Now I take a different approach. Most recently, I have students fill out an application and sit down for an interview before joining the leadership team. If a student is willing to put forth the effort of filling out an application and scheduling an interview, then we have an agreement there will be a time commitment to what they’re doing.

I cannot call something out of someone who is unwilling to grow.

Guilting a student into leadership misses the point.

Only allowing the popular kids to lead misses the point.

Establishing leadership as a higher rung misses the point.

On Thursday I will continue this thought, but for today let me ask you to join me in considering this: is your approach to developing leaders around you a healthy one? Are you willing to make the changes necessary? Are you willing to keep what needs to be kept?

Watching leaders grow their leadership influence is one of the most exciting parts of what I do. But that doesn’t mean everything is a win. I have had to adapt over the years. Maybe you need to do the same thing.

Want to stay in the discussion? Click here to subscribe to make certain you get Thursday’s post continuing this thought.

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Leadership Journey

3 Observations about Developing Student Leaders

three lessons learned
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Last week I got to spend time at camp with a group of six student leaders. For the last three summers, I have helped develop and grow what we call the Horizon Leadership Camp (HLC).

The concept is simple: when a church group comes to camp, they have the option to have a student or two apply for HLC. The student goes to camp with their own church group, is part of a leadership focused small group, help lead rec, and pour back into someone from their group–trying to grow relationships that will last well beyond camp.

In total, HLC has convened seven times over the past three summers, and I have been in the room for most of them (although not all). Along the way, there are a few things I’ve started to notice:

  1. Students are hungry for the leadership conversation. Some of the students who walk into HLC have been through some leadership training already, but nowhere near all of them. Prior training or not, however, almost every student has been hungry for the leadership lessons and the opportunity to step up and lead.
  2. Shared experiences build community. Kind of a “no duh” statement, right? But it’s true, and I’ve watched it play out over and over. As the students lead rec, get put in awkward situations thanks to over-zealous adult leaders (rarely students), and then evaluate their time, they begin to trust one another more and more, which in turn makes the processing times even more rich.
  3. Youth Ministers benefit from the leadership conversation with students. I know this is true for me, and again, I’ve seen it play out over and over. As a student comes into HLC, the youth minister is challenged to up their leadership in order to help their student grow.

All in all, I have learned so much about myself over the past three summers (running concurrently with the beginning of this blog, if you hadn’t made the connection). Few things in ministry excite and energize me as much as being able to have authentic conversations with a student who is wrestling with their own understanding and ability to lead. In turn, my leadership influence grows as I challenge those around me to grow.

So, as I ask from time to time, Student ministers: what are you doing to train your student leaders? How are you equipping them? How are you pouring into them? What opportunities are you providing them? Where do you need to start?

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Leadership Journey

Check It Out: Redundancy

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There are a few leadership ideas and thoughts that have a way of resurfacing in my life from time to time.

I love routine. Once I find a good routine, I have an uncanny ability to stick with it.

Last year I wrote a post fleshing out this redundancy idea, and thought I would share it today. You can check out it out here.

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Incoherent Ramblings, Leadership Journey

Leadership & Relationship

Leadership & relationship
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This morning I found a journal that was given to me almost 17 years ago. In it were notes written from youth group members of my home church. The words were encouraging, hopeful (stay in touch!), and affirming, even 17 years later.

As I was reading their words, I was reminded of something: the most impactful leadership rarely happens outside of relationship.

Reading people who write (or blog) about leadership is imperative to leadership development, but the most impactful leadership happens in relationship.

I have a regular habit of watching a video on leadership development at the beginning of each work day, but my life is impacted more by personal relationships.

Our greatest leadership impact is to those whom we lead relationally. When we invest in those around us, our influence begins to grow exponentially. The mistakes we make, the victories we experience, and the joys we experience grow because of the one on one relationship.

But the relationship has to start somewhere.

How are you doing at developing relationships? Are you listening to people, or simply waiting for a chance to speak up? Do you care for those around you, or are they simply a means to an end?

The words I read this morning reminded me–those words came as a result of relationship. Not because of my “great” ability to lead, my wisdom, or my extreme good looks. The impact that was made blossomed out of relationship.

How are you investing in those around you? Is there something that needs to change? Is there something you’re doing that needs to be duplicated? Make a difference today, build a relationship.

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Leadership Journey

Lessons from the Farm: The Right Tool

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Today’s thought probably goes more naturally with the “Lessons from the Farm” series, but it crossed my mind last week and I thought I would share.

I don’t know your level of agricultural background, so I’ll get kind of basic right now. I’m guessing you know what a tractor is. One of the things (of many) that gets pulled behind a tractor is called a plow. There are different types of plows, but they all have one thing in common–their job is to break the soil.

In order to break, or till, the soil, you will sometimes use a different type of tool to actually go into the ground. These attachments are mounting onto a shank. There were three different main types that we used growing up–a chisel, a sweep, and a duck bill.

One of the most dreaded days for me as a hardly working 11 year old was when my dad would inform us (usually my brother and I), that it was time to put {chisels/duck bills/sweeps} on the plow. This was a tedious task that involved sitting exposed to the sun, scooting around for an hour or two, and likely getting a pretty nasty gash on your finger.

But the principle was simple: the tool on the shank wasn’t the correct tool for the job at hand.

Sweeps killed weeds, chisels didn’t.

Chisels dug down into the earth turning the soil over, sweeps didn’t.

Different tools, different tasks.

The same is true in leadership. There is no one size fits all answer to our leadership approaches. There are constants (tractors and plows), but the specifics vary based on the situation and the need at the moment.

We should always be moving forward (there’s no plow we ever used that worked in reverse), but the specifics we use to move forward must be adaptable. Your group dynamics can change in a few months, so be willing to adjust.

Maybe your approach to leadership (if you have an approach) is working great right now. Great! But be ready for a shift in the near future, probably sooner than you realize.

Maybe you don’t have an approach. Put the plow in the ground and move forward. I see too many people try to make leadership development something requiring a PhD. It’s not. It’s creating awareness, providing opportunity, and collaborative evaluation.

At the end of the day, we never changed from chisels to sweeps and parked the tractor. We moved with purpose and for a reason. Do the same.

Not sure where to start when developing student leaders? Here are three questions I’ve started teaching students leaders in an attempt to help them take steps. You can also subscribe to get posts like these in your inbox every week.

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