3 Ongoing Conversations for Growth

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Have you ever driven somewhere only to think back on the journey and realize you had stopped paying attention? I hate to admit this, but one time on a trip I realized I didn’t remember driving through a town (sleep may have played a part, but it was a small town). I immediately pulled over and got out in an effort to wake myself up.

As I lead, there are three conversations I have with myself on a regular basis. They serve as my “get out and wake up” questions. I’m just over a year into my new position, and these questions continue to help me work through some of the changes we need to make. These are not the only conversations taking place, but they are key to moving forward.

  1. Where are we? It’s very difficult to do anything with success without knowing your starting point. Your starting point is where you are now. Learn to assess and discern where the ministry stands in relationship to the church, the leadership, the age and maturity of the group, the adults who are invested, and the history of how the ministry got to where it is. Trying to ask and answer the next questions are pointless without knowing your starting point. It would be like trying to hit a bullseye on a target that doesn’t exist—you have to have the space around the bullseye to know where to aim.
  2. Where can we be three years down the road? The reality in ministry, especially in youth ministry, is the landscape can change drastically in three years. By beginning to paint the picture of what can be down the road, you help clarify the changes that need to take place to get there. There’s also a tension in three years. Three years can feel like an eternity in youth ministry, but keep in mind you are moving forward. Sometimes you will get there before the three years, but if you can get there in a year, you’re not dreaming big enough.
  3. What steps get us there? Finally, once you start to establish the beginning and the goal, you get to fill in the middle. What changes do you start making now to help you get to the place you want to be? You don’t have to be there tomorrow, but you need to start taking steps toward your goal.

The bottom line when leading a ministry is relationships. None of these changes take place in a vacuum. Spend time building relationships and bringing others into the conversation. Genuinely listen to their input, and be willing to admit your own inadequacy in assessing. Get to know your leaders, your students, and your leadership. Continue to build a team and cast a strong vision. Seek out the Lord consistently, and listen to His guidance, and watch what God does through your ministry!

Building Trust

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One of the joys of leadership is bringing new people alongside and letting them lead. One of the risks in leadership is deciphering how much rope a new person should be given.

So, how do we decide how much freedom to give a new person? Easy – relationships.

Occasionally, as leaders, we have to trust someone whom we do not know to step up and lead. One year ago I was hired by a church to come in and lead the student ministry. Our relationship was starting essentially from scratch, and so there was a built in level of trust that was necessary for me to start my job.

But the reality was (and continues to be), trust is built through relationships. As I have (hopefully) shown myself to be a trustworthy leader, I benefit from more and more responsibility.

The same is true as I’ve brought on new people to lead in the student ministry here. As we’ve gotten to know each other better, I’m learning what I can and cannot give away.

But it all starts with relationship.

This is both the most challenging and most rewarding part of leadership, because at the end of the day if we are not building relationships with other people, we have no leadership influence.

Relationships are messy. They take time. They rarely have easy answers. Everyone is unique, no matter how much they remind of us people from our past. But relationships unlock potential.

As a leader, if you are interested in growing your influence, continually build relationships. Be careful not to give too much rope, but at the same time, you’ll be amazed at how high capacity people have a high desire to serve. In other words, if you never give away responsibility, you run the risk of losing your best people.

So, what relationships do you need to work on this week? Maybe it’s building trust with new team members. Maybe it’s checking in with consistent leaders. Maybe it’s pouring into someone who is feeling empty. Maybe it’s have a conversation to realize someone is feeling empty.

Whatever step you need to take to further a relationship, do it today!

Baby Steps

Baby Steps

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I’m a terrible parent.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve felt this way for a while, but it feels nice to be able to say it.

When our first child was still an infant, I distinctly remember a conversation with my wife. As our daughter was learning to take her first steps, I mourned the mobility that was looming ahead. Gone were the days of her being only where we led her. Coming soon were the days where we had to chase and keep up with her. And boy did those days come.

Granted, this conversation was tongue in cheek, but the sentiment was there. Those first few steps marked the end of an era.

Developing student leaders is a similar experience. As we teach students to influence a room, we are teaching them to take baby steps. There are times they are more than capable of accomplishing a goal by themselves, but they lean on our experience or expertise.

Sometimes these baby steps, however, are a little more difficult. And that’s okay. Everyone has to struggle at first. The things that come second nature to us, like including people in our projects, are an appropriately larger chore for a student who is just experiencing leadership.

The problem comes, however, when they never learn to walk on their own. Our leadership reaches the maximum potential when those around us discover their maximum potential.

One word from my current experience. As I’m teaching a new group of student leaders and trying to help them exert their influence, we are missing a key element. We have not had a chance for me to teach them the 3 questions, and I’m feeling it.

In case you’re not familiar, the three questions (for which this blog is named), serve as a framework to help students (and adults) look for and pursue opportunities to influence the room. The questions don’t make someone a leader, but they serve as a great place to start raising awareness of leadership opportunities. Check them out here. It’s always good to be reminded.

When “No” is the Best Answer

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I think I’m a bit of a unicorn. Why? Because my cheesy pickup line effectiveness is 100%. In other words, the woman to whom I’m married, fell in love with my clever charm and wit from the beginning.

Okay, maybe not. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m 1 for 1.

Rejection hurts. I may not have experienced rejection as part of my only serious romantic relationship, but I’ve been told no many times.

One summer, as I was preparing for camp, I asked ten different women to go as a sponsor, and every single one said no. We were in desperate need, and I felt helpless.

Again, let me say, rejection hurts. Rejection demeans and beats down. Rejection makes us doubt our purpose and mission.

And if you’re like me, the fear of rejection paralyzes you.

I will put off asking a question because I’m afraid the answer will be no, when in reality the longer I wait the more likely the answer will be no. Can you say self-fulfilling prophecy?

One of the things I’m learning currently, yet still struggling to put into practice, is that people are willing to help. It’s just a matter of finding the right person to help.

Sometimes a no is exactly the right answer.

That’s why, as leaders, we have to get comfortable with the answer no. I would rather have an honest “no” than a fake or resentful “yes”. Because when I find that “yes”, they’re going to go above and beyond.

When we learn to push past the fear of rejection and continually work the three questions, our leadership will continue to grow.

How about you? How are you at asking for help or involvement? Are you willing to face rejection for the sake of growth? Is anything holding you back?

Is This the Worst Student Leadership Mistake?

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What do you do when you have a student who shows great leadership potential?

Over the course of my ministry experience I’ve had a few students who seem to be a step ahead of their peers when it comes to reading and understanding a room. They have an intuition about them that makes them appear more mature and capable than everyone else.

So, it only makes sense to give them more and more responsibility, right? I mean, we want to develop student leaders. That’s kind of the point of what I write about here at 3QL.

Let me offer one caveat. And it’s one that is still fresh in my mind.

I never want to crush a potential leader’s spirit. I desperately try to avoid adding too much to their burden, but when a student has a high capacity, I find myself wrestling with this.

That’s why I’ve started reminding myself of the following thought.

Give students student leadership opportunities, not adult leadership opportunities.

If you want someone to feel the weight and worry of leadership, give a teenager the load you would expect from an adult. I’m not saying some teenagers cannot handle such responsibility, but they have the rest of their lives to be adults.

Put in the effort to help a student find appropriate levels of challenge for where they are. I want to avoid expecting a 14 year old, who shows incredible capacity for influence, to carry the load I would ask a 34 year old to carry. No one wins in that situation.

Instead, I want to help that 14 year explore leadership in appropriate avenues.

Stretch their thinking? Of course.

Challenge their abilities? Sure.

Help them grow their leadership influence? Absolutely.

But if I ask them to start adulting, they will burn out and I will give up.

So, how are you at this? Are you providing high capacity students with student leadership opportunities?

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