Tag: Developing Students

Three Struggles of Leadership Development

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I work in a world where the next “event” is always coming. There is always another lesson to prep, a service to plan, an event to brainstorm, and a calendar to create. There’s a frantic pace to what we do in churches.

That’s why over the years I’ve noticed something. As I started this blog back in 2017, I started to ask around about how my peers were developing student leaders. And do you know what I found?

Leadership development was an important part of what these incredible ministers wanted to do, but there were usually three things that held them back, and I think the same three things are true for all of us.

Developing Leaders is Important, but Not Critical.

The truth about leadership is that if I’m a good leader, then I can generally fake it until I make it. A strong leader can plan, execute, adapt, and perform in the moment. So if I’m capable, the temptation is to do everything myself. In fact, I might enjoy most of what I do, so it doesn’t always even feel like work. That means I may agree that developing leaders is important, but I can survive without it.

And so leadership development gets pushed down on the list somewhere between cleaning out the youth ministry closet and washing the church van. It’s something we know needs to be done, but it’s probably only going to happen occasionally.

Developing Leaders is Messy.

I mean, seriously, have you ever dealt with people? Some of them just wear you out. They have a different sense of humor, or a different set of priorities. They don’t prioritize the way you think they should. Some are just downright flaky.

Worse than all of that, sometimes after you invest in developing someone, they leave. All that time poured into them is now wasted because your organization doesn’t get the benefit.

I saw this happen in a previous position. As I helped students grow as leaders, their schedules became more and more packed because other people started to see their potential. As a result, the time I had with them to help them develop and grow was diminished.

Developing Leaders takes Time

Finally, one of the biggest struggles in developing leaders, whether it be students or adults, is the time investment. I can train a group of students in a workshop, but that limited investment doesn’t pay off fully without months and months of real life experience.

The same is true for me, and for you. I’m not the leader I was 10 years ago. I’m not the leader I was 5 years ago. I’m (hopefully) growing. I hope I’m taking steps so that I’m not the same leader I was 1 year ago.

How can I expect anything different from the students (and adults) I lead? Training take time. Developing leaders is more of a low and slow process, not microwave.

So, what’s your greatest struggle when it comes to developing those around you? What holds you back? What steps do you need to take today to move forward?

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Relational Investments

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Early yesterday morning my junior high daughter realized her band audition video was due by midnight last night instead of Friday, as she thought. So she spent the day practicing her pieces. And I mean the day.

Every time I came home, she was playing, trying to figure it out. When I came home for the final time, she was almost in tears. So I sat down with her and helped her figure out how to practice.

At first, because #teenager, when I would suggest something, she would push back. But eventually, we were able to start making some progress on the trouble parts. She would play through, and channeling my best Herb Brooks from Miracle, I would say, “Now, do it again.”

Finally, around 9:45pm last night, my sweet procrastinating angel, submitted her three part video. It was not perfect, but she wasn’t in tears either.

Our interaction embodies a thought I’ve been wrestling for the past few weeks. How many times do we expect someone to accomplish something, but don’t help them figure it out.

In other words, when assigning a task or setting a goal, where is the balance between completely hands off and micro-managing? I didn’t play her instrument for her (I wouldn’t know where to start if it doesn’t have 6 strings, which it doesn’t). I simply helped her break down the challenge into smaller pieces, using principles like: practice slow, then speed up, then repeat; visualize playing the piece before playing; and power through the mistakes.

As you lead, you are going to ask people to do something they’ve never done before. Sometimes you need to throw them in the deep end and let them sink or swim. But sometimes, you need to sit down with them and give them principles to help make progress.

Who around you needs you to come alongside them this week and say, “here, why don’t you try it this way?” Spend some time investing in someone. You never know what the payoff may be in the long run.

Lessons from the Farm: Efficiency Isn’t Flashy

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I started driving a tractor by myself around age 7, maybe 8. It’s not as dangerous as it may seem because I only went about 3.5 mph most of the time, and it’s difficult to do much damage at that high rate of sloth-ness.

As I got older, I realized my time would seemingly go faster if I cut the work into smaller chunks. I mean it makes sense, right? This is what we’re taught throughout our life–if you have a goal, break it down to tackle it.

I remember one time in particular, I broke a section of plowing into three parts. I was constantly turning and turning around, and as a result, it felt like time was passing faster.

The problem: I was actually being less effective.

Every minute spent with the plow out of the ground, or re-plowing ground that had already been plowed was a waste not only of time, but of fuel. Wasted time and wasted fuel means wasted money.

Efficiency isn’t always flashy. It was fun to constantly make turns, to raise and lower the plow. It was more mentally engaging. But at the end of the day, it was a waste.

The same is true for your leadership. Efficiency isn’t always flashy. There is something you’re doing right now that could either 1) be accomplished better by someone else or 2) be finished faster if you spent less time with the plow out of the ground.

Maybe it’s how you plan for events, or the way you train those you lead.

Maybe you’re lack of efficiency is in doing something you’re actually not good at doing.

For me, it’s graphic design. I enjoy the mental challenge of design, but it tends to be a black hole in my schedule. I can create something simple and effective in 5-10 minutes, and then spend 3 hours adding subtle differences that I find fascinating, but most people will never notice.

So efficiency means limiting the time I allow myself to spend on it, or even trusting someone else to do it completely. It’s exciting to try 7 different shades of a color. It’s mundane to move on.

So the question becomes: Are you willing to endure the mundane to increase efficiency? What do you need to cut or limit (or bring someone alongside) to maximize your gifting? What are you waiting for?

Three Online Leadership Workshop Insights

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Last week, I did an online training for my student leadership team. It was something I talked about for two Thursdays in a row (here and here). So I thought I would finish this mini series with three key insights about our time together.

  1. Time invested in training is a win. There was something about getting a group of six students on a call, fostering discussion and thought, and helping them work through some servant leadership concepts. Just as a reminder, as I’ve established this team this semester, one of my biggest regrets was not having a training of some sort, so our time together last week was well worth it!
  2. Working through leadership concepts is a win. The framework for our training was simple: the three questions. While I don’t think the three questions are a magical framework, they provide a common language to put us all on the same path moving forward. And that’s the point. We were able to talk through what answering the questions may look like in our “old” (in person) format, and what it might look like in our online meetings.
  3. Nothing beats in person connection, but online training works. At the end of the day, our student ministry Zoom call was better last night because of the time our student leaders spent together on Thursday. We set one specific action step, which most of them followed through, and their influence and engagement last night was felt.

So, let me ask you a simple question: What are you doing to train and develop student leaders right now? You may not have the structure or infrastructure to have an online training, but you can connect with students who show potential. We have an incredible opportunity to make the most of time for at least another month. What can you do to train leaders?

And for what it’s worth, I would be thrilled to talk through some options if you need a sounding board. I’m here for you because I want you to expand your leadership influence. You can do this, now do it.

Train Student Leaders

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Last week I shared a couple thoughts I had about developing student leaders during this unprecedented experience. Today, I’m executing one of those ideas.

I’m doing an online leadership workshop for my small group of student leaders. Just to recap: they applied to be on the team in January, and we started meeting twice a week: a follow up to our midweek program (about 10 minutes max), and each Sunday before small groups for prayer.

The follow up meetings are something I’ve done (and valued) in the past, but as we got a few weeks into the process, I realized the question I was asking had no real frame of reference with this group. So today I’m teaching the 3 questions over a zoom call.

I’m a little apprehensive about the delivery method. Teaching to a computer screen, even if I can see everyone else, still feels like I’m talking to myself. The content is going to be pretty simple, and I’ve taught this multiple times before (not to mention blogging about it), but again, the delivery is going to be most interesting.

At the end of the day, my biggest goal is to introduce these students to some shared language. If we can all get on the same page and move forward with it, then it will be interesting to see where we go from here.

So, what are you doing to train student leaders? If you were going to set up a Zoom call and do an online leadership workshop/training, how would you approach it? What are you waiting for?

Even if you don’t work with student leaders, how can you gather and train those you influence in the coming days?

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