Lessons from the Farm: Teaching on the Go

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I’ve been going through a theme for the first time. I’m calling these posts “Lessons from the Farm”. You can read the first post here.

Just a little background: I grew up working on my Dad’s farm. As I’ve grown older and spent more time away, there are few leadership principles I have realized along the way.

My dad knew how to do everything. Me? Not so much. That meant a lot of on-the-job training. How do you teach an 8 year old how to run an impact wrench? You show him. And you show him again. And you show him again. Right-in, Tighten (a close cousin to righty-tighty, lefty-loosey).

How do you teach a teenager how to “drive” cattle? By talking through the strategy and then letting them learn how to follow the strategy.

The list goes on and on.

But more than what I was taught, I remember how I was taught: in the moment, sometimes being shown how, sometimes being told, usually realizing after the fact I had more to learn.

The same is true today. No matter how badly I want, training does not happen because I think it should. Training happens on a case by case basis, and the best lessons are usually learned after the freedom to make mistakes.

I never learned the best way to change sweeps on a plow by playing with dirt clods–I had to have the tool in my hand and the job in front of me. Often, the best way to lead is to give someone the tools and knowledge they need, and let them go.

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Be Careful Who Speaks into Your Life

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For the record, one of the regular parts of what I’m going to try to write about are little lessons I’ve learned along the way.

This semester I have the fortune of having an intern, and every week we sit down for what I call “incoherent ramblings”. Often these are going to be more about things I’ve learned along the way instead of current lessons I’m learning.

Today, our incoherent rambling centers on the people who speak into our life.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6

When I was in Seminary, we had a guest lecturer come into a class and share the following advice: Every minister needs three people in their life. First, they need a Paul–someone to mentor them. Second, they need a Timothy–someone they mentor. Last, they need a Barnabas–someone walking alongside and encouraging them.

While that advice has proven true, and would undoubtedly provide a great subject for a blog post, I have learned over the years we need to be selective about who we let speak into our lives.

Surround yourself with people who never challenge you to grow, or who never see something in you which you cannot see,  and you will never improve.

Surround yourself with people who are incapable of understanding your situation, and the advice they give will never help.

Surround yourself with people who only see negatives and wrongs, and you will begin to see things through their perspective.

Surround yourself with people who have an agenda, and you will simply become a means to an end.

There is another option. As we learn to guard who speaks into our lives, something begins to happen: we are able to realize when someone is using us for position or authority. We begin to see when someone is looking out for themselves, and not for us. We begin to understand there may be more motivation behind an action than we realized.

But, when we surround ourselves with the right people who speak the right things into our lives, the difference is clear.

Surround yourself with people who care about you growing into the best minster/leader/parent you can be, and you will begin to grow.

Surround yourself with people who fix their eyes on Christ and not on the problems surrounding you, and you will begin to do the same.

Surround yourself with people who have a heart for serving, and you will begin to have a heart for serving.

I have men and women in my life who make a greater impact than they will ever know. They encourage me, they correct me, they guide me, and they even tell me things I do not want to hear, but I know their words can be trusted.

Learn to be selective about who gets to speak into your life.

 

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3 Questions to Help You Become a Better Leader (Part 2)

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On Monday, I wrote about the first two questions (click here to read if you missed it). Today, I’ll finish it up with the third question.

Just a refresher, when I walk into a room, I want to ask myself three questions. The first two are:

1) What needs to be done? (Awareness)

2) What can I do? (Willingness)

And that brings us to the third question.

3. who can i get to help?

The third question focuses on including others in what has been a very personal and individual process. The difference between people who can answer the first two questions and the people who can answer all three often comes down to an ability to lead others. But leading others is not an art form that few can master. Everyone has the potential to lead.

Leadership takes place when you see a need and you invite other people to meet the need, preferably with you. A quick google search of “definitions of leadership” will return more results than you might care to peruse, but the simple idea boils down to seeing a better future and bringing people along to join in the better future and help it happen. Leaders have an ability to see the “horizon of possibility”.

If Leadership is rooted in the first two questions, then it blossoms in the third. It is not enough to simply be able to assess a need and meet the need, but a successful leader will be able to include others in meeting the need.

I have been teaching these questions to a group of junior high and high school students since August. One of the easiest ways the three questions have found expression has been through setting chairs up on Wednesday nights before our service starts.

A few weeks ago, before anyone else had arrived, an 8th grader, who has not been included in the teaching of the 3 Questions, walks into the youth room and begins to set up chairs. Completely unprompted by me (and like a bum, I didn’t even help).

This student had been included by the others so many times, that he unknowingly answered the first two questions that night.

Leadership leads to movement

Inviting others to help accomplish a task is good, but it is not the end goal. Ultimately, we want to move people in a common direction.

As a father, I want to lead my family to faithfully serve God.

As a leader, I want to lead others to impact lives for the sake of the Gospel.

As a Youth Pastor, I want to lead students into a growing relationship with Christ, and in turn I want to lead those students to lead their peers.

Ultimately, however, the goal of leadership is to leverage influence to create forward movement.

As we work through the 3 Questions, we have to come to terms with where we want people to move. Never be satisfied by simply answering the questions, but be willing to evaluate where you’re going.

So, there you go. These questions have slowly started shaping the way I lead, the way I teach others to lead, and the way I interact with people around me. I will continue to unpack what these mean and what they look like, but this is all for now. Thanks for reading!

 

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Don’t Let Someone’s Character Surprise You

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I have a morning routine. I make coffee before I do almost anything else. Sometimes I prep the coffee maker the night before, and sometimes I have to prep and brew in the same motion.

But do you want to know something that has never happened? I have never pushed brew on the coffee maker and watched the coffee pot fill with soda. Why is that? Because the coffee maker does what it is made to do — make coffee.

Over the years I have learned a similar lesson about people — I cannot let myself be surprised when someone does something that lines up with who they have been while I have known them.

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