The Last Little Bit

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I am very excited about what’s coming up in April. Last year I did a series I called “Lessons from the Farm”, and starting next week, I am going to revive the series with new posts and leadership lessons.

But first, let’s talk about pushing through.

Last summer my wife and I bought a house just outside the city limits, down a country road. It sounds more majestic than it really is. We live about 1/2 mile off a paved road, but almost all of it is either caliche or some kind of gravel. The last 50 yards, however, is straight dirt.

There are benefits to living outside of town, but there’s also one draw back I was reminded of this week: dirt plus water equals mud.

We have gotten somewhere north of 2 inches of rain this week. My yard is greening up nicely. My trees are starting to show signs of growth. But my road is a mess.

I think this happens in leadership, too. We can have things around us going well: our team is clicking, our projects/events are rocking, and our communication is top notch, but there always seems to be the last 50 yards of mess.

Part of this is natural. Rain plus dirt equals mud. But vegetation plus moisture equals growth. A muddy road (and filthy vehicle) mean growth is coming.

Part of the mess, however, is because of a choice. Someone chose to stop putting caliche down 50 yards before my driveway. There was a choice made to stop at a certain point, and I live with the results.

So, let me ask you this today: what steps have you taken to offset the 50 yards of mess in your life?

In other words, are you content simply living with chaos in one area because you’re seeing growth in others?

Or, are you willing to address the chaos in the hopes of being able to enjoy the success?

Communicating Expectations Well

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One of the things I have most enjoyed about blogging over the past year has been the lessons I have learned and processed through my writing. Almost a year ago, I broke an unwritten rule I have about not writing about an idea or topic that recently took place when I wrote about communicating expectations.

The truth is, that post came directly out of a lesson I learned while on our annual Spring Break trip. You can click the link above to read the full post, but the short version was I got frustrated because my adult leaders were not following the schedule I had worked up, but I had never given them a copy of the schedule. So, in reality, I was frustrated with myself, not with the incredible team of volunteers who serve in the youth ministry.

As I am spending this week getting ready for the same trip, I am keeping in the forefront of my mind: communicate expectations well.

I believe this is a foundational leadership principle for my personal journey. If those who serve with me do not know what I expect, how can I realistically hold them to those expectations?

Plus, I can be a rather intense person, so learning to write down and communicate those expectations helps me manage them to a more realistic level. In other words, my unspoken expectations are often unrealistic expectations.

So, I have two questions for you today.

  1. Do you struggle with communicating expectations? If I was to ask the people you lead what you expected of them, would their answer line up with your answer?
  2. On a grander scale, what leadership lesson have you learned in the last year and what changes are you making as a result?

Just a side note to finish today: this is why I am so passionate about teaching the 3 questions to student leaders. I can teach a simple concept, and we are then on the same page moving forward!

Guest Post: Don’t Carry the Load Alone

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I’m turning over a new leaf today on the blog with the intent of making guest posts a regular part of the rotation. Today’s guest post is from a good friend–Ryan Connel.

Student ministry has been my pursuit for 20+ years.  I love it!  It takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions.  You can go from the thrill of seeing students understand what Christ did for them, committing their life to Him, to the pain that every day life can bring.  Then there are all the emotions that play out in between those extremes.

Back in the day this time of year would bring about a lot of stress for me as we were in the middle of summer camp & mission trip prep.  One of the reasons it would stress me so is because I wondered if we would have enough students to make a trip work.  I remember hours spent to get speakers, worship teams, small group leaders, cooks, & on down the list, then coming down to the last week & having very few students signed up.  There is a conversation for another time about casting a vision for what you are planning.  But for our purposes today I would like to share one thing that changed our involvement on trips.

As the event came together I would eventually lay out a signup sheet, usually a couple of months out from the trip.  Weekly, I would announce the event to get student involved & excited.  Yet I would walk over to the signup sheet & only have a handful of diehard students signed up.  In my weakness as a leader, I had failed to really connect the students into what we were doing.  At some point along the way I made the choice to call students in the weeks leading up to an event & invite them to come join us.  It was definitely more effective, but I’m betting you can already hear what the first question was on the other side of the phone, “Who else is going?”  I always thought that was a funny question & understood to a point why they would ask it, but why the need to have other students validate if the event was worth while.

My answer finally came in a book that changed a lot for me.  It is called “Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries.  Why I missed this for so long, I don’t know, but I’m thankful for the incredible resources we have our disposal now days.  One of the things I remember him mentioning is how he would get his leadership students to make phone calls when leading up to events.  I gave it a try a few years back & it changed so much for us.  The first thing I noticed is the excitement in my leadership students.  It meant a ton to them to be asked to be involved in the preparation.  I also noticed that they were able to connect in more students than I ever would have thought of or had contact information for.  There was also an excitement that came from the leadership students sharing their excitement, that built the excitement of those being invited, so those being invited made things more exciting because the leaders could see the fruit of their labors, which eventually lead into a life changing event for many students.

The lesson I learned was to stop trying to carry the responsibility to get students involved by myself, because the reality is I won’t always be around & I’m limited in my connections.  God has gifted us with students that want to & should be used for the kingdom, so why not use them & grow them even in something so simple.  The other important lesson was that ministry isn’t a sit back & wait responsibility.  It is engaging at all levels.  So who are the students you can involve in your next event?

Interested in reading Sustainable Youth Ministry? Pick up a copy today!

 

6 Tips to Implement the 3 Questions

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Let’s zoom in on local church ministry today. How can you use the 3 questions to help develop student leaders? (Not sure what the 3 Questions are? Click here to read more.)

  1. Teach them to ask the 3 questions. Make the 3 questions part of your language. Repeat each question individually, challenging them to incorporate the questions into how they approach situations. Do not neglect the repetition it takes to change mindsets, because it takes a lot of repetition.
  2. Give them opportunities to put the questions into practice. Go one step further by highlighting different opportunities they might have to influence a room. Walk with them through the process, pointing out the opportunities they missed or how they naturally worked through the process. Early on, you will find some who work through the questions naturally, and others who struggle. That’s okay, everybody is here to learn, including you.
  3. Highlight the positive. When you see a student answering the 3 questions, celebrate it! As you celebrate more and more, you will see more and more students buy into the concepts. Create a culture, at the beginning, where positive reinforcement reigns.
  4. Evaluate Regularly. If you want your students to put the 3 Questions into practice, find a time to regularly evaluate. For my ministry context, I send out a reminder text prior to our mid-week service, and we sit down following the service to share how we answered the 3 questions. The students know what’s coming, and they know they’re going to be asked how they answered the 3 questions.
  5. Personally commit to becoming a better leader. As a leader, you will not be able to lead someone to accomplish what you’re not pursuing yourself, so make the 3 questions part of what you do on a regular basis. Build them into your vocabulary. Evaluate situations you encounter with the 3 questions. As you learn the ins and outs of the 3 questions, you’ll be able to highlight those ins and outs with your students and help them along the way.
  6. Never forget the why. The 3 questions are a tool to teach and implement servant leadership. Why do we implement servant leadership? Because the greatest example we hold as Christians was quite possibly the greatest servant leader to ever live. I want to teach students (and adults) to answer the 3 questions so they can influence the world for Christ.