The Best Mindset for Training

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Do you ever think of something you wish you had said, only it was after the fact?

A few weeks back I hosted a youth worker’s meeting (one of only a couple I’ve done since starting). In my intro to the meeting I made a statement along the lines that I realized I had done a poor job training them.

Then one of the leaders asked, jokingly, “Do you think we’re doing a bad job?”

Again, let me emphasize I know this leader’s heart, and know it wasn’t aggressive, but meant to be funny. But still, it made me think. So, here’s my response, three weeks later.

I want to train to maximize, not correct.

At the end of the day, everyone has bad habits in need of correction. But, more than correction, training provides a way forward. When I’m able to help my adults steps forward and become better, stronger, more equipped leaders, then we both win.

Let’s put this another way. A fire extinguisher is not the best way to fight (correct) a grease fire. The best way to fight a grease fire is to implement proper protocols (training) to keep the grease from catching fire to begin with.

Or, let’s go agricultural (because that’s what I do). Good grazing keeps cattle in the pasture way better than good fences. So, when you do the work on the front end to have the best possible grazing, you spend less time on the back end chasing cattle.

It’s the difference between being reactive and proactive. Reactive people spend all their time reacting to what’s happening. Proactive people work to change the outcome from the beginning.

The same is true for student leaders. If I can train them to influence a room, then we make way more progress than if I simply spend my time trying to correct everything they’re doing wrong.

So do you spend more time helping those you lead put out grease fires, or teaching them how to prevent them in the first place?

So You Want to Be a Leader?

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Over the course of my leadership journey, especially the past four or five years, there are a few key principles I can pretty much hang my hat on. And I’ve written about them several times.

Providing students (and adults) a framework to start growing their leadership influence.

The Horizon of Possibility. Oh, and this one, and this one too.

Key traits for student leaders.

Learn from everything.

The Redundancy of Leadership.

Today, I’d like to revisit yet another thought. But first, if you only have time to read one post today, read this one.

Are you ready? This is going to be mind-numbingly simple or incredibly challenging.

Leaders show up.

That’s it. Very few people can positively influence a room by not being in it. If a place is better because we are not there, one of two things are true:

  1. Our level of influence is so great that even in your absence, people have been empowered and equipped to step up, connect, and lead.
  2. Our leadership influence is negative.

Outside of these two instances, if we are not present, we cannot lead. And I’ll be perfectly honest with you, the first one is extremely rare.

If leadership is influence, we have to be present to exert influence: Present in the lives of the people we lead and physically present in the rooms they are in.

I’m watching this play out all around me. If I want to influence something, I have to be part of it. I cannot watch, critique, bemoan, and stay at arm’s length and create any kind of change. But by jumping in, serving, listening, contributing, and listening some more, I can slowly start to build the relational credibility that allows me to grow my leadership influence.

But it only works if I show up.

Where do you need to show up today? Make your presence a priority.

Real Time Thoughts on Student Leadership

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Back in January, I blogged about the process I was walking through to create a student leadership team at my church. You can follow the progression by starting here.

As we kick off the new school year, I’ve opened up applications again, and here are a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head. I hope they provide some thought and motivation for you to take a step in developing student leaders.

  1. Every kid who signed up in January, signed up again. I try not to base my value and worth on things like this because sometimes life or other transitions happen, but I’m excited the kids who started are planning to stick with it.
  2. Instead of going to kids whom I thought would benefit from what we’re doing, I encouraged our “alumni” to invite two people each. From there, we’ve added a couple more applicants, one of whom I’ve been hoping would join us. Side note, I wrestle with this concept. I think about how much an invitation to serve has meant to me over the course of my life, especially from adults who saw something in me. While at the same time, I’ve had kids to whom I’ve extended an invitation who only signed up out of obligation, and it did not end well. This is definitely a delicate balance, one which I haven’t completely figured out to this point.
  3. I went all online for the application this year. With inconsistencies tied to COVID, this was a great move, and something worth doing moving forward.
  4. I had one incoming 7th grader ask about joining us. In a normal year, our incoming 7th graders wouldn’t be promoted when applications are open, but that’s not the end of the world. I’m thrilled he wants to be part, and think he will make some good contributions down the road, but I ultimately decided January will be the on ramp for 7th graders, allowing them time to be part of the ministry. This may be too quick or too slow, but for the time, it’s what I’m sticking with.

What are you doing to develop student leaders?

Do you have a process for students to join in leadership? What does the process look like?

Or maybe you need to start somewhere. Let me challenge you to gather a few students who are interested in making a difference and equipping them to do so!

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Heart Check

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Words reveal intent. Actions reveal heart.

I worked up that phrase a few years back, and it’s something I return to regularly to both wrestle with it’s validity and to check my heart in the process.

You see, I think we say things we want to do. We want to eat better, exercise more, be a better friend, and be more dependable. All of those are things we intend to do.

But at the end of the day, after that third serving of supper, our actions reveal things about us we may not be ready or willing to accept.

The same is true in developing leaders around us. We know we should do a better job. We say we should do a better job. But, when push comes to shove, our actions reveal something different.

This summer for student ministry is unlike anything we have ever experienced. I know so many ministries who are having to completely audible what would have been and move in a different direction.

But I have one plea. Don’t let leadership development get pushed to the side.

Developing leaders is not an easy task. I love what we’ve been able to do each summer at camp with our Horizon Leadership Camp, but in the absence of camp, I am going to spend brain energy deciding how to work leadership development into what I’m doing.

After all, I can say developing student leaders is important. But if I’m not taking steps to help students grow, do my actions line up with my intent?

Dream a little today about what leadership development could look like this summer. Put some thought into it, and then do it. You can do this!

Three Online Leadership Workshop Insights

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Last week, I did an online training for my student leadership team. It was something I talked about for two Thursdays in a row (here and here). So I thought I would finish this mini series with three key insights about our time together.

  1. Time invested in training is a win. There was something about getting a group of six students on a call, fostering discussion and thought, and helping them work through some servant leadership concepts. Just as a reminder, as I’ve established this team this semester, one of my biggest regrets was not having a training of some sort, so our time together last week was well worth it!
  2. Working through leadership concepts is a win. The framework for our training was simple: the three questions. While I don’t think the three questions are a magical framework, they provide a common language to put us all on the same path moving forward. And that’s the point. We were able to talk through what answering the questions may look like in our “old” (in person) format, and what it might look like in our online meetings.
  3. Nothing beats in person connection, but online training works. At the end of the day, our student ministry Zoom call was better last night because of the time our student leaders spent together on Thursday. We set one specific action step, which most of them followed through, and their influence and engagement last night was felt.

So, let me ask you a simple question: What are you doing to train and develop student leaders right now? You may not have the structure or infrastructure to have an online training, but you can connect with students who show potential. We have an incredible opportunity to make the most of time for at least another month. What can you do to train leaders?

And for what it’s worth, I would be thrilled to talk through some options if you need a sounding board. I’m here for you because I want you to expand your leadership influence. You can do this, now do it.

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