You'll Figure it Out

You’ll Figure It Out

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Did you know I play bass guitar?

I got my first guitar in junior high and learned to play over the following few years. Who am I kidding, I’m still learning to play.

But for Christmas my senior year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. Ever a pragmatist, he decided to buy me a “real” bass so that when/if/when I decided to give up on it, since I was a guitar player, the bass would have a good resale value. That meant my first bass was a Fender Jazz Bass.

But there was something he didn’t expect: I’m a pack rat, so I never get rid of anything. So I kept my bass. I learned one 8 bar blues bass line that made me sound like I knew what I was doing, but never really had occasion to play bass.

Fast forward a couple years. I was serving at my first church as the youth minister. Even though I was in charge of youth, I helped with music where I could. Then, with the arrival of a new music minister, something changed.

Our new music minister was incredibly gifted musically, but had cut his teeth playing bass guitar. So, he started teaching me how to play. But his approach was different.

I generally have a pretty poor memory, but I’m pretty certain we never sat down for a formal “lesson”. It was always learning “on the fly”.

I still have a picture in my head of one morning. He was on guitar. I was on bass. It was the opening song for the morning. Right before he started playing, I remember telling him I didn’t know the song. And his words continue to ring true: you’ll figure it out.

And that’s what I had to do. Sink or swim. And I sank, a lot. Until I learned to swim.

Playing with him I learned to anticipate the changes, to play with the rhythm, to find the groove, and so much more.

His leadership approach is something I occasionally employ today. Sometimes the best tool for growth is immersion.

Does that mean it’s going to be perfect? Nope.

Does that means it’s going to be flawless? Nope.

Does that mean it’s going to be memorable? Very likely, one way or the other.

There is someone in your sphere of influence who needs an opportunity to sink or swim. There is someone you are leading who needs a challenge they feel they cannot meet.

So I have two questions for you today: 1) who is it? and 2) are you willing to step back for the sake of their growth?

Will vs Skill

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When it comes to developing student leaders (or leaders in general), What’s more important: willingness or skill?

Put another way, would you rather have someone who is incredibly skilled and arrogant, or someone who is incredibly willing and less skilled.

In my experience, willingness wins.

I would love to have people who are the absolute best at what they do in every role. But the truth is, I would much rather have someone who is humble and willing to grow because when that person develops their skill, we will accomplish infinitely more.

I can help a willing person grow in skill. I’ve seen it over time, especially in the realm of student ministry. I’ve seen students with a heart to make an impact, discover and strengthen a gift they have.

Very rarely have I seen an arrogant person go the other way. I don’t remember seeing anyone who has shown up believing they have arrived become a positive influence. When the task becomes more important than the heart, we miss the point.

There is someone in your life at the moment who is willing and simply needs someone to invest in them. Take some time today to look around and evaluate how you can help them grow.

The Best Reason to Step Up

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There’s something powerful when we ask someone to join us in leadership.

A few weeks back I had a student step up and serve in a way that almost no one noticed, but in the exact way I needed at the moment. It was unprompted and genuine–two of my favorite aspects of serving.

On the heels of that morning, I encouraged him to sign up for our worship team, and in return I got one of the best answers I’ve seen.

Our worship team (and leadership team) application was online this year. One of the questions read: “Why do you want to be on worship team? Put some thought into this.”

His response? “Because Wes asked me to.”

I’m still smiling. Here I was expecting a thoughtful response from anyone applying (I should know better, right?), and he tells it how it is. Simple. Understated. Truth.

I mentioned my struggle with this last week, but I regularly try to find the line between acknowledging what I see in a student and trying to coax out the potential I see in a student. A healthy conversation uses encouragement, an unhealthy conversation uses guilt.

One of those works in the long term. The other doesn’t.

This kid would likely never see himself as a leader. He would, especially at this point in his life, never acknowledge he has influence. But I saw something in him that morning, and encouraged him to pursue it. Now we are going to take steps together to help him grow.

A quick note: he unknowingly answered the first two questions of 3QL: what needs to be done and what can I do. Some kids get it. When they do, I want to continue to train them to build on what they do naturally, and then help them take the next step to ask the 3rd question: who can I get to help? That’s the power of the three questions. It gives a student a framework to follow to help them leverage their influence.

The same is true for us! The three questions help me leverage my influence to accomplish more. And I hope you would say the same thing!

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Real Time Thoughts on Student Leadership

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Back in January, I blogged about the process I was walking through to create a student leadership team at my church. You can follow the progression by starting here.

As we kick off the new school year, I’ve opened up applications again, and here are a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head. I hope they provide some thought and motivation for you to take a step in developing student leaders.

  1. Every kid who signed up in January, signed up again. I try not to base my value and worth on things like this because sometimes life or other transitions happen, but I’m excited the kids who started are planning to stick with it.
  2. Instead of going to kids whom I thought would benefit from what we’re doing, I encouraged our “alumni” to invite two people each. From there, we’ve added a couple more applicants, one of whom I’ve been hoping would join us. Side note, I wrestle with this concept. I think about how much an invitation to serve has meant to me over the course of my life, especially from adults who saw something in me. While at the same time, I’ve had kids to whom I’ve extended an invitation who only signed up out of obligation, and it did not end well. This is definitely a delicate balance, one which I haven’t completely figured out to this point.
  3. I went all online for the application this year. With inconsistencies tied to COVID, this was a great move, and something worth doing moving forward.
  4. I had one incoming 7th grader ask about joining us. In a normal year, our incoming 7th graders wouldn’t be promoted when applications are open, but that’s not the end of the world. I’m thrilled he wants to be part, and think he will make some good contributions down the road, but I ultimately decided January will be the on ramp for 7th graders, allowing them time to be part of the ministry. This may be too quick or too slow, but for the time, it’s what I’m sticking with.

What are you doing to develop student leaders?

Do you have a process for students to join in leadership? What does the process look like?

Or maybe you need to start somewhere. Let me challenge you to gather a few students who are interested in making a difference and equipping them to do so!

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Can Dissatisfaction Be a Good Thing?

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I’ve been reading through a John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” with a group of friends. In this week’s reading, we came across a line I thought was interesting.

“Dissatisfaction is a good one word definition for motivation.”

John Maxwell, 5 Levels of Leadership

Maxwell’s words resonated with me. I want to always be getting better. Last week I talked about Routines and Ruts. I think dissatisfaction provides the traction to get out of ruts in our lives. As we feel ourselves getting comfortable, often dissatisfaction proves to be the nudge we need to get out of a rut.

But, in our discussion yesterday, a friend asked a great question as a followup: how do you stay healthy in the midst of dissatisfaction? In other words, if we are dissatisfied all the time, don’t we eventually become someone people avoid?

I think, as leaders, we have to celebrate the wins. We have to learn to enjoy the moment. But in balance with a healthy sense of dissatisfaction.

A football team (do you remember football?) plays one game per week. A single win does not make a successful season, but can instead lay the foundation for growth and progress.

In High School, I never once had a coach come in the day after a win and say “good job guys, let’s take the week off after that one.” Instead, we celebrated the win in the moment, but remained focused to progress and grow.

The same is true for us as leaders, especially in ministry. We may remain dissatisfied, but until we learn to celebrate the victories along the way, growth will evade us. If we are always dissatisfied, though, we become jaded and our leadership influence takes a hit.

So where do you land on this spectrum? Is there something you need to celebrate? Is there some dissatisfaction that needs to start brewing? Take a leadership step this week.

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