4 Surprising Insights for Growth

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Last week I was supposed to be gone, but my trip got cancelled. So, I was faced with a decision: do I pick up the things I handed off, or do I go about my day being present, but not filling my normal roles? I chose the latter, and learned a few things.

Before I share some of the insights I gleaned, I think it will be beneficial for you to know where my head’s at currently. I’ve been in ministry for coming up on 19 years. The last 5 or so have seen a significant shift in my approach to ministry. And it’s no coincidence that I’ve been blogging for 5 years!

The shift I’ve made is rather simple: how can I intentionally train and empower others to grow in their leadership influence.

I’ve done this a few ways. I’ve written 470+ blog posts over the past 5 years that served as real time reflections of issues I was facing, as well as observations of things I believe to be leadership principles. I’ve started intentionally meeting with people for the purpose of mutual growth–reading through books together, watching video series, covering leadership principles, etc. I’ve taught teenagers to ask and answer the 3 Questions, and held them accountable in the process.

All that to say, I’m trying to shift to more of an equipper of leaders around me.

So, the Sunday I was present but had planned to be gone, helped give me some perspective on four things:

  1. The things I think won’t get done without me, will actually get done without me. I’ll be considerable more specific than usual, but on a Sunday morning, I tend to stress out about setup. Our ministry is in a season where we are essentially a portable ministry, so setup is a major part of what we do, and we have very little time to do it (10-12 minutes, generally speaking). I made the hard decision not to help with setup (something I lead every week), and things still got set up. People knew the need and felt the responsibility to meet the need, so they met the need. Key takeaway: Be more intentional about encouraging others to take the lead in setup, freeing me up to focus more on connecting.
  2. We have a good flow. I’m a routine guy, so when I can have a routine and work the routine, I feel good. That also means when I’m not the one up front, the routine is still known and understood. I really like the way we’ve structured our teaching model, and think it helps others when they’ve seen the routine and understand the routine. Key takeaway: continue to maximize the routine, but be willing to change it up when necessary.
  3. We have incredible leaders. The adults who work with students are great. It was a low adult Sunday due to a holiday weekend, but the ones who showed up were fully engaged and ready to make a difference. More than that, our student leaders, for the most part, get it and are willing to step up when given the opportunity.
  4. There’s still room to grow. I don’t think I could miss a month without a hitch, and I don’t know if that should even be my goal. But, there’s still room to grow. There are still people to train, there are still people to empower, there are still needs to be met. We are not there. Key takeaway: keep pouring into those around me.

All in all, I was grateful for a day to reflect. I’ve not arrived as a leader, and I’m okay with that. But I’m trying to grow.

Now, think about your arena of influence. If you were scheduled to be gone and were able to be a fly on the wall, what might you learn? Do you think you’d be pleased or disappointed? Are you holding on to things because you think no one else will do them? Do you need to make adjustments so confusion is minimized? Take a minute to reflect on how you might grow as a leader, and how you can lead those around you to do the same.

Happy New Year

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If you haven’t noticed, I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus the last few months. But I didn’t want to let the New Year pass without a post, mostly because I love the New Year.

“Resolutions” are usually hit or miss as to what people think of them. I don’t know that I set actual resolutions, but I do try to lean into the rhythm and energy that comes with a new year.

A few years ago I worked up a sheet to review a year, and it made an incredible difference for the next year. I’d like to share that worksheet with you. There’s nothing magical about it, other than the time you take to put into it.

I remember hearing John Maxwell say “Experience isn’t the best teacher. Evaluated experience is.” That is incredibly true. It’s not enough to have an experience and expect to grow. If we truly want to grow, we have to evaluate. I almost erased that last line, but I think it’s incredibly true.

I’m going to spend the rest of this week evaluating and preparing for 2022. I’ve already done quite a bit of that, but I want the energy of the new year to continue to carry me. Will you do the same?

As for the worksheet I mentioned, I’ll send it out to subscribers on Thursday, but you have to be subscribed. So, if you don’t get these posts in your inbox, go here to subscribe!

And if you want a little more of my thoughts on the worksheet and some reflections pre-pandemic, you can go here.

Let’s make 2022 the best yet.

Developing a Student Leadership Team: Know Your Who

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Welcome to a new series titled: Questions to help you start a student leadership team. My goal with these posts is to provide some thoughts and questions to work through as you start a student leadership team. Makes sense, right? You may not agree, and that’s okay! Leave a comment and let me know.

“I just don’t have any leader quality students.” 

“I don’t think they would get it.”

“I don’t have any seniors, how can I start a leadership team?”

At one point or another, all of these thoughts have crossed my mind when trying to decide whether or not to start a leadership team. Then I had a break through.

My job is not to build great leaders. My job is to maximize the leadership potential in front of me.

Do you see the difference?

If I think my job is to build great leaders, then I naturally want to start with highly capable students. Students who are leading already, or are popular, or mature. Eventually the checklist of what we’re looking for grows cumbersome.

If I think my job is to maximize the leadership potential of the students in front of me, then I want to start at a different place-with students who are willing.

Oops, spoiler alert. But let me say it again in a different way so you can catch it.

When it comes to developing leaders, willingness beats talent.

If a student has a natural inclination towards leadership but is unwilling to grow, guess what? You’re going to beat your head against the wall trying to help them grow. You can provide opportunities, but at the end of the day, we do not get to make decisions for those around us. We are not puppet masters. 

If a student, however, is willing to grow as a leader, then the game changes. Their willing desire to grow and to make the most of a situation will repeatedly result in progress you cannot imagine. With a willing student, you can provide opportunities and watch them respond in ways you cannot imagine. 

I cannot overstate this enough. If you’re looking to start a leadership team, or even help a few students grow in their understanding of leadership, look for willingness to make a difference (not willingness to have a title).

There’s an implied understanding here: everyone can be a leader. The degree of influence we have on people around us will vary from person to person, but everyone has the potential.

One last word: of course, a student who has both willingness and a natural inclination to leadership is the ideal. I would never argue against talent, but I will always argue against talent alone. 

My name is Wes, and this is my leadership hot take.

Developing a Student Leadership Team: Know Your Why

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Why do we need to learn this? When will I ever use this in real life? 

And so goes the familiar refrain in math classes all over the country. The core question being asked reveals an innate desire in each of us: we want to understand why?

As we learn to pour into and develop leaders around us, whether students or adults, understanding why we are setting out on this journey sets the guardrails for our process.  

What follows are three answers I’ve used to the question of why:

  1. To lighten the load. One church where I served had very little adult involvement, and even less interest in serving. As the student ministry began growing, I realized there was a significant need to help get simple tasks accomplished, so we established a student leadership team. Students on this team led worship, set up the room, prayed over requests and chairs, greeted, ran media, and filled gaps as needed. This was a remarkable team that met a specific need in that season.
  2. To bless others. Sometimes, establishing a leadership team isn’t about what it does for us, but what it provides for others. Some people (students included) are simply waiting to be invited to serve. Then, once the invitation has been extended, they find incredible joy in jumping in and finding their role and their place with all that’s happening. Having this why changes our approach—we are not inviting people to join just so they can serve us, but because it serves them. This is true for students, as well. Providing a student an opportunity and place to serve is an incredible way to help them discover the purpose God has for their life!
  3. To grow ourselves. The most intentional I ever became about developing a student leadership team was when I started to become intentional about growing myself. As I started to explore what it meant to grow in leadership, I invited students along for the journey. We embarked on a process that led all of us to new heights, and something for which I’ve been incredibly grateful all along the way.

Now, obviously the best why is a mix of the three reasons listed above, or maybe even something you’re going to develop on your own. The importance is coming up with your why and sticking to it.

If we have no vision and no direction, we will wander aimlessly. Discover your why.

Want to Develop Others? Start Here.

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What does it take to start a leadership team? More specifically, for student ministers, what does it take to develop student leaders? I’m going to spend some time over the next few weeks hashing out some of my thoughts. I hope they help!

As I’ve been on a journey of intentionally growing and developing leaders around me, there’s one thing that I am slowly but surely becoming more and more certain of: the importance of growing ourselves.

Put another way, we can not expect to grow other leaders if we do not have a growth plan for ourselves.

Seems like a simple statement, right? But I think it’s one of the biggest hang ups we, as leaders, face. 

As ministers, it’s too easy for us to settle into an event planning mindset-planning for the next program that’s never more than 7 days away. Then add the major events we plan, and with minimal effort our calendar is filled. 

We become very good at doing our job, but miss the benefit of the work we do. 

That’s why it’s important to think through what you’re doing to develop as a leader. Are you growing? Are you being intentional about your growth? Do you have goals that you set and visit regularly? 

Let me try this again. Answer these questions on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 6 (considerable growth).

  1. How much have you grown as a leader in the past 12 months?
  2. How much have you grown as a leader in the past 6 months?
  3. How much have you grown as a leader in the past 3 months?

What’s your answer? Do you see a trend? 

Maybe you’re satisfied with your answers, and if so, I’m thrilled for you! 

Maybe your answers are a little discouraging. If so, I’m cheering for you!

Maybe your answers are inconclusive. If so, I’m cheering for you.

Ultimately, if we want to help those around us grow, we have to take the initiative to grow ourselves. John Maxwell says, “We cannot lead anyone farther than we have been ourselves.”

So, how do you grow yourself? There are so many ways, but here’s one of the things I’ve done the past three years: set goals for growth. Pick a date about 3 months out and set a goal to read X number of books. Then, be intentional in doing so. If there are questions to be answered, answer them. If there’s an evaluation tool, use it. Then, after the set time, evaluate and see how you’ve grown. Then adjust and grow some more.

I’m curious. If you’d say you’ve grown lately, what have you done? What works for you?

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