What’s Your Rhythm?

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I served at my last church for almost 7 years. In addition to the ministry I was able to lead and participate in, one of the things I am most grateful for during my time was the unofficial mentoring relationships I was able to establish.

In that unofficial mentoring, one of the things I picked up was the value of understanding rhythm. You can read a small part of that thought, geared specifically to Youth Ministers, over at the Horizon Youth Ministry blog. But when it comes to rhythms, I still have so much to learn!

One of the things I am benefitting from is journaling. In January of 2019 I began practicing The Miracle Morning as described by Hal Elrod, and it’s been a great practice for me. One of the elements is journaling. So, almost every morning, I journal. Twice.

The first is a “One Line a Day, 5 Year” Journal. This means, I write a sentence or two about that day. And now that I’m on my 2nd year, I have a built in reminder of major life events from the past 2 years, as well as perspective on things that seem big in the moment, but I would have completely forgotten. I make a point to make up for missed days on this, so I don’t have a blank day for the past 22 months.

The second, is an online journal with a feature that will send me my post from the last year, if I wrote on that day. I’m a little less rigid with this one, but the two-three paragraphs make for great reminders.

Today, I benefitted from my one line a day journal. I read what I wrote last year, and immediately it gave me some perspective on the rhythm I’m in for this time of year. And I feel refreshed (and perplexed) by it.

How are you embracing rhythms? What are the natural ebbs and flows of your life, and are you leaning into them? Do you naturally notice those rhythms, or do you (like me) need help being reminded?

What’s Your Focus?

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Have you ever set a goal and accomplished it?

I set a goal to finish 36 books in 2019, and I did. That came after setting a goal in 2018 to finish a number of books (I don’t remember how many), and not reaching it. Even the fact I don’t remember the number from 2018 but do remember the number in 2019 tells you something.

My focus shifted. I no longer wanted to just have a goal, I wanted to accomplish my goal.

So I made a spreadsheet at the beginning of 2019 and recorded the books I finished. Every time I finished one, I would add it to my last, and update my count at the bottom of the page. And something amazing happened. I met my goal.

It’s actually not that surprising that I met a goal as I was tracking it consistently. It makes sense to most of us. Why?

Because we move toward our focus.

Focus is the difference between setting a goal and achieving a goal.

And the same is true for developing student leaders. If we don’t have a focus to guide them towards, then how are we helping them grow? It’s the difference between some books and 36 books.

Spend some time today narrowing your focus. Decide what you want students to aim for, and how you can help them hit that target. Then, put the target out there and continually remind them it’s there.

Ultimately, if we want to develop student (and adult) leaders, focus is the key.

What’s one way to do that? Implement the three questions and continually ask how they’re answering them. Over time, they will start to see opportunities and meet them instinctually.

What If Obedience Matters Most?

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God didn’t go looking for leaders. God looked for obedient people whom he then formed into leaders.

Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership

As part of my daily startup routine when I get into the office, I read part of a book. For someone like me who is not a natural reader, it’s been a nice discipline to try to develop.

For a good portion of 2020, I spent time reading through Gene Wilkes’ book Jesus on Leadership. And it was a great read.

This morning I was going back over my notes (another discipline I’m trying to develop), and found the quote above.

I’ve written about obedience over skill before, but I think Wilkes’ quote here is what trips up so many people as they seek to develop leaders, or even to develop as a leader themselves.

We set an imaginary bar someone must reach, and until they do so, we decide they (or we) don’t qualify.

But what if we change the bar for leadership?

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t their charm or their ability to work the crowd? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t their ability to rally a group of people for a cause? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t even their ability to connect with people one on one? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader is obedience to God? Someone who is willing to be obedient to what God is calling them to do. Someone who isn’t looking for the next ladder to climb or spotlight to stand in, but instead someone in tune with how God is moving in their lives. (Sometimes that movement includes a ladder, or a spotlight, or a brook.)

What’s your criteria for developing leaders? What are you looking for in students as you try to decide who may be able to take the next step?

What’s your criteria for yourself as a leader? When you don’t see the results you want in your own life, what becomes your baseline?

Remember, throughout scripture, God uses ordinary people who practiced obedience. Let’s aim for that today.

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?

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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