Tag: passion

The Leadership Current

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I was scrolling through Facebook this weekend and saw a post that made me raise my eyebrows. It was a picture of a group of seniors and the statement was something along the lines of “these seniors are ready to be the leaders of their school.”

I think the sentiment behind the posting of the photo was right, but I would push back a little.

Leadership doesn’t show up when the title shows up. Leadership runs like a current beneath the surface, and a title helps bring the current to the surface.

Those students aren’t leaders because they are seniors in high school. They are seniors in high school. Granted, being a senior puts you in positions to lead. Being a senior gives you a level of gravitas to step up and lead. Being a senior allows you the potential to have more influence. But being alive longer (than younger students) doesn’t automatically mean you’re a leader. It just means you’ve been alive longer.

Maybe what I push back on the most is the idea that you have to be a senior to lead. I didn’t believe that when I was in school. In fact, I was not taught that. I was taught the opposite.

At my home church, starting my freshman year, we had a vacancy of leadership, so I found ways to step up. I didn’t wait to have the title. I was given the opportunity and did the best I could.

I’ve seen this play out in the lives of other students. The strongest leaders are the ones who, in the absence of leadership, step up. Perpetuating the thought that “now you’re a senior, you’re a leader” communicates to juniors that they have not yet arrived. Or that a freshman doesn’t stand a chance.

Here’s what I would say: senior year provides a sense of urgency to lead, and that’s completely natural. But, if we aren’t teaching students to step up and lead as middle school students, as freshmen or sophomores or juniors, then when the title of senior arrives, they will be in a sink or swim situation.

If you work with students, find ways to provide opportunities for them to expand their leadership influence. Let’s help students learn to take a stand regardless of their age. Then, when they become seniors, they will have been trained to make the most of their title.

But if you are alive, let me challenge you: If you’re waiting for your “senior year” (literally or figuratively), stop waiting and find a way to step up and lead today.

Lessons From the Farm: Traditions

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We are continuing our Lessons from the Farm series this week. If you’ve missed any of the posts, or want a refresher from years past, please click around catch up!

Growing up I spent countless hours on tractors. When plowing, I would make “rounds” which meant driving down one side of a terrace and back on the others side. It truly didn’t matter which way I went, but I generally went in a counter-clockwise direction. I never knew why, it was just what felt more natural.

Then one day I discovered why.

There was an old implement in one of the fields. I guess it was more alongside one of the fields. I had never used it, but it had always been there.

One day I asked my dad about it. He told me it was called a “one way” and it was what they used to plow when he was growing up.

Care to guess why it’s called a one way? Because it could only make the rounds one direction.

Care to guess what direction? Counter clockwise.

Can you see where this is going? I was living out a reality that was established by an implement decades before I ever existed. My dad grew up driving a tractor with a one-way, which trained him to go a certain direction. In turn, when I was old enough to plow, my dad taught me the same way he knew and had been doing for decades.

It was tradition.

Tradition always starts somewhere, and usually for a good reason. Tradition often times, however, moves into the realm of “does it really matter” after a little while. The tractors and implements we were using were mechanically ambidextrous, but our tradition-driven habits were not.

As you lead, you will encounter traditions and people who are unwilling to change because of tradition. Sometimes, the tradition is valid. Sometimes, the tradition exists because it’s what is comfortable and known, but the tradition itself is simply strange.

Your role, as a leader, is to help navigate the traditions. Find the good in traditions and maximize it. Find the bad in traditions and erase it.

But understand, traditions are hard wired into everything we do. Eventually, some traditions get so hard wired into our systems that we don’t realize the shortfall. But sometimes, knowing is half the battle.

One last thought: be sympathetic to traditions. Yes, sometimes you have to take a hatchet to a bizarre tradition, but that doesn’t negate the emotional connection.

Ultimately our job as leaders is to lead people, so we have to learn to navigate the emotions people feel when it comes to traditions. Lead with grace and understanding, but also lead with courage. The balance may be difficult, but it is definitely worth it.

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Grief and Joy

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I mentioned this last week, and still don’t think I’m fully ready for this, but here goes.

My father-in-law passed away on January 29. It was, for us, a long process, but in reality, a pretty quick progression. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in the esophagus and stomach, and passed away (according to my records) 365 days later.

At the memorial, he wanted an open mic. The morning of the service my wife asked me if I was going to share. Honestly, I had not considered sharing before that point. I thought about it, but really did not know what to say if I were to share.

The people who did share did an incredible job highlighting who he was as a man, father, brother, uncle, and friend. I could not have added anything to the service to make it better.

But after the open mic, it hit me. And since I blog and have a captive audience (you), I hope you will indulge me this morning.

With the passing of my father-in-law, I lost an advocate. Every birthday card he gave me was addressed to “No. 4 Son”, and he meant it. I was not a son-in-law. He saw me as part of the family.

As my wife and I were approaching our first anniversary of marriage, she was talking to him one day and made a statement to the effect of “You know, when Wes and I fight, I usually win most of the time” (time warped interpretation, but that was the gist of it). Andy replied as only a father can, “You know sweetie, sometimes it’s just easier for the husband to let the wife think she’s right.”

We celebrate our 15th anniversary this summer and there were many other times in our marriage where he stepped in for me, and I am forever grateful.

My thought is not necessarily about what I lost, although I may be losing quite a few more arguments from here on out. My thoughts today are about the kind of man who treated an outsider like family. Who trusted someone he did not raise to love and care deeply for his only daughter.

For me, as I reflect (because that’s what I do), I cannot help but ask myself 2 questions: 1) Am I willing to live up to that trust? I love my wife beyond what I ever thought possible, and am committed to continuing our journey together through the ups and downs. And 2) Am I willing to show that same level of trust when the day comes?

I usually like to end my posts each day with a nice little bow, but you know, today, I don’t have one. The grief we feel in mourning the loss of someone we love is deep. The joy we have in remembering his legacy is great. I think there’s room for both.

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.

2 Key Traits for Student Leaders

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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.

1. OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE

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.

2. WILLINGNESS TO SERVE

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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