Set the Path

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When we go on vacation, I have to fight a battle in my head. Part of me wants to plan each day out so we know what we’re doing when. A plan helps me manage my expectations. I know when to save energy and when to expend it.

But something we’ve figured out over the years is even in the midst of the plan, we have to schedule a day that has no schedule.

Most vividly, I remember a couple years ago we were in the Historic Triangle in Virginia and decided one day was a day just to spend at our resort facility.

I finished a book I had been reading for over a year. We swam. We watched a movie. We just hit the brakes. And it was refreshing.

And then I realized that I need both a path and a pause.

I think the people we lead are no different. If we want to lead someone, by definition, we need to set a path. We are going to ask them to take a next step, but it cannot be any step. We need to clarify what that step may be.

Setting the path helps ensure everyone is moving in the same direction. When we all have a target to move towards, the journey becomes clear. I don’t set a destination to the south and start driving to the north for a prolonged period.

For whom do you need to set a path? The people you lead, students or adults, need direction. They may be wrestling with what comes next. Your next step may not be the only one, but if it helps them get going, it’s a win.

Moving Past the Shadow of Should

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I’m going to depart from my usual tone today. I wrote this a couple months back as I talked with a student who felt the weight of the things she should be doing. I think the concept is universally true, both in our relationship with God and in our leadership.

Have you ever thought about the oppressiveness of the word should?

I know I should have a quiet time, I just don’t.

I know I should be sharing my faith, I just don’t.

I know I should memorize scripture, I just don’t.

I know I should read the Bible, I just don’t.

Should has an uncanny ability to hang over us like a dark cloud. We should keep our room clean. We should do the dishes. We should put our laundry in the hamper. We should do a lot of things. 

In reality, the word “should” only reveals something we feel guilty for not doing. No one says they should play more video games. They play enough. No one says they should eat more junk food.

Should is a trigger for guilt. When we feel like we should do something, what we are saying is we think our lives would be better, but do we really believe it?

Should reveals a misplaced priority. It allows us to feel good about not doing something. We don’t do it, but we know we should. It’s the thought that counts, right? Even if the thought never moves to action?

After my third helping of cobbler and ice cream, I know I shouldn’t have eaten that much, so it’s okay.

Should is actually guilt wearing a mask. We only say we should do things for which we feel guilty for not doing. Some things are meant for our good, but we still run away. Some things will actually make our life better, yet we still don’t put forth the effort or energy.

The problem with should is it leads to regret. And regret leads to more guilt. And more guilt hides itself as should, and the cycle repeats.

But we are meant to have victory from the Shadow of Should. 

I should have a quiet time. Wrong. I’m free from the guilt of having or not having a quiet time. I’m free from the shackles of my faith being tied to what ritual I have. 

But I want to have a quiet time. I want to have time with God each day that connects me to Him. I want my life to be changed by setting my mind on things above at the beginning of my day. I want God to open my eyes, to soften my heart, to remind me of His presence before I do anything else. 

Should is crushed by desire. When my desire outweighs my should, the supernatural is unleashed.

When we desire to read God’s word more than we feel we should, His word comes alive.

Spirituality based on obligations eventually gets choked out by the oppressive strength of should. But when our desire to know God and to know Him more grows, our passion for Him crushes the should in our lives.

Relationships based on should are short term. Relationships built on desire endure. Ask God to give you a desire for Him today.

This is Why

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Sometime last year I read through Michael Hyatt’s book Free to Focus. One of the takeaways for me was to establish a startup/shutdown routine for my work days. Being that I love routine, I’m still doing it, for the most part.

One adjustment I’ve made is to start my day with reading. When I sit down in my office, I pick up a book and read a couple pages, writing down quotes I want to remember. It’s been a pretty fun way to kickstart my day.

The book I’m currently reading is Jesus on Leadership. I bought it on a whim when a friend said they were reading it for a class, and it’s been one of the best impulse buys I’ve made since that pack of gum at the grocery store. Maybe even better.

This week, I came across this line:

To equip the church is to prepare its members to perform their part of the mission.

Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership

And that’s why I want to develop leaders. I want to develop leaders, students and adults, who 1) are performing their part of the mission and 2) are developing others who are performing their part of the mission.

If you’re reading this, I’m writing this to you so that hopefully because of the dialogue we have, you can 1) perform your part of the mission and 2) develop others who are performing their part of the mission.

So, how are you performing your part of the mission? How are you developing others who are performing their part? Is there a step you need to take today?

I want you to grow because of the time I spend word vomiting my thoughts two mornings each week. Thank you for journeying with me. Let’s continue to grow our leadership influence.

Authenticity Wins

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I stink at social media. I have often said that Instagram is my favorite social media platform, but I very rarely ever post on it.

Why Instagram? I love the idea of a well taken photo. I’m not a photographer, and I rarely remember to take one when I need to do so, but it’s still such a fascinating premise.

Why do I rarely post on the ‘Gram? Because I worry that my posts won’t live up to the hype. I mean, really, who cares what I’m cooking for supper? Or who really wants to know what I did today? And if they want to know, do I trust them? And if I post myself cooking something on my Weber Kettle, will I get metaphorically roasted for doing something wrong? Worse still, if I post a picture of those ribs, what happens if they’re not good?

One thing I’ve learned through our recent cultural shift is this: authenticity wins.

On Instagram, that means this: people will “like” something authentic in my life. It doesn’t have to be polished and perfectly staged. And generic certainly doesn’t move the needle.

In leadership it means this: share your struggles. There are things you wrestle with. People want to see that. They want to know you’re trying your best, and that doesn’t always mean fully polished.

Full transparency: I almost erased this entire post to start over. Even when writing about authenticity and pulling the curtain back, I struggle with authenticity.

I wrestle with decisions. I wrestle with direction. I wrestle with vision, purpose, and direction. I debate things in my head all the time. I’m not advocating being wishy washy or flaky, but sometimes the best things we can do as leaders is open up to those around us-to show vulnerability.

Jesus showed vulnerability when he washed the feet of his disciples. His act of service didn’t make him less of a leader.

The same is true for us. Don’t turn into an Eye-ore, but don’t feel like you have to have everything together. You can do this. Just be real about it along the way.

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!

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