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!

It’s Okay to Mourn

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One of the things we’ve started doing at my church is sending out a daily devotional written by a variety of staff and members. Earlier this week, I wrote the following and thought I would share it here as well.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

I was a bit of a rambunctious child. As I grew up, I grew out of it, but one lady would always remind me of the trouble I would get into. She watched me when I was little (before starting school), and I affectionately have referred to her as Nanny ever since. Her health slowly started fading over the past few years, and a few weeks ago she passed away.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time pondering her loss. I know she’s excited to be in God’s presence, but that certainly doesn’t soften the sadness on my end. And I think my sadness is okay.

In this verse, Jesus calls those who mourn “blessed”. I think learning to mourn is part of what makes us who we are. But our focus is not on the mourning, but on the comfort we find.

What are you mourning in this season? Maybe you have lost a loved one. Maybe you’re mourning missed opportunities. Maybe you’re mourning a loss of stability. Maybe you’re mourning something secret. My prayer for you, and for me, is we continue to find comfort and rest in Christ. We, as your church family, mourn with you, but we also hold to the promise of comfort. We are looking forward to taking steps to come back together where we can mourn and experience comfort together! 

Redundancy, Again

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There are a few topics here at 3QL that keep rising to the surface. The Redundancy of Leadership is one of those.

I love a good set of questions. The namesake of this blog, for example, are three questions we can ask ourselves over and over. As situations change around us, then our answers will change. But the questions stay the same.

I have another set of questions I use rather frequently: One Word, Jump, and Stick. I started using these questions to help students on our leadership trip evaluate and process what they had heard, then started using it at camp as a way for them to process the message each night. Now, they are a regular part of my personal Bible reading.

For me, good questions aren’t good because they make you think the first time. Good questions still make you think the 100th time.

And that’s the redundancy of leadership. Find those things that may be solid the first time, but withstand the long haul.

As leaders, we have to continually cast vision so people are on the same page. Sure, the initial cast is important, but just because I remember the vision doesn’t mean the people I lead will remember.

What calls for repeating in your sphere of influence today? What drum have you stopped beating in the midst of our current societal shift? What do you need to re-emphasize to those who hear your voice?

Lessons from the Farm: Learn the Hacks

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I was very fortunate growing up working on the farm. Our tractors always had air conditioners. The A/C may not have always functioned perfectly, but the tractors were equipped.

They also had cabs. They may not sound like an important distinction, but it is. That means our tractors were relatively new. Emphasis on relatively.

But we had one tractor that would transition between what we called the farm and the ranch. It was a John Deere 4020, and it was a bear to start.

Until one day someone gave my dad a tip: as you try to start, turn the steering wheel. Guess what? It worked.

In fact, it worked on all of our John Deere tractors. As you turn the key, put your hand on the steering wheel, turn it left to right repeatedly, and it will crank a lot easier.

Hacks make life easier. But here’s the thing: hacks are never written into the original owner’s manual. Why? Because hacks develop out of necessity and frustration. Sometimes you develop it on your own (adapt and innovate), and sometimes an old farmer shares a tip.

That’s what the 3 Questions have become for me. They are a hack to help move student leaders (and adults) into an attitude of leadership.

Chances are you have a leadership hack or two in your arsenal as well. Or if you don’t, you know people around you who do. And that’s the beauty of what we do: we don’t have to do things alone.

My challenge to you today is to think about the thing that frustrates you on a regular basis, then think of someone in your life who might just have a hack for that situation. And ask.

You never know what information is out that there that might make things easier, until you ask.

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Lessons from the Farm: Overlap

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I started driving a tractor at a young age. Most kids of farmers do.

I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on a tractor plowing a field. I’ve used chisels, sweeps, duck bills, and discs. I’ve started at sunrise and finished after dark, even spending some time running under the lights of the tractor.

Would you care to know the hardest part? Not overlapping too much.

There’s a balance to be had when you’re pulling a plow through a field. The goal is to turn the dirt over. Just how much or for what purpose varies, but the end goal is breaking the top layer and allowing soft, hopefully moist, dirt to come to the top.

If you don’t overlap where you were before, you leave dirt unturned. And it shows later.

If you overlap too much, you waste time. I mean, think about it. When you’re working in a field that is 1 mile by 1 mile, doubling up on 2 feet every 40 feet adds up.

Overlap is a delicate balance to have.

The same is true in leadership. There are some things worth doubling over: key concepts, values, strategies, motivation. Each of these can get lost in the hustle of everyday. Diligence, however, demands vigilance.

Excessive repetition, however, does the opposite. It means you’re spending more time, energy, fuel, and resources than necessary.

Not overlapping has a similar result: you skip the things that keep you centered as you lead, and later on those “skips” are noticeable. You may cover more ground, but the price is too high. 

Proper consistent overlap doesn’t happen on accident. It takes diligence. It takes intentionality. It takes focus. But in the end, the efficiency is remarkable.

What falls into your overlap? What do you need to continue covering? What do you need to avoid repeating? What do you need to make certain you don’t skip?

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