Lessons from the Farm

Harvesting In Leadership

Harvesting in Leadership
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Each April I post a series about “Lessons from the Farm” where I reflect on leadership lessons I picked up along the way. Today’s post is a peak into my favorite series.

I’ll never forget the strangest harvest we ever had on the farm. In the fall we planted wheat. I saw the bags, saw the seeds, and knew the drill (pun intended). We waited patiently for the first of the crop to break through the ground. I’ve always said there are few things more beautiful to my eyes than a good wheat crop at almost any stage.

Well, this year was different. As the seeds sprouted and started to break the crust, we noticed something different. Wheat was not what was growing. Instead, breaking through the ground was acres and acres of cotton.

Sound a little strange? That’s because it never happened. Every year, when we planted a seed, we knew what the seed would grow into. Wheat seed grows into wheat. Cotton seed grows into cotton. Seems pretty obvious, right? We harvest what we plant.

Let’s shift to a garden. Would you work the ground in a garden and plant a peach tree and expect jalapeños to grow instead? Why not? Because we harvest what we plant.

Now, we may not know the health of what we harvest, but we know what to expect it to produce. 

Leadership is no different: we harvest what we plant.

If we plant seeds of discontent and constant doubt about others’ abilities, we will harvest the fruit of discontent and constant doubt about others’ (and eventually our) abilities. 

If we plant seeds of dependence on us to do everything and take all the initiative, we will harvest the fruit of people depending on us to do everything and take all the initiative.

If we plant seeds of empowerment, however, we will harvest the fruit of people who have grown to feel empowered.

Do you see the pattern? It seems pretty simple, right? Except sometimes we plant the wrong seed with the right intentions. We train the people we lead to accomplish a mindset for which we were not prepared.

The enemy of leadership is not always outside forces. The enemy of leadership is very often our unwillingness to let go, to empower.

That’s what the 3 questions bring to the table. In the framework of the 3 questions we learn to sow seeds of awareness, willingness and leadership. When we teach people to ask and answer the 3 questions, what begins to happen is those people feel empowered. 

What seeds are you sowing? Or, if you’ve been in your current role for a while, what frustrations are you facing that are truly the harvest of the seeds you’ve planted? 

Guess what, it doesn’t always happen, but sometimes when a crop is no good, it’s okay to plow the field and plant some new seeds. It may not mean a fresh start, but it may mean a refocusing of purpose and energy, and who wouldn’t benefit from a refocus from time to time?

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In the Trenches

The Leadership Secret

Unfinished Puzzle
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Can I confess something? Few things frustrate me more than when someone operates with a belief that I know something I do not. 

It happens more often than I care to admit. I get into a conversation and someone has information they think is common knowledge, but they do not realize I have not been informed of the key piece of information, thus losing me before the conversation begins.

Can I confess something else? I wrestle with this in myself all the time. 

Honestly, I do. Am I holding someone else to an expectation they have no way of knowing they are being held to? Am I expecting people around me to live up to my standards because they know what my standards are, or because they should just know. I mean, really, my pet peeves are everyone else’s pet peeves, right?

I think letting ourselves fall into the trap of the leadership secret is one of the hidden roadblocks of effective leadership. 

The leadership secret bases decisions, actions, and attitudes solely on information the people around you have no way of knowing, and then expecting them to respond as if they know.

The leadership secret happens when someone, behind closed doors, behaves in a way we never expected, but in front of others never shows that side. So we begin to think less of people who respect the person, even though they would have never seen the other side.

The leadership secret happens when we know someone is struggling and watch as people mercilessly attack them for something separate, and then work ourselves up to defend them, all the while expecting everyone to know what we know, without us telling them.

I am not advocating gossip, or even being a megaphone for secrets. Instead, I am advocating taking a moment to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask: “Do they know what I know?” In doing so, maybe we learn to deal with people individually.

There’s another side to the leadership secret, though. There are times in leadership when information needs to be communicated. This is a very delicate line to walk. I am by nature a very private person, so I tend to bristle when someone shares something about me I did not approve. But the truth of the matter is sometimes the battle we (or someone else) is fighting needs to be made known.

As a body of believers, one of our goals is to love and challenge people to grow. Sometimes, this is done by surrounding them and helping them move forward.

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Incoherent Ramblings

Leadership Takes Intentionality

Intentionality with boundaries
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“I accidentally lost 50 pounds this year!”

“I accidentally read 20 books this month!”

“I accidentally lead our church to grow by 300%!”

There are some things we will never hear. Accidents happen, but rarely do accidents happen for the positive. People unknowingly gain weight, but only occassionally does anyone lose significant weight without any thought put into it (unless it’s a stomach bug, in which the thought is “I wish I were dead.”)

I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey lately. His realm of influence is money. He wants his listeners to get out of debt and to live lives of generosity. One of his keys pieces of advice is to stop wondering where your money went and tell it where to go with a zero sum budget. He encourages his listeners to be intentional with their money, and the stories of people whose lives are changed are remarkable.

Leadership is the same way. Leadership rarely happens by accident. Let me rephrase that. Great leadership rarely happens by accident. 

In fact, if you were to truly study the most influential leaders you know (whether it be ministry, thought, electronics, etc.), I truly believe there will be one constant in each of their lives: intentionality.

Intentionality in leadership takes many shapes and many forms, but the simplest beginning is this: deciding how you are going to be intentional. We can all say we are going to do something, but until we decide how we are going to do it, it won’t happen.

Diets are the same. “I’m not going to each as much” pales in comparison to “I’m going to do the Keto diet.” When we give our intentions boundaries, we move in the direction of progress.

Today I want you to fill in the blanks for this statement: I am going to intentionally ___________ today by (doing) ____________. 

Now, follow through with it!

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In the Trenches

4 Tips for a Great Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Tips
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With the Super Bowl fast approaching, there are a few things we can count on:

1. Cowboys fans are left thinking next year is our year (finally).

2. Patriots fans getting ready to cheer their team on, or claiming they needed a break from the Super Bowl.

3. Youth Ministers’ mental wheels are turning trying to plan the big party.

I have been in youth ministry long enough that I remember when, as a church, we had to invite people to our “Big Game” party, because we were infringing on the NFL. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore.

But one thing I do know, from having done Super Bowl parties over the years: there are a few key elements that make a great party. Here are my two cents.

  1. Embrace the Variety – I know this may not come as a surprise, but the focus of the game is not always the game. The commercials are a draw for some, whereas you will have other people show up just for the fellowship and time together. That’s okay, embrace the variety. 
  2. Keep the Atmosphere Engaging – I have done parties at a house with a pool table, so we had an 8 Ball tournament running concurrently with the game. We have asked students to predict scores quarter by quarter before the game starts, and given away a candy bar to the student who is the closest after each quarter, and a little bigger prize for the winning prediction. Have some board games at a table toward the back of the room. Whatever you can do to keep the atmosphere engaging is almost always a win.
  3. Great Snacks – What good is a Super Bowl party with out great snacks? I don’t know about you, but there are a few people in our church who do a great job with snacks, so be sure to ask them to join or to just bring a snack. One of my favorite Super Bowl memories is making stuffed jalapeño’s with a kid before everyone showed up. We had a blast prepping food, and even more fun eating it! Don’t forget…Of course creativity counts, but taste matters. Don’t show up with a football shaped platter of vegetables without dip (except this year, as I’m trying to watch what I eat).
  4. Find Resources – Here are two Super Bowl resources I think you should at least be aware of: 
    • Jonathan McKee’s Super Bowl Quiz – this is great for the kids who show up and haven’t watched a snap of football all year. It takes some attention on your part, but something to definitely consider! He will usually post about the week of the big game.
    • Football Sunday – Whether you use this as an alternative to half time, or find another time to show it, it’s worth checking out!

Finally, one of the questions that comes up the most: Do I give a devotion or not? The answer is up to you, but here’s my suggestion: If you do, keep it short and pause the game. You can resume the feed after your devotion, and use the random local car dealer commercials as a chance to make up lost time. But those commercials don’t come until around the end of halftime and the slow part of the 3rd quarter. You’re not going to recover 10 minutes.

The bottom line for all of this, though, is to have fun. Enjoy time together, and be gracious to the kid rooting for the team that’s losing–they’re emotionally invested and that’s okay.

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3 Questions, Leadership Journey

Light Bulb Moments

Light Bulb Moments
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Have you ever had a light bulb moment? Maybe you were driving in your car and a statement from earlier in the day popped into your head, followed by a moment of clarity.

Maybe you’ve been wrestling with an issue for quite some time, then while brushing your teeth, it hit you.

Maybe your light bulb moments come when you exercise, or drive, or shower.

But I think we can all think of a time when we had a breakthrough in our thinking, a moment of unparalleled clarity. From there, you gained clarity, focus, direction, purpose, and possibly even motivation.

I had one of those moments this weekend. Because of a family situation, I ended up taking Sunday off. Normally, when I am going to miss, I make a point to line out the hurdles and get someone to cover all the bases. This weekend, however, I forgot one thing: the sound board.

I am a bit of a sound board nerd. I always tell kids if I wasn’t on staff at a church, I would serve in the sound booth. A few years ago, we were able to upgrade our sound board at church to a really nice board, and I am constantly amazed at the power and capabilities. There is so much to know, and I haven’t gotten around to training someone else to run it. I haven’t brought myself to ask the 3rd question when it comes to the sound booth.

After realizing my shortfall, I sent a text Sunday morning, and then received one right before the service. There was some shuffling, but they were able to get the board to work without a hiccup.

And now my lightbulb moment: Sometimes it’s okay to let go of something I enjoy in order to bring someone alongside and train them to accomplish the same thing. After all, and this is a common mantra here, what if the someone I ask to help actually enjoys it more than me? What if they, and this is hard to fathom because I’m awesome, can do a better job than me?

The question for each of us comes down to this: as a minister, is it my job to do the work of the ministry, or to equip others to do the work of ministry?

Not a minister? Then, the question for you is similar: as a leader, is it your job to accomplish tasks, or to equip those around you to accomplish tasks?

We are better together. It’s okay to ask someone to help.

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