Check It Out: Overcoming Job Shaming

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How old were you when you got your first job? How old were/are/will your children when they got their first job? Is there a difference?

I think most people my age grew up watching the Cosby show, so when I saw this article talking about one of the characters and what he’s up to now, I was intrigued.

Tim Elmore starts his article like this:

I’m not sure if you caught it, but actor Geoffrey Owens recently appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” after an incident that took place in New York. You might remember Owens as the actor known for his comedic role as Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show, between 1985 and 1992.

Now, if you’re familiar with Elmore, you know he works extensively with teenagers, so his take takes a practical twist for those of us in student ministry. If you have time, I’d strongly urge you to click over and read the article. Also, if you have a soft spot for Elvin, check it out too.

Substance vs Surface

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Where I live in Texas we have mesquite trees. They are everywhere. I have a few around my house that have been alive undoubtedly for decades.

Years ago, I spent a a month or so trying to grub mesquite trees. The trick, however, was you had to get down into the root system to truly get rid of them. Generally about 1 foot under the surface, there would be a bulb in the root system, and that was our target. If we could get the bulb, we could get the tree.

Our words should be the same way. As leaders, the things we say need to have roots, need to have substance.

Too many people get by in life by saying things that sound good but really have no substance. Or they say things that stand up until you think about what they’re actually saying, then you realize there is no root in their words.

Some people specialize in surface statements. They want to be quotable and tweet-able, but upon further thought, their statements have no root in truth or reality.

We, as leaders, should be different. Let your statements have root, let them carry weight.

Surface flatters someone for the sake of flattery, but substance points out and highlights the positives in their life.

Just like the mesquite trees that cannot be pushed over, I want what I say to the people around me to be filled with truth, with encouragement, and with love.

The truth is that regardless of what we say, our words have a lasting impact. I’m challenging you, as a leader and as a person in general, to let what you say mean something.

Surround Yourself with Honest People

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I geek out over data. I wouldn’t consider myself a full on nerd, but I am well on my way.

Personality profiles fall into the “data” sector for me. I have taken quite a few over the past few years, including the Myers-Briggs from for a 3rd time the other night (INFP for the 3rd time in 3 years).

I took one toward the end of summer last year that dealt with leading from my strengths (not strengths finder), and printed out the results. As I read through them, I was intrigued. I showed them to someone who had been working closely with me for the previous few months, and they said: “You know, I think these results are more honest than you would be with yourself.”

Now, I wasn’t being called a liar, but instead having it pointed out there were some deep truths in the lines of the report.

Personality tests aside, I want to surround myself with people who will, in a loving way, be honest with me. I want someone who will tell me the things they think I do not want to hear.

I had a similar conversation recently, where as I was talking with someone I trust, they felt the freedom to ask a probing question about a statement I had made, and then proceeded to explore the implications.

Now, there’s a difference between someone coming at you with spears to point out faults, and someone who genuinely wants the best for you being honest with you. Proverbs puts it this way: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV)

The bottom line is this: surround yourself with people who feel the freedom to be honest with you. If you want to grow, you need someone who can see the food stuck in your beard, so to speak. Guard yourself as to who it may be, but when you find someone like that, embrace it and grow.

Leaders Step Up

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Leadership in itself can be a stick situation. The temptation is to always think someone else is going to step up, but a strong leader is able to realize when the situation calls for someone to step up who wouldn’t normally be expected to do so.

Think of it like this: when i was a freshman in high school, i was one of the oldest kids in the ministry. As a result, my attitude toward how old a teenager has to be to lead has been altered.

The temptation in youth ministry is to wait until a student is a junior or a senior to give them leadership responsibilities, because they’re older and more mature by that time. And that makes sense.

For me, however, I want a kid who is willing to step up and make a difference, regardless of age. Sometimes this means we have 8th graders on our leadership team, other times it means we have mostly high school.

Part of my role, as a leader who seeks to develop other leaders, leads me to encourage younger students to step up to a role they may not think they fit.

The same idea applies to you: you are going to be presented with opportunities to step into a position for which you may not think you are ready. Too often, however, leadership opportunities arise because we are willing, not because we are ready.

Are you willing to step up? What situation are you facing that feels like you’re on the edge of a cliff trying to build the courage to jump? What’s holding you back? What fear do you need to give up? Why have you not given your fear up yet?

You Aren’t the Mission

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A few weeks ago I was talking to a mentor who reads one book every two weeks. He mentioned something about having started a book several time but never getting into it, and I got curious. “Why not just move on to the next one” I asked. His answer? He said he was a little OCD about reading books.

As I pondered his response, I realized s omething about myself: I am a little ADD when it comes to reading books. I have probably 20 books I have started the past two years, but very few finished books (7 for the year, just short of my January goal of 24).

But occasionally, I find a book I really enjoy. Recently, it’s been Carey Nieuwhof’s new book: Didn’t See It Coming. As I was pushing myself yesterday to finish the book so I could put it on my list, I came across this quote:

“You aren’t the mission. Your job is to point people to the mission–a mission worth spending a major chunk of their lives working toward.” – Carey Nieuwhof, Didn’t See It Coming

As my leadership influence grows, I have faced a temptation to confuse the mission. I am not the mission. I point people to the mission. And as a Christian, the mission undoubtedly deserves my life.

My goal in raising up students who understand servant leadership is not so they will go off and talk about how great I am (which most of them certainly won’t), but that they will go off and serve God through servant leadership.

My goal in equipping and empowering adult volunteers is not so they will follow me, but so they will embrace servant leadership and make an impact in the lives of students around them.

I am not the mission. My success is not the mission. And the same is true for you.

Take some time today, either a quick moment or an elongated moment, and re-center yourself. Ask yourself: what is my mission? Have I taken the focus off what it should be, or am I still focusing on what I should?

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