Lessons from the Court: Learn to Trust

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If we’ve never actually met, I’m a tall guy. But not only am I tall, I’m big and slow. Like, really slow.

One day we had three people show up to play basketball, so we played “21” (or one-on-one-on-one). This was great until the two guys I was playing against realized I was not quick enough to get past them. So they started guarding me pretty tight and shut me down.

That’s why I prefer to play with a team.

For the past couple years, playing pickup basketball has been one of my more consistent events week in, week out. Recently I spent some time reflecting on the leadership lessons I can share from my time on the court.

When you play pickup basketball, you don’t always know who’s going to be on your team when you walk into the gym. Some weeks you may get the new guy, and some weeks you may get the “old” guy.

But no matter who you have on your team, it makes more sense to learn to trust them, than to try to exclude them. This makes sense, right? If we have a game of four on four, yet I don’t trust my teammates, then I’m really playing one on four. Who would choose to do that?

Trust is imperative when playing basketball. I need to trust my teammate’s ability to make the right choice. I need to trust their judgment. I need to trust their effort. I need to trust them. Because if I don’t, we both lose.

The same is true in leadership. If we don’t learn to trust the people around us, then we are setting ourselves up for either failure or a lifetime of lone-wolf leadership (which isn’t really leadership).

But, when we learn what our teammates bring to the table, and we choose to trust their ability, desire, and skills, then we unlock a new level of progress.

Who around you do you need to trust today? How might trusting them help you reach a new level? What are you waiting for?

The Power of an Aha Moment

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Let’s talk about “Aha” moments. Those moments where someone says something and you almost instinctively push back, only to realize they’re right.

One of my aha moments came about 10 years ago. I was serving bi-vocationally at the church where I grew up. We were seeing some good growth, but we hit a bit of a ceiling. Then one day while listening to a podcast, probably while riding a 4-wheeler, I heard Josh Griffin say something to the effect of: 30 kids is about the max a youth minister will be able to sustain by himself.

To clarify: he was saying that if I was going to do ministry by myself, the biggest number I would be able to sustain would be about 30. We might balloon over that, but reality is we would never successfully grow past that.

And I was living it. The ministry had grown to about 30, but had hit a ceiling. I had my “aha” moment, and decided it was time to make a change.

So I started looking for an adult to recruit. That’s actually a very difficult thing to do in a small town, but I set out to do it. And I found someone willing to help.

Fast forward a few years, and at the peak of the ministry at my last church, we had a solid team of adults investing in and loving on students. In fact, the success we saw would not have happened without those adults.

Now, today, a couple years into a new role, I’ve spent a significant amount of time and energy investing in and encouraging adults, and we are set for growth.

Here’s the point: leadership development means recruiting and retaining.

This comes very naturally and easy to some people, but to others (like me), it takes continual, intentional effort. But it’s worth the effort. And more than that, it’s a blessing to the people we invite for the journey.

So, youth ministers: who can you recruit today? What are you waiting for?

Beware the Dangers of Shared Language

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Earlier I wrote about the Power of Shared Language. I really do believe having phrases that we repeat often can unlock some incredible potential.

But on the road of developing shared language, there are a few speed bumps along the way. Today, I want to talk about two specific speed bumps to consider as you try to create and implement shared language.

LANGUAGE THAT ISN’T SHARED IS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Our church hosted a Family Camp over the New Year’s Holiday. In the course of planning it, I contacted the camp facility (where I have only been a couple of times). During the course of conversation, I realized there was a breakdown in our communication. I didn’t know everything they thought I knew, and they didn’t know everything I thought they knew. Even things as simple as names of buildings and locations didn’t make sense to someone who had yet to memorize the map. The result? Frustration set in.

Names of buildings are great, but if you don’t understand, then what’s the point? This is why in small towns you get directions in one of two ways: locals talk to each other about the “Jackson house” or “church” street (which isn’t a street name but a description, #truestory) because everyone knows the story behind the names. But locals give directions to outsiders based on landmarks – turn right at the second stoplight, cross the tracks, and turn in at the gate with a water buffalo.

As you seek to create some shared language, always ask yourself first – does my audience understand what this means? If not, explain it and enjoy shared language!

SHARED LANGUAGE CAN CREATE AN US VS. THEM CULTURE

Have you ever been part of a conversation with two other people who are best friends, but you only know them casually? Did you find yourself getting lost in the cracks of inside jokes and only partially told stories? How did you feel?

This is the other danger of shared language. If we are not careful, we create an us vs. them culture. We know the meaning of the secret phrases, but they don’t, so they don’t matter.

As a leader, take it on yourself to become an educator. Invite new people to join you by explaining the things that may not make sense. Build into your culture ways for people to find their place and belong, and watch what happens from there.

Shared language is a powerful tool when used correctly, so learn to use it correctly and watch what unfolds!

Do You See What I See?

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Some people look at nothing and see nothing, while others look at nothing and see what could be.

This past summer we canceled our traditional week of camp. We decided our best bet was to pivot and do something different.

The news that we were canceling was not well received, and I was not surprised. Based on my own sadness and disappointment (the first time I haven’t gone away to camp in somewhere around 30 years!), I completely understood.

Then came the leadership opportunity. Mourning our loss could not be the end. We desired something to celebrate. So I went to the white board with our interns.

Because I could see the writing on the wall in May, a backup plan found roots before we made the official call. But, as I’ve written before, I’m great at thinking up new ideas, but sometimes struggle to execute.

Enter the principle of the Horizon of Possibility. Simply put, a good leader is able to look at what is and see what could be–the Horizon of Possibility.

My goal with our camp alternative was to bring the best parts of camp to us. And throughout the week, we got comment after comment about how well it went.

This isn’t bragging on my prowess, because it didn’t happen because of me–there were lots of people making it happen and making it great.

But, it started with my own ability to see the Horizon of Possibility. To look at a lost summer, and see what could be, and then to mobilize people to help execute the future.

What “nothing” is staring you in the face today? What do you see on the Horizon?

The Horizon of Possibility at Work

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Last week we hosted our Summer Camp alternative. At the beginning of June I got word the camp we were going to attend had cancelled, so we started making plans for an alternative. Instead of trying to find a place to go, we decided to try to bring camp to us.

Enter one of my favorite concepts, the Horizon of Possibility.

I was fortunate enough to have a team to help brainstorm and plan the week, and so we set out to make it the best we could. Taking tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, we took some of the best *scheduled elements of camp (I would happily argue the benefit of camp comes in the unscheduled elements–conversations in the down times specifically) and put them into a day camp format.

We did 3pm to 10pm each day for four days.

We had a good mix of Bible study, rec and celebration, small groups, worship, and a fun activity to end each day.

The best part of the week, however, was watching the responses. The first day was rough, as the first day of camp generally is. But we hit our stride on the second day. Then, the conversations started. We started to hear “this really feels like camp”.

My favorite part may have been on the final day as I taught the Horizon of Possibility to the students who were in our leadership track. When I asked them what their expectations for the week were, they admitted they were low. And rightly so. We weren’t going to camp. It was an adjustment.

But that’s where the Horizon of Possibility enters. As a leader, I was able to look at the horizon and see what was possible. I knew we could never replace camp, but I had a hunch we could create something that would not only be a great event, but it would help fulfill our mission and purpose.

As the leader I was the first one to see the possibility. The challenge from there was including others in the movement forward and pulling it off.

As leaders, we have to be willing to look ahead and examine the horizon. What’s possible? What might could be? What’s holding us back? What are we waiting for?

What possibility are you seeing on the horizon now that no one else can see? What are you willing to do to accomplish it? Who are you going to bring in to help you accomplish it? Take a step today.

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