A Personal Leadership Tune Up

The people we know deserve our best, so we ought to work on getting better. When we delay our personal growth, we aren’t just limiting our potential, we also have a weaker impact in the world around us.

When it comes to personal growth, we get to choose our own adventure: either we decide to have consistent check ups or we will eventually fall into certain catastrophe. If a car’s oil isn’t changed regularly, eventually the engine will break down and need to be replaced. Oil changes are easy to forget, but an catastrophe’s like an engine shutting down can’t be ignored.

The same is true with our personal and ministry relationships. When we make a big mess of our lives, it’s rarely a train wreck that happens in an instant. It’s more like a slow leak under the foundation…over time the constant drip drip drip slowly erodes the soil.

The following download offers a few questions to jump start your thinking so that you can discover a few tweaks to make now. Giving yourself a minor tune up will keep you on the road for the long haul.

 

Download A Personal Leadership Tune Up (word docx and adobe PDF)

Three principles from Jesus for every mission

Jesus said:

These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mark 6:8-11)

Every mission requires:

  • FAITH. We must rely on God to provide. With abundant resources, it is more difficult to trust God, but not impossible. Everything belongs to God.
  • FELLOWSHIP. We must trust others to receive mutual benefit. In this example from scripture, one person provides shelter and the other provides peace. We are better together, and we need others to pursue God’s calling in our lives.
  • INFLUENCE. We must make a difference by what we do. When the impact becomes minimal, the mission is finished.

One must be careful when interpreting narratives in scripture. On one hand, we cannot make everything into an allegory (“we must take a staff as a reminder that we lean upon God for strength.”) On the other hand, we cannot interpret the literal historical events as timeless princples (“No one doing the work of God can ever have an extra shirt…or money.”). Therefore we must take great care to make sure that other scriptures support our conclusions.

FAITH

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:3-4)

FELLOWSHIP

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Corinthians 12:21)

 

INFLUENCE

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

 

Bible Study: Psalm 23

One of our small groups recently used the Psalms Bible study (download here for free) and decided to also study Psalm 23. I wrote the following to help guide their personal reflection and group discussion.

 

Psalm 23

The twenty-third Psalm is a classic! The imagery is simple, yet powerful and profound. It is easy to read for the first time, yet the psalm’s depth allows for a lifetime of reading and reflection without ever running dry. This psalm is a well the soul can return to time after time, secure in the promise of renewal.

Begin with prayer, thanking God for his goodness and blessings. Confess your sins and ask him to make your heart pure. Beg for wisdom and cultivated an open heart so that he might draw you closer to him.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Table — In the original usage, this referred to a leather mat spread on the ground upon which food was placed.

Rod and Staff— “Palestinian shepherd normally carried two implements, a club (or rod) to fend off wild beasts and a crook (or staff) to guide and control the sheep.” (Craigie, P. C. (2004). Psalms 1–50 (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 207).)

Anoint—Literally, “make fat” with oil. The imagery of excess is paralleled with the cup that is overflowing. In the Bible, an anointing was special, signifying that the person (or object) was chosen and set aside for a purpose.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION

After reading this Psalm, what was personally encouraging, inspiring, or uplifting? What new insight, lesson, or teaching did you learn? Did this psalm raise any questions or confusion for you? If so, what are they?

According to this psalm, what specifically does it mean for the Lord to be a Shepherd? What actions and promises does the shepherd make?

In our world, who or what can take the place of the Lord as our Shepherd? What are some common things people follow and trust?

Expressing a deep sense of contentment, the Psalmist says, “I lack nothing” (NIV). In your opinion, how did he win the battle against greed and envy? Why is contentment so difficult for people to attain?

What does it mean, the a the Shepherd acts “for his name’s sake?”

The Shepherd leads the psalmist to “green pastures” and “darkest valleys.” How can it be both? In your opinion, why isn’t it only green pastures and quiet waters?

Share a definition of fear. What are some common things many people fear? In your opinion, why is fear so powerful? According to this psalm, what is the antidote to fear?

How does verse 6 describe the life and after-life for those under the care of the shepherd?

In your own life, what do you need most from the Shepherd?

  • To be content
  • To be led
  • To be refreshed
  • To be free from fear
  • Something else?

Summarize, in your own words, the significance of this psalm in a single sentence.

Respond to the following summary, what changes would you make?
“No matter what is happening in our lives, we can find contentment and comfort from the presence and promises of the Shepherd.”

Elements of Effective Evaluation

It’s hard to look back and learn from the past, especially when we’re looking forward to the next thing. Here are a few habits that I believe are essential for an effective debrief:

HONESTY: Evaluation isn’t helpful if it’s not true. It’s great to be an optimist, but not at the expense of facing the hard truths. Actually, that’s not optimism, it’s denial. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t accomplish anything other than more disaster. Getting better is more important than feeling good in the moment … and over the long haul, honest debriefs will lead to feeling great.

IMPERSONAL: If you are working with a team, everyone ought to be committed to growth and improvement. This means a criticism/critique/feedback shouldn’t be a personal attack. Evaluation takes courage, which is why it is very rare.

OFTEN: Everything that is important ought to be debriefed, even if the evaluation is very short. Ministry programs, events, retreats, meetings, and even significant conversations ought to be looked at to gain lessons for the future.

SOON: Do your evaluation sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the less you remember, which means you’ll fall back on your assumptions rather than what actually happened.

STRATEGIC: There is an important difference between observation and evaluation. An observation states a perception. Evaluation takes observation further by keeping an eye on the big picture. For example, “Last night was high energy” is an observation. Evaluation says, “High energy came at the expense of relational, we missed the mark.”) You can’t move the ball down field if you aren’t evaluating how the “little things” (program, event, retreat, etc.) connect to the “big things” (vision, values, strategy, etc.). Naturally, this assumes there a Big Picture has already been clearly defined …

PRACTICAL: A good debrief is like the Red Cross, it ought to provide real help— the kind that’s desperately needed. If an evaluation is too short, it doesn’t capture enough information. If an evaluation is too long, complicated, or cumbersome, you’ll never do it. A good debrief is structured just right.

DYNAMIC: In most situations, a few voices are better than a single perspective. Pull other people in to help with your evaluations.

REVIEWED: Don’t be doomed by repeating your past mistakes. Stand on the shoulders of your experience by periodically reviewing your past debriefs.

What’s missing from this list? What habit have you found to make for an effective debrief?


Here is a SHORTER debrief we will use for our weekend services:

[1] Over all rating, 1 to 5, (higher being better)
[2] What worked?
[3] What didn’t work?
[4] What, if anything, did we learn this weekend? (about successful programing)

Here is a LONGER debrief we use for our bigger things:

Reflection leads to wisdom. It’s worth thinking about the stuff we want to do well. Our people deserve our best, so let’s commit to getting better.

In just a few bullet points, what was the purpose/reason/objective of the event/meeting/trip/camp/retreat?

Include the agenda, both planned and actual. If there’s a difference between the two, make a note of why.

Attach the attendance list, leaders and students, both planned and actual.

On a scale of 1-10, was this event/meeting/trip/camp/retreat a success? (10=awesome and 1=very not awesome)

In just a few bullet points, briefly explain why you rated this thing the way that you did. Avoid PROS and CONS, you’ll hit those in a minute.

Was each element intentional? Was anything done “just because we’ve always done this?”

PROS: What was great? (and, what are the things that MUST happen next time?)

CONS: What wasn’t so great? (and, what are the things that MUST NOT happen next time?)

Anything else? What would you do differently next time?

What follow up is needed? Who is doing it? When is it due?

NEXT STEPS (spiritual commitments, gateway to primary program, etc.)
Missing People (those that should have been there, but weren’t)
Questions/concerns/conflicts
Thank You’s / Encouragement
Any other follow up action items

Promotion / Communications: Attach the promotion plan. Did people know about the event/meeting? What would you do differently?

 

Three Warnings From Jesus

Jesus taught the crowd: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1)

A little yeast, when worked through the entire dough, radically transforms the bread.

The yeast of the Pharisees was hypocrisy. Some of the things they said weren’t true, they lacked a consistency believers ought to have. Presumably they had a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

In this short and simple teaching from Jesus, there are several warnings:

Hypocrisy is contagious. It is a lesson easily learned, because short cuts require less work. The hypocrite thinks, “I can just pretend to be good without actually needing to be good.” Hypocrisy is persistent because one hypocrite rarely exposes another, because they fear the same exposure. This is a network of relationships that says, “Let’s All Lie Together.” Hypocrisy is contagious and we must guard against it.

Sin is powerful (so is foolishness). Like yeast, it only takes a little to radically change the dynamic of the whole. You don’t need to lie ninety nine percent of the time for it to damage your life, 1 or 2 percent will lead to epic destruction in your relationships. For the Pharisees, their yeast was hypocrisy. However, I’m certain there are many “kinds” of yeast. What is one of your struggles, if it’s not hypocrisy? Gossip? Indulgence? Laziness? Pride?

Consider one more warning: the Pharisees were leaders in their communities. You may not be a formal leader in the church, but what are you passing on to others? Even the best parents pass along bad habits to their kids. Spiritually speaking, what is the “yeast” in your life that others need to look out for? Jesus was clearly teaching the crowd, “Don’t be hypocritical like the Pharisees.” Jesus is also calling us to keep careful watch over our influence.

Three Warnings:

Watch out for the negative influences, specifically hypocrisy.
Identify your personal “yeast,” if it’s not hypocrisy.
Be careful of what you are passing along.

Leadership Principles of Jesus, part 1: Matthew

A survey of the book of Matthew yielded the following reflections. But first, a few notes. (a) Reading Matthew’s gospel in two sittings showed me things I wouldn’t have seen if I was reading smaller sections. Both kinds of readings–small parts and large parts– are needed for a healthy spiritual life. (b) I read with the intention of discerning the leadership principles of Jesus. Leadership is nothing more (nor less) than influence. Every believer has influence in some arena, therefore every believer is a leader. These principles are a discernment of what it means to influence others. (c) I don’t presume to think that this list is complete or absolute! I imagine spending ten years with just Matthew would not be enough to uncover all of the teachings. (d) I did my best to remove the redundancies and clean up the confusing comments, all while keeping each one as short as possible. If you see something unclear or redundant, make a note in the comments below.

  1. Matthew 1:1-25 — God was at work before you where born, he will work after you’ve died.
  2. Matthew 4:1-11 — Defeat lies from the devil with truth from God.
  3. Matthew 4:17; 19:17; 28:18-20 — Point people to God, teach them to obey Jesus’ commands.
  4. Matthew 5:12-16 — Your faithfulness will cause others to glorify God.
  5. Matthew 4:19; 26:37-38 — Gather a team, don’t lead in a vacuum.
  6. Matthew 4:23; 8:14-17; 14-13-21; 14:13-21; 15:29-39; 20:29-34 — Bring spiritual and/or physical healing and help to others.
  7. Matthew 5:1-2; 10:5-8; 15:24; 17:22-23; 20:17-20; 25:14-30 — Use your God-given gifts to follow your God-given calling.
  8. Matthew 5:3-12 — Develop Christ-like character.
  9. Matthew 5:11-12 — Endure persecution and hardship.
  10. Matthew 5:19 — Resist setting your own agenda.
  11. Matthew 5:21-22; 27-30; 31-32 — Align your attitudes with your actions.
  12. Matthew 5:23-24 — Remove the roadblocks in your relationships to remove roadblock in your worship.
  13. Matthew 5:33-38 — Build trust through integrity with your words.
  14. Matthew 5:38-42; 6:14-15; 26:49-50 — Submit to injustice,  give generously.
  15. Matthew 5:43-48 — Love neighbors and enemies.
  16. Matthew 6:1-13; 16-18 23:5-10 — Worship in secret, not for admiration from others.
  17. Matthew 6:19-24; 19:28-30 — Work for heaven, not for earth.
  18. Matthew  6:25-34; 10:9-10 — Worry less by seeking God first.
  19. Matthew 7:1-5 — Judge yourself before judging others.
  20. Matthew 7:6 — Give the truth to those who will accept it.
  21. Matthew 7:7-11, 21:22— Ask God for what you need and pursue it.
  22. Matthew 7:12 — Treat others how you’d like to be treated.
  23. Matthew 7:13-14 — Live in the “narrow,” avoid the popular path.
  24. Matthew 7:15-23 — Judge people by their actions, but don’t just look good, be good.
  25. Matthew 7:24-27 — Listen to God’s voice and obey him.
  26. Matthew 7:28-29 — Authority comes from teaching God’s ways.
  27. Matthew 8:1-4 — Seek Jesus to be purified.
  28. Matthew 8:4; 13:52 — Never let something new in your life keep you from doing the old things which were good.
  29. Matthew 8:5-13; 9:18-34 — Believe that Jesus is willing and able to help and heal.
  30. Matthew 8:18-22 — Intentions polluted with excuses never translate into obedience.
  31. Matthew 8:23-27 — Fear forgets that God is bigger than our storms.
  32. Matthew 8:28-34; 12:22-29; 12:43-45 — We fight an unseen Enemy.
  33. Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 18-26 — Spiritual healing, the forgiveness of sins, is more important than physical healing. Jesus can do both.
  34. Matthew 9:9-11 — Everyone can have a place in God’s kingdom.
  35. Matthew 9:12 — Everyone needs Jesus, not everyone knows it.
  36. Matthew 9:14-17 — Do what makes sense—what God wants—not what makes other people happy.
  37. Matthew 9:35-36, 14:14 — Show compassion for the harassed and helpless.
  38. Matthew 9:37 — There will always be more needs than we can meet.
  39. Matthew 9:38 — Ask God to call others to service.
  40. Matthew 10:1 — Authority comes from God, not people, popularity, positions, or power.
  41. Matthew 10:11-15 — Start with people who are supportive.
  42. Matthew 10:16-31 — Spiritual leadership is opposed and this opposition should not be feared.
  43. Matthew 10:32-37; 11:27; 12:2; 21:42 — Keep Jesus first, he is our center and foundation and cornerstone. Many will question and fight this.
  44. Matthew 10:38; 16:21-28 — Leadership requires sacrifice, self-denial, and giving up the world.
  45. Matthew 10:41, 18:5; 26:10 — Welcome everyone who serves Jesus.
  46. Matthew 10:42; 25:34-46 — Ministry means meeting needs in love.
  47. Matthew 11:1-18 — Never discount or discount another person’s doubts and questions.
  48. Matthew 11:5 — Share the good news, even to the poor.
  49. Matthew 11:20-24 — Pay attention to miracles, do not ignore the often inexplicable work of God
  50. Matthew 11:28-30 — Find rest in Jesus, learn from him, live with the lighter burden.
  51. Matthew 12:1-13; 15:1-20 — Legalism is an incorrect ordering of priorities.
  52. Matthew 12:16; 16:20; 17:9; 21:27; 26:63 — Everyone doesn’t need to know everything. Wait for the right time.
  53. Matthew 12:33-37 — Words matter and they spring from the heart.
  54. Matthew 12:30-32 — Sanctification is a process, and salvation has a beginning.
  55. Matthew 12:38-42; 16:1-4 — There will always be wicked doubters, still try to answer them.
  56. Matthew 12:46-49 — The evidence for being in God’s family is following God’s will.
  57. Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15 — Not everyone who hears God’s Word will accept it.
  58. Matthew 13:24-29; 36-43; 47-51 — Let God separate the wheat from the weeds, that is, the spiritual from the unspiritual.
  59. Matthew 13:31-35; 17:14-20; 21:21-22 — A little faith in our Great God will produce great results.
  60. Matthew 13:44-46 — God’s Kingdom will cost us everything, and we’re still getting the better deal.
  61. Matthew 13:53-58 — Sometimes the people who know us will never respect us.
  62. Matthew 14:1-12 — Great injustices will happen to great leaders.
  63. Matthew 14:22-36  — Encourage, challenge, and correct others according to their needs.
  64. Matthew 15:1-20; 23:16-22 — Human traditions are important, but not as important as God’s Word.
  65. Matthew 15:5-12 — Watch for false teachings, even in small amounts.
  66. Matthew 15:13-20; 20:32; 21:23; 22:41-41 — Ask questions, because they change people.
  67. Matthew 15:21-23; 26:32-35; 26:69-75 — Even good people will oppose God’s plans.
  68. Matthew 17:22-23 — Sometimes, the sacrifices we make as leaders will sadden those closest to us.
  69. Matthew 17:24-27, 22:17-22 — Submit to earthly authorities
  70. Matthew 18:1-5 — Kingdom membership is based on humility
  71. Matthew 18:6-7 — Watch that you don’t cause others to stumble.
  72. Matthew 18:8-9 — Do whatever it takes to keep from stumbling.
  73. Matthew 18:10-14 — God cares for the lost.
  74. Matthew 18:15-20 — Relational sin needs to be confronted, personally first, then involve a few others.
  75. Matthew 18:21-35 — Leaders forgive, authentically and continually.
  76. Matthew 19:1-12 — God doesn’t give up on us when we fall short of his ideals.
  77. Matthew 19:13-15 — Jesus is for everyone, don’t hold anyone back, not even little children.
  78. Matthew 19:16-27 — Do the possible and trust God to do the impossible.
  79. Matthew 20:1-16 — Do not be envious of the generosity of God toward others.
  80. Matthew 20:20-28; 23:11-12 — Greatness comes from great servanthood.
  81. Matthew 21:12-13 — The things that hinder worship need to be destroyed.
  82. Matthew 21:28-32 — Even extravagant grace can’t break the hardest hearts.
  83. Matthew 21:42-44 — Spiritual leadership helps others bear spiritual fruit.
  84. Matthew 22:14 — Grace doesn’t negate our responsibility
  85. Matthew 22:15-18 — Maintain integrity, teach the truth, be faithful to God (not people).
  86. Matthew 22:-29 — Two things build disciples: the Word of God and the Power of God.
  87. Matthew 22:37-40 — Teach people to love God, self, and others.
  88. Matthew 23:3 — Leaders can learn from hypocrites.
  89. Matthew 23:4 — Leaders don’t need to make others feel guilty.
  90. Matthew 23:13-14, 29-32 — Avoid hypocrisy at all costs.
  91. Matthew 23:23-28 — Change from the inside out, not just the outside.
  92. Matthew 23:34, 37 — Some leaders are sent to save the hypocrites, a mission field most hostile.
  93. Matthew 24:1-51 — We are not sure when Jesus will return, do not be deceived: everyone will know once it happens.
  94. Matthew 25:1-13 — Faith is prepared to wait expectantly for Jesus.
  95. Matthew 25:14-28 — We don’t just wait, we also bear fruit.
  96. Matthew 25:31-46 — This temporary life is preparation for eternal life.
  97. Matthew 26:17-30 — Endure personal betrayal for the good of the Kingdom.
  98. Matthew 26:39, 42 — Leadership is about God’s will, not ours
  99. Matthew 26:40-41, 45-46 — Leadership supports others who are struggling.
  100. Matthew 27:1-10 — Sometimes people get what they want even when it’s not what they need.
  101. Matthew 27:45 — Because Jesus was forsaken, we never will be, but sometimes it will feel like it.

How To Build Fear and Trust as a Leader

Exodus 14:31 paints a wonderful picture of what leadership in God’s kingdom ought to look like:

“And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”

God calls us to obedience, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s soul staggeringly difficult! However, when we are faithful, the results are awe inspiring.

The ancient Israelites saw God at work. The redemption from Egypt was so powerful, so visible, that it didn’t require any spiritual sensitivity to notice. Afterward, the people feared God and trusted Moses.

This is a good test for our leadership, and by extension, all of our relationships. As we relate to others, we ought to make it a goal to earn their trust, not demand or expect it. Additionally, we also need to point people to God, to help them respect and fear him more.

Faithfulness in God’s family doesn’t highjack his glory for ourselves.

The key for getting this right is found in adopting the posture of a servant. Moses did amazing things–stuff you or I will never do–but everyone knew who Moses belonged to, he was God’s servant.

When we commit to humility, it doesn’t matter what God does through us, everyone around us will know that God is the real power behind our efforts.

It is difficult to be faithful and do great things for God.
It is more difficult to be faithful and do great things all for the glory of God.

RELATIONAL MINISTRY 101

RELATIONAL MINISTRY 101
How To Build Stronger Biblical Fellowship

Learn Names

A name is a person’s most valuable possession and nothing communicates care like remembering a student’s name. It’s easy to say, “I’m not good at names.” Resist the temptation to rest on this excuse! It takes hard work to remember names. When you learn a new name, try to use it immediately in the conversation. Make a mental association and create a visual image and attach it to their name. These may be funny (so don’t share them!). After the conversation, write the name down so you can look it up later. Review your list before you show up to a youth ministry program.

Show Genuine Interest

Everyone wants to know known because we were created with a need to be understood by others. Care about the details about their life. Your interest must be real, if it’s fake, everyone can tell that it’s just an act. A great way to show interest is to ask questions.

Show up with a question or two

Making small talk is tough for most of us. Holidays can make questions easier, but still work to get creative. “What did you do over Christmas?” isn’t a bad question, but it’ll get over-used. Try something different like, “Does your family have any Christmas traditions?” or “Did anyone throw up because they drank too much eggnog?” Personally, I’m a little silly, so sometimes I’ll ask, “did you punch anyone in the face this week? …No? That’s good… did you feel like punching anyone in the face?” Sometimes a silly approach can move into a more serious conversation.

Have Fun

Everyone likes to have fun, but sometimes we think the best ministry happens when we are always serious. You don’t have to be the ultimate extrovert, but you should strive to create a warm, comfortable and inviting atmosphere.

Affirm like crazy

Be looking for ways to encourage and praise students. Avoid the over-use of superficial encouragements (that’s a nice shirt), but start there if you must. The more you know about a student’s life, the easier this becomes. A student might be bummed on a bad grade, you could affirm them by saying, “At least you care about your grades, that’s a good thing!” Catch students doing something right and tell them how good it is.

Look for the unconnected

Cliques are ugly! You know this because you’ve been on the outside. No one want’s to be an outsider, so constantly looking for students on the edges. It’s difficult to be inclusive, we naturally fall into comfortable patterns of talking to the same students. Consistency is great, but not when it blinds us to new comers who feel like an outsider.

Be Involved

Lead by example. Students are watching, and will take their cues from what you are doing. Sing worship songs, actively listen to the message, and jump in and be involved with the games, and speak up during the discussion. It’s not only possible for you to worship during a youth ministry program, it’s also great leadership.

Spread out

Healthy youth ministries have adult leaders who spend time with students—not other leaders. I get it! It’s fun (and easier) to spend time with other leaders during a youth ministry program. Do this at another time! When all the leaders are bunched up together, it sends the wrong message to students.

Avoid Causing Guilt

If a student hasn’t been around for a few weeks or months, NEVER, EVER, EVER say, “Where have you been?” This puts a person on the spot and creates guilt. Instead say, “It’s great you are here.” Work hard to show unconditional acceptance. We don’t need to make people feel guilty, we all accomplish this fine on our own without any “help” from others.

Share personal stories

Don’t make yourself the star of the conversation, but you also don’t want it to be one sided. Be transparent and share about your life. You aren’t interrogating your students, you are having a two-way conversation.

Follow up

When a student tells you about something that’s coming up next week, ask them about it a week later. Imagine the impact you’ll have when you cared enough to remember an important detail about their life.

Spend time one on one

Great ministry happens outside of youth ministry programs. Show up to a game or take them to lunch. Life is busy and while it may not be possible to spend time with a student every week, but if you can make it a goal to meet with a student once a month, your relationships will go deeper. Remember to only spend one on one time wisely—stick with your gender! A guy leader should NEVER spend time along with a female student…and vise versa.

Pray consistently and specifically

God cares more about our ministry than we do—we’re just stewards of the students entrusted to us. Make the time to talk to Jesus about the your students. He will tell you how to minister to them.

Remember that building friendships take time

There’s no such thing as a microwave for relationships. They take time—a lot of it. I wish there was a formula for instant intimacy, but there isn’t. Make a commitment to last for the long haul. Significant relationships don’t happen overnight.

Know that your conversations make a difference

It may not seem like it at first, but when you engage students on a personal level you are making an investment that does have benefits—even if you don’t see them. Over the years, I’ve had countless parents say, “Thank for taking the time to talk with Chris!” Meanwhile, I’ll replay the conversation with Chris in my head and I would have sworn he was in a coma. Students will appreciate the fact that you are authentically engaging them.

What’s missing from this list? What are some ways you have deepened your relationships with others?

Taking action

There’s a lot here … pick one or two and put them into practice for a month. Once you feel like you hit a plateau, return to this list and work on a few others. Healthy leaders are learners. As soon as you stop learning, you stop leading.

 

 

 

Four essential leadership responsibilities

“The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.” (Jeremiah 2:8)

600 years before Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah spoke out against the rebellion by ancient Israel. They followed “worthless idols” and became “worthless” themselves (Jer. 2:5). In this teaching, Jeremiah makes it clear that all different kinds of leaders had turned from God. His warning is still relevant today.

Leaders SEEK God’s work. A primary responsibility of priest was to help people connect with God. Their leadership moves people closer to God’s presence.

Leaders move people in a particular direction. Moms move their kids toward maturity. CEOs move their employees toward profits. Coaches move their team toward victory. Teachers move their students toward learning.

For the leader in God’s kingdom, there is a great temptation to appear spiritually successful. When activity and attendance become more important than authentic worship, it’s clear that the leader is no longer looking to work alongside the Holy Spirit.

Surfers catch waves. They get into the right spot and the wave moves them forward. It looks like a lot of fun. It’s ridiculous to imagine a surfer trying to create his own wave to ride. This is a good picture of spiritual leadership. Rather than create our own plans and pray that God blesses them, we ought to be looking for where God is already working and move alongside the work he is doing.

All believers are called to be “priests,” (1 Peter 2:9), and we can’t do this if we aren’t looking for where God is moving in our homes, churches, and communities.

Leaders KNOW God’s heart. The teachers–literally, “handlers”)–of the law were responsible for educating the people about God. On the surface, it seems like an impossible paradox, how can the people who teach others about God not actually know him themselves?

Any believer with even just a little bit of experience knows how easy it can be to fake spiritual authenticity. It’s so much easier to look good without actually being good. There is tremendous pressure to appear like we have it all together. This poison enters a community when there is too little grace shown.

Spiritual education is far more than knowledge and understanding…more than memorized verses and correct answers. The only orthodoxy that really matters is the pure heart living in obedience to Christ. Isaiah proclaimed a similar warning:

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Isaiah 29:13)

Leaders FOLLOW God’s commands. In ancient Israel, the “secular” leaders still had a spiritual responsibility to follow God. Lacking the title of prophet, priest, or teacher wasn’t a license to lead selfishly.

Spiritual leadership involves a ton of “non-spiritual” decisions. But the point is that there really is no such thing as a non-spiritual decision. God cares about it all, and he as a plan–and that plan includes details and logistics. There may be no scripture that tells you:

  • exactly how to steward your resources
  • what time the program should start
  • when a tradition should be quietly laid to rest

But God still has a plan, he’s still leading us, and it’s our responsibility to follow him.

One of the temptations in this area is to allow our convictions get compromised by popular opinion. It’s so much easier to please our critics than it is to follow our convictions.

Leaders are obedient and follow God’s leading.

Leaders SPEAK God’s words. The prophets were an ancient form of social media for God. He said it, they passed it on. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work.

Words are powerful, every leader knows this. There is a huge temptation to use words that work rather than words that are true.

When we presume to speak on God’s behalf, when we are clearly pushing our own agenda, we are not being faithful to the calling God has placed in our lives.

Leaders in God’s family need to develop their discernment, to clearly see where God is moving. We need to develop our spiritual authenticity, because without a connection to God, everything we do is empty. Leaders need to be obedient to their convictions in order to follow God’s leading. Finally, we must be careful to speak the truth and avoid the “spiritual” manipulation of others.

Inspiration trumps intention

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19)

His intentions were sound and unassailable:

  • Joseph was kind and he had no intention of disgracing Mary.
  • Joseph was righteous and he had no intention of being associated with godless behavior.
  • Joseph was reasonable and his plan made sense: his fiancee was pregnant, he wasn’t the father, and his intention was to put the situation behind him.

His intentions had everything we could ever hope for when faced with a difficult situation. He was gracious, godly, and wise.

His plan had everything except God’s approval. God had a different design, one that went beyond Joseph’s personal godliness and limited perspective.

Following Jesus means living by faith. This doesn’t discount reason and being intentional. Reason is important, but is is nothing but a candle compared to the sun that is faith.

A quiet spirit holds more value than an encyclopedic mind. Humility will hear God speak when knowledge shuts him out. Knowledge puffs up… (1 Corinthians 8:1)

So: think things through. Plot the best course. Anticipate the hurdles and weigh the possible outcomes. But once this easy work is done, take time to hear God speak. Because:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21)