How Do You Stay Sharp?

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Three months ago I started talking to a few friends about starting a book club of sorts. The idea was we would read through a book, and once a week we would have a zoom call to cover what we read and how it applied to our context.

For someone who doesn’t have just a great habit of reading, it was quite a challenge. But it was so much fun.

Then, we finished, and I stopped reading. It was as though I kind of hit the brakes on that discipline. Fast forward from the end of book club to last week, and I realized something:

I’m better when I’m filling my head with thoughts and ideas on purpose.

Now, I know this is true with scripture memory. In fact, one of my favorite to statements to make when teaching on the benefits of scripture memory is nothing impacts my day more than when I’m intentional about memorizing scripture. And it’s true.

But this is different. These are the down moments. When I’m home and done for the day and my mind starts to wander, if I’m not intentional about what I’ve been putting in, the results can be pretty scary.

So, in an effort to remain sharp, I’m trying to continually build the muscle of reading more. I want those moments to be filled on purpose, not on convenience.

In fact, I’m getting ready to start up another book club. And this time, I’m going to open it up. If you’d be interested in participating with me and a few others, email 3questionleadership@gmail.com and let me know. Our plan will be to finish up before the end of the year. Our book hasn’t been chosen, but will deal with something in the realm of leadership.

Answering Why Me?

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Why Me? Twice in the past couple of months I’ve gotten asked this question.

The first was as I was beginning to work through a leadership growth plan with a couple people, and the second was after offering an invitation for someone to serve.

And both times, the question caught me off guard. For someone who puts a lot of thought into most things, my answer both times was not super plotted out. In fact, both “asks” were almost instinctual.

But as I’ve thought about it, my answer boiled down to four elements:

  1. Opportunity – In both cases, there was an opportunity. For one, I wanted to walk through a leadership growth course, but decided I didn’t want to do it alone. For the other, we had been discussing them helping with students and a limited time opportunity opened up–something in which they could “dip their toes”, so to speak.
  2. Availability – Opportunities abound in life, so the next element was their availability. I felt fairly certain the first one would have the freedom to carve out some time in their schedule, and the second was similar. I didn’t ask people who had known conflicts.
  3. Personality – Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t walk up to random people offering these opportunities. Both were people who I thought could contribute and benefit from the opportunity. This element is huge!
  4. Willingness – This was the wildcard. Would they be willing to say yes? Ultimately, as a leader, we get met with plenty of no’s. But when someone agrees, celebration follows.

Here’s my takeaway: people want to feel included and important. They don’t want to be a convenient excuse. They want a reason.

And I stink at articulating this. Both of these people are people with whom I enjoy spending time. Both are great people. And at the end of the day, both have responded extremely well, and I hope have benefitted.

But when we ask people to join us or to contribute, be ready to give a reason why. Don’t look for warm bodies: instead look for reasons. What do you see in them that they may not see in themselves? How can you affirm them when they are asking the “why me?” question?

Who do you need to ask to help carry the load today? What are you waiting for?

So You Want to Be a Leader?

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Over the course of my leadership journey, especially the past four or five years, there are a few key principles I can pretty much hang my hat on. And I’ve written about them several times.

Providing students (and adults) a framework to start growing their leadership influence.

The Horizon of Possibility. Oh, and this one, and this one too.

Key traits for student leaders.

Learn from everything.

The Redundancy of Leadership.

Today, I’d like to revisit yet another thought. But first, if you only have time to read one post today, read this one.

Are you ready? This is going to be mind-numbingly simple or incredibly challenging.

Leaders show up.

That’s it. Very few people can positively influence a room by not being in it. If a place is better because we are not there, one of two things are true:

  1. Our level of influence is so great that even in your absence, people have been empowered and equipped to step up, connect, and lead.
  2. Our leadership influence is negative.

Outside of these two instances, if we are not present, we cannot lead. And I’ll be perfectly honest with you, the first one is extremely rare.

If leadership is influence, we have to be present to exert influence: Present in the lives of the people we lead and physically present in the rooms they are in.

I’m watching this play out all around me. If I want to influence something, I have to be part of it. I cannot watch, critique, bemoan, and stay at arm’s length and create any kind of change. But by jumping in, serving, listening, contributing, and listening some more, I can slowly start to build the relational credibility that allows me to grow my leadership influence.

But it only works if I show up.

Where do you need to show up today? Make your presence a priority.

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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Feeling Stuck? Break Out of Your Ruts

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What’s the difference between a routine and a rut?

Earlier this week, I shared about the rhythm of routines. You can read that post here.

If you’ve been reading 3QL posts for very long, you have probably picked up on a theme that’s running beneath the surface (and sometimes not even beneath). I’ve written previously about Routines vs Ruts, the Redundancy of Leadership, Redundancy (Again), and the Repetition Key, just to name a few.

Great leadership is not making a single decision in a single moment and moving on. Great leadership occurs with repetition over time. Great leaders put in the time to practice and develop and stretch their leadership muscles so those around them can practice and develop and stretch their leadership muscles.

That’s why I’m fascinated by routines. As I establish routines around me, it allows me to grow. But we know this in other parts of our life, right?

Exercise routines help us not lay in bed choosing what workout we are going to do.

Diet routines help us make healthy choices.

Driving routines help us make faster time.

Bed time routines help our children fall asleep faster. Hopefully.

So why not establish a few key leadership routines?

But the danger of a routine is it becomes a rut before we realize it. We lose the excitement. We lose the thrill. We start going through the motions. The routine becomes simply an item on our checklist that doesn’t receive the proper mental energy.

Routines open the doors for growth and progress. Ruts suck the life out of us, keeping us trapped in a predetermined path.

Why do you think people talk about “breaking ruts”, that’s because it takes intentional effort.

That intentional effort begins with naming the rut. Acknowledging it’s there and it’s not helping. Then, change the routine to break out of your rut.

What routines in your life have become ruts? What change do you need to make to break out of those ruts? A new routine? An alteration to the current routine?

Are you willing to make the change? Now go!

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