We have all been there: we make a decision about someone (their willingness or unwillingness to do something), and then are surprised when they contradict our expectations. The surprise can be good or bad, but it is a surprise either way.
The reality is we can rarely know exactly how someone is going to respond, but for people with whom we have experience, we can anticipate a response. (Here’s a post about not letting someone’s character surprise you.)
Today, I want to go a little different route. Sometimes we compare ourselves to people around us as a way to denigrate our own creativity or ability. I have a youth minister friend who feels they are not as experienced or “good” as others in our circle, but the reality is their combination of experience, creativity, and passion makes them perfectly unique!
When we assume the people around us are doing the things we are doing, we are neglecting a simple truth: people are wired differently. What comes naturally to one, may not come naturally to another. But we will never know unless we ask.
There is something you do naturally that few people find easy, and there is something with which you struggle that other people may find easy. This is lived out in my children: one daughter loves to read and has to work in math, while the other has to work in reading and loves math.
I have two suggestions for you today: First, embrace your strength. What makes you, you? What comes naturally to you that other people have to struggle to accomplish?
Second, help someone else discover what they do naturally. There is someone in your list of contacts, who is walking through the day defeated because they do not realize they are naturally gifted at something. Take on a role to help them discover that today (or the rest of this week).
Make a difference in someone else’s life today.
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Have you ever noticed some people look at situations differently than you?
A few years ago, I heard a radio personality talk about how science has proven women and men look at cleanliness differently. Women actually see dirt more easily than men. It’s not that they have some sort of super vision, but their awareness of filth is higher. This means as a husband, I need to adjust my standards of clean in order to be a blessing to my wife.
This happens in developing student leaders as well. So many times, as youth ministers, we fall into the trap of thinking a student has to meet a certain level of leadership ability in order to take on the mantle. But I would disagree.
In fact, as I have been working with student leaders more intensely over the past 3 years, I have noticed 2 criteria which are critical to developing successful student leaders.
I cannot think of a single situation where anyone has led without first making the most of an opportunity. In fact, without opportunity, nothing happens. Where there is no opportunity, there is no movement.
Opportunities are simple, but it may require you changing how you view situations. The old saying goes “If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” While the intent behind the saying may be negative, the truth is opportunity opens up when we shift our perception.
Every time you meet with students, there is an opportunity for leadership. My question for you is: are you making the most of the opportunities around you to allow students to grow and develop as leaders.
The other part of developing student leaders, and the most critical, is willingness. If a student is not willing to take intentional steps, any effort you exert will be diminished.
A student’s willingness to serve is imperative to their own development. But if you think about it, this concept is a no brainer.
As an adult, if you need to lose weight or cut back on salt, no one else can make that decision for you. It’s a decision you have to make. The people around you can provide opportunities, but it is up to you to make the most of the opportunities.
Students who are willing to serve, are more likely to grow as leaders. Students who are unwilling to serve will hit a ceiling of their own making.
The bottom line is this: if you can find a student who is willing to serve, give them an opportunity to serve and lead, and watch the impact they begin to make!
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I think looking back is important. I find encouragement in data. But the most important thing is looking forward. As we look forward for 3 Question Leadership and 2019, I can’t wait for what comes next.
Until 2019, as we get fully settled into December, I thought I would take a moment today to look back over 2018. Below you will find a link to the best performing post (the post with the most views) from each month. Looking at the titles, if you see one you don’t remember or may have missed, click to read it.
I have put some notes beside a few of the posts. But more important than my thoughts, I would love to hear what post may have impacted you this year. After all, my goal is not to help me grow as a leader, but to help you expand your leadership influence. So, let me challenge you to do something today besides read: if there has been a post that stirred your heart in some way, share it with your friends or comment below to let me know. Also, if you haven’t already, sign up for the email to get posts delivered to your inbox, and be looking for a surprise that may be coming down the pipe later this month.
January – 3 Fundraising Tips (A super practical post for ministry leaders)
February – You Can Make a Difference
March – Context is Key
April – Keep Going (The kickoff to 2018’s “Lessons from the Farm”)
May – Calling vs Job
June – Leadership & Yard Work (What you can learn from asking a 10 year old to mow your yard)
July – Navigating Pace
August – Leadership and An Airport Terminal
September – Substance vs Surface (this one may be my favorite post for the year!)
October – Never Lose Sight of the One
November – When Mistakes are not Mistakes, pt 3
Confession time: I struggle with asking people for help. My biggest hurdle is convincing myself people want to help, even after they are already serving in some capacity.
That’s why I lean on the 3 questions to help me grow as a leader. They serve as a framework and a reminder.
(Side note: if you don’t know what the 3 questions are, please go here and read about them.)
Today, let’s talk about the 3rd question specifically (Who can I get to help?). My thought is simple: What if people actually want to help?
I know not everyone wants to help, and not everyone wants to help with anything you ask (although some may). But in my experience, there are people who are willing to help especially when they are helping in a way that energizes them.
People who love to cook, when asked to cook, are energized by being able to cook.
People who love to build, when asked to build, are energized by being able to build.
People who love to paint, when asked to paint, are energized by being able to paint.
People who love to run sound, when asked to run sound, are energized by running sound.
People who love to work with babies, when asked to serve in the nursery, are energized by serving in the nursery.
Are you starting to see the pattern? It’s there, but it doesn’t stop there. Our role, as ministry leaders, is to find what it is that someone loves to do, and ask them to serve that way. Makes sense, right?
Over the years one of the most defeating things I’ve encountered is having requests for help being met with no. Sometimes, it has been because the person hasn’t wanted to serve, but sometimes it was because I was asking the right question to the wrong person.
So, today, what if people really want to help? Are you asking the right person to accomplish the right thing? Are you asking the right question? Or, is the fear of “no” causing you not to ask at all?
One last thought: for those who work with students. There is incredible value in teaching students to ask and answer the 3 questions, teaching them to grow as leaders early in life by simply exerting influence. But there’s also incredible opportunity to find students who are willing to serve and giving them an opportunity to do just that, because after all, what if students are willing to help?
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We’ve all been there–the frustration of leading. You pour hours into a project or event or relationship, only to experience sub-par results. Or you have to make a decision in the moment, only to realize later you made the wrong choice. Anyone who has been in a leadership role can identify.
Today, we continue looking at a few mistakes we make in leadership, that even though they feel like a colossal failure in the moment, they are actually not mistakes. (You can read the first post by clicking here.)
Human relationships are hard. There are nuances that vary wildly from relationship to relationship. There are often unexpressed expectations that go unmet. And more often than we would like, those relationships do not end the way we wish they would.
Part of our role as a leader is to invest in relationships. In ministry, we invest in people in whom we see potential or promise. So we spend time getting to know them, encouraging them, leading them, trying to help them grow. And occasionally, we watch our investment dwindle away as they begin making poor choices and slipping away.
At the end of the day, when those relationships have slipped away, we feel like we wasted our time, but I would argue it was not a waste of time. We cannot control people. Everyone has free will. But any time we learn to invest in someone, we are providing the opportunity for them to better themselves. Any time we spend investing in people is time well spent.
The real mistake in relationships, however, is not building them at all. If we find ourselves deciding beforehand a student (or anyone in general) will not benefit from the investment of our time, we play a dangerous game.
One final note, beware of trying to relationally invest in a disinterested person. I have built relationships with students early on, only to have them distance themselves later. Find the balance between mourning the relationship (and trying to mend it) and obsessing about the lost relationship. Remain emotionally available, but realize the energy you may be spending trying to rebuild could be spent elsewhere.
People are surprising. You cannot know their hearts until you get to know them, and vice versa. Spend time investing in relationships this week, and be not discouraged.
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