Do you remember being a child and watching clouds, trying to imagine what shape they’re making?
“Ooh, there’s a lion.”
“Whoa, look at the mountain!”
“Hey, that looks like a centaur attacking a cat.”
As a parent, I thoroughly enjoy hearing my girls talk about what a cloud looks like, and then listening as the other one tries to find it. The truth is, just because one daughter thinks it looks like an animal, the other one can think it looks like food, and neither can be wrong.
The difference is perspective. Each girl looks at the same thing and see something different.
The same is true in leadership, and especially in developing student leaders. Perspective makes all the difference. There are teenagers I watch grow and develop and see one thing, while someone else sees something different. One person’s frustration is another person’s compassion.
When we set out to develop student leaders, we have to understand something from the get go: every student has the potential to lead. Let me say that again.
Every student has the potential to lead.
The challenge for us, though, is viewing a student with the right perspective. Some students are natural up front leaders. Their peers naturally look to them, respond to them, and follow them. But what about the student in the background? Are they chopped liver?
My compassion point is not for the up front personality, but for the behind the scenes student. If I can find a student who loves to serve, but does not desire credit for serving, then my heart starts pumping. I know if I can teach that student not only to serve, but to find someone like them and train them to do the same thing, a movement will start.
Now, my compassion for the behind the scenes student does not mean I neglect the up front natural leader. I develop both, but approach each with a different perspective.
Today, what perspective shift do you need in your life? If you’re a youth leader, what is your natural compassion point? How does that influence your actions? What change can you make today?
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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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. (Click here for part 1 and part 2.)
When you interact with leaders, you begin to see a common thread among some–I cannot ask for help because it will make me look weak. Or, for a few others, the mindset seems to be “Why ask someone else when I can do this better than they can?” Still others view asking for help as a sign of weakness, or worse, and admission of being incapable of accomplishing a task.
I have written about this idea several times, but it bears repeating. So, pay attention:
You will never grow your leadership influence if you never ask for help.
Sure, you have a specific set of skills. Sure, you are good at what you do. Sure, you enjoy what you do. But if you never allow the people around you to step up, to serve, and to grow, before long you will either have no one left, or the only people left will be people who expect everything to be done for them.
Think of it this way: if I can do something at 90% efficiency and I pass it off to a student, they might be able to do it at 75% efficiency at the beginning. But over time, if that something turns into a passion for them, they will likely move to 95% efficiency, or higher.
Just because you can do something does not mean you’re the only person who can do it. Yes, you need to find the two or three things only you can do and embrace them, but ask for help with the rest!
What are you holding onto today that needs to be let go?
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