Waiting is the worst.
Waiting for culture to change. Waiting for seeds to grow. Waiting for change to acclimate.
The bottom line is that change rarely happens quickly, until it does.
Occasionally, you will see drastic change or dramatic results. It may seem like those things happened in an instant, but what if they didn’t?
What if the waiting is the most critical part of the change? What if during the waiting you spend time preparing for the change, to the best of your ability?
I’ve written before about the Horizon of Possibility, meaning basically as a leader we have the ability to look at what is and see what could be. You may not know exactly what’s going to happen, and for some things you may never be able to fully prepare, but if in the waiting, you make the most of your waiting, what could happen when the tide turns?
What are you waiting for at this moment? How are you preparing for the coming change right now? Live in the now so you can be ready when the time comes.
If you’ve worked with students for very long (or people in general), I’m guessing the following conversation rings some bells:
Student: I want to step up and be more of a leader.
Me: That’s great! Here are some things to keep in mind.
Student: ***Misses the next month***
A few years back I had a leadership team of students who had applied and gone on the leadership trip. Part of the application was agreeing to come to monthly meetings, but as the year waned on, our attendance started dropping, and not only to the monthly leadership meetings.
Now, I have a constant internal struggle about attendance expectations. I have come to the conclusion that I’m a rarity when it comes to church attendance. When I was growing up, I was at the church as much as possible. I didn’t have a bad home life (the opposite, actually), but I loved being together with other believers. For most of my life, I’ve been the kid (and now the guy) who hangs around the church building until almost everyone else has gone.
But most people aren’t wired that way, at least not with church attendance.
Sports, yes. Civic organizations, maybe. Weekly meals with groups of friends, yes. But church, for some reason that’s foreign to me, elicits a lower attendance commitment. (At this point, I need to clarify I’m not equating spiritual maturity to church attendance. I do, however, think our commitment to the body of Christ increases as Christ becomes a greater priority in our life.)
I have wrestled with the disparity between my commitment of attendance and others’ commitment for years. Over time, I realize it’s not fair to expect everyone to be as consistent to church attendance as I am (and was prior to being on staff). I’m wired differently, and that probably plays into why I do what I do.
As I began thinking about how to communicate to students interested in identifying as leaders the importance of attending, I landed on a simple phrase.
Leaders show up.
Simple, right? If leadership at it’s very core is influence, it is extremely difficult to influence a room you’re not physically in, especially early on.
If leadership influence grows through relationship, it’s even more difficult to build relationships with people you’re never around.
If we, as leaders, cannot commit to making our presence a priority, then how can we call ourselves leaders?
The same is true for me. If I expect to become an influencer in the lives of the people to whom I minister, I have to show up. The room should be better because I’m there. If it’s better when I’m not there, then it’s time for a reality check on my part.
Students need to hear this. Adults need to hear this. We need to hear this. Leaders show up. Your presence makes a difference, and it should be a positive difference.
Go be present today.
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.
To say I’m in a new season of personal leadership development would be an understatement.
I stumbled onto the three questions almost by accident, but at my last church was able to establish a culture of leadership and service that fit really well with the mindset of the three questions.
But, ironically, I’m really weak at answering the third question.
If you haven’t already, or even in a while, click here to read about the three questions. But, as a reminder, they are:
I’ve written about this before, but a great tension exists when you feel competent and capable of accomplishing something but want to empower people around you. I find the tension is even greater when it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing.
I am constantly amazed, however, at how something I may be able to do competently, someone else can do excellently. So, when push comes to shove, if I’m not asking people around me to help, I’m saying that I’m satisfied with mediocrity. Unfortunately, more times than I would care to admit, I am.
Back to personal leadership development. I find myself living in the tension of what is and what could be. Mediocrity or excellence. But the excellence comes at a price–my ego. If I’m not willing to ask the third question, then my leadership stalls.
True leadership is not about elevating ourselves. True leadership is about equipping those we lead to elevate above us. I want to equip people (students and adults, in my context) to excel at what they do, even if it’s something I enjoy doing. I’m not here to run a one man show, although that seems to be what my actions often communicate.
The same is true for you. There are people around you who are ready to step up and serve, but you have to put forth the effort of inviting them to the table, of building the relationship to know what they’re willing to do, and of asking them to help. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Do the difficult work of equipping those around you to elevate above you, and watch your leadership influence increase.
Monday night I attended a band concert for my oldest daughter. As I was sitting in a chair watching her band-mates leave in droves and wondering where she was, I realized what was happening through a conversation we had a week earlier.
“We show up early and stay late. That’s what we do.”
My sweet, servant minded pre-teen (I can’t help but think there’s going to be a slight “interruption” sooner rather than later) has been raised by parents who show up early and stay late. It’s been ingrained in her, unnaturally, because she’s been drug to events early and kept late for years.
Now, this isn’t intended to be a dad-brag. Instead, it’s a study of leadership osmosis. I find one of the ways I serve most effectively is by showing up early and staying late, and in spite of me never actually coming out and teaching my child this mindset, she learned it by virtue of being dragged to places.
So how do we teach students who don’t live under our roof the same mindset? By including them. Give them opportunities. Recognize when they see the bigger picture, and celebrate it. Invite them again. Help them see the need and help them see they can meet the need.
One method I use to help teenagers see the subtle shift is the three questions. If a student can begin to ask themselves “What’s the bigger picture? What needs to be done?”, then we begin to take steps to moving them into a realm of leveraging influence.
But it has to start somewhere. Let me say that again. It has to start somewhere. We have to have conversations with them to help them see the opportunity.
What are you doing to develop leaders around you? How are you developing them? What steps are you willing to take to develop them? What changes do you need to make?
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