The Best Mindset for Training

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Do you ever think of something you wish you had said, only it was after the fact?

A few weeks back I hosted a youth worker’s meeting (one of only a couple I’ve done since starting). In my intro to the meeting I made a statement along the lines that I realized I had done a poor job training them.

Then one of the leaders asked, jokingly, “Do you think we’re doing a bad job?”

Again, let me emphasize I know this leader’s heart, and know it wasn’t aggressive, but meant to be funny. But still, it made me think. So, here’s my response, three weeks later.

I want to train to maximize, not correct.

At the end of the day, everyone has bad habits in need of correction. But, more than correction, training provides a way forward. When I’m able to help my adults steps forward and become better, stronger, more equipped leaders, then we both win.

Let’s put this another way. A fire extinguisher is not the best way to fight (correct) a grease fire. The best way to fight a grease fire is to implement proper protocols (training) to keep the grease from catching fire to begin with.

Or, let’s go agricultural (because that’s what I do). Good grazing keeps cattle in the pasture way better than good fences. So, when you do the work on the front end to have the best possible grazing, you spend less time on the back end chasing cattle.

It’s the difference between being reactive and proactive. Reactive people spend all their time reacting to what’s happening. Proactive people work to change the outcome from the beginning.

The same is true for student leaders. If I can train them to influence a room, then we make way more progress than if I simply spend my time trying to correct everything they’re doing wrong.

So do you spend more time helping those you lead put out grease fires, or teaching them how to prevent them in the first place?

2 Overlooked Programming Elements

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We all live in a time crunch. In the church world, we have to finish on time, every time. I want to respect people’s time, so my ability to finish when I say I’m going to finish is a reflection on me. And I know that ultimately if I cannot end when I’m supposed to end, people will stop participating.

I’m still not a master of program and event time management, but I’ve found two things that have helped me be more mindful of our end time.

  1. Prepare before. One of the places where I find it easiest to lose track of time is while I’m teaching/preaching. I love teaching, so time flies for me. But at some point a 75 minute message just isn’t going to cut it. So that’s where my preparation plays the most significant role. The more time I put into preparing and arranging my thoughts, planning illustrations and examples, the more I’m able to manage the time crunch. The same is true of games. If I prepare/practice a game or activity beforehand, I have a better sense of how it will go. Again, I’m not as good at this as I should be, but I’m working on it.
  2. Start on time. This may seem like a “no duh” statement, but is it really? If I have 60 minutes with a group of kids and start 5 minutes late, guess what? I no longer have 60 minutes, I have 55. Starting on time literally saves time.

Why does this matter? Because ultimately, how we start matters. I hosted a meeting a few weeks back and I totally fumbled the beginning, starting late, not being prepared. The result was an okay meeting, but one that went too long. When we reign in the start, we allow ourselves to set the pace for what our time together is going to look like.

What about you, in your experience, what’s the biggest cause of perpetual tardiness? What area do you have to intentionally reign in to help you build credibility with your word? What struggles do you face in this area?

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.

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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