Leader: After the Big Event “Watch What you Say!”


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You’ve been planning and talking about this big event for months. Now it’s finally over and someone asks you “So how did it go?”

You have two choices:
Option 1) Tell them about a problem and what didn’t go well or
Option 2) tell them a story of success tied to the event. It sounds so simple, but listen to yourself and you’ll be surprised how often you choose Option One and tell people “It went good, but…” The problem is when you choose Option One, you’ve just made that problem the story that circulates. “It was a great fundraiser, but it went really long and we fell short of our goal.” Or, “It was a great retreat but Johnny got hurt.” This story then becomes what those people share with others when asked… “Hey do you know how the fundraiser went?”

Instead you should almost always choose Option Two. What if instead of sharing the problems, you instead chose to share a story of life change that was connected to the event?

So instead you might say something like: “The fundraiser was fantastic. “This teenage girl talked about when she was incarcerated and how the program changed her life… It was amazing!”

How much better to have that become the story that circulates by word of mouth? When that happens, it tells people what you value. When you say… “The fundraiser was just okay. We only had 46 people there and barely raised $3,700.” You are telling people how you evaluate success. In other words, you are telling people not enough people came and not enough money was raised. They think to themselves, “I’m glad I didn’t go and waste my evening.” Instead you want them to think “Wow, I would have loved to have heard that; I need to make sure I don’t miss out next time.”

When I was a youth pastor I used to hate it when after a big retreat or missions trip my senior pastor would stop me in the hall… “Hey, how did it go?” Did anybody get hurt? Did you make budget?” That made me feel like that the bottom line was the only thing that he really cared about, (which I knew wasn’t true). So after a few years I figured something out. On our our way back from the retreat I would find a kid story from the event. I would then I’d send out an email to the rest of the staff talking about the story of life change. I’d also tell all my leaders who went to share this story when they were asked how the event went. This created such a positive buzz about the event. We learned to help shape the story that was told. Before I started doing that, a kid might get hurt and that became all anyone talked about after the retreat and it would totally hijack the attention away from all the amazing positive stuff that happened.

It’s not manipulation, it’s simply being intentional about your words. The stories you share become the narrative that people repeat. Make sure the story that’s told, is the one you want.

-M

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Leader: Are you coasting?


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“Mailing it in” is what we used to call it in sports. Its the term you use when you get to the place in your life where you’ve done all this before, and honestly you’re bored. You’ve stopped pushing, you’ve stopped growing, you’re leaning hard on your vast experience, and you’re not giving it your best. You’ve starting repeating old messages, not prepping like you used to. You’ve begun a new habit of leaving a little early from work, and you’ve started coming in late. You’re basically going through the motions. You’ve stopped dreaming. You’re clocking in and clocking out. What used to be a dream job, had become just a job. It’s a horrible place to be in life, but especially sinful in a ministry context. Remember what it was like to be nervous to stand in front of a group of kids and deliver a message? Remember when you led your first parents meeting and the feeling you had in the pit of your stomach that someone was gonna figure out that you didn’t know what the crap you were doing? What happened to that? You used to dream about God doing stuff, but reality has sucked the life out of you. You no longer have any dreams. You’re mailing it in.

As a veteran youth worker I’ve been there a time or two. It’s natural to get comfortable with things after you do them over and over. And it’s okay to not get as nervous as you used to. But you must fight the urge to let lethargy creep in as you gain experience. It will lull you to sleep like anesthesia. And your people will follow.

I remember when our youth ministry had grown to a place where it needed another level of leadership. I had some very talented youth workers that were trained up and ready to take over both the Middle School and High School programs. I wasn’t really ready to let go, but they were chomping at the bit, young bucks with talent, energy and passion. I knew as a leader, I needed to step aside and let them run. So I added an extra layer of leadership, and put each of them in charge of Middle School and High School respectively, and I oversaw the vision, mission, direction of the whole thing. My mistake was not holding onto any direct contact work with teenagers. I didn’t mandate that I speak every month. I started snowboarding more. I let the youth workers dream about the youth ministry, and I started dreaming about fresh powder. My create energy and passion migrated to this new area, while my heart for youth ministry languished. I got bored with my job. Something else had captured my heart. Here I was at a megachurch, one of the most influential churches in the Northwest, and I was bored.

By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. I had given the keys to the car away to the new youth guys, and there was no taking them back. And after several conversations with my boss and Sr. Pastor, who were both close friends of mine, with tears in our eyes, we realized that I needed to move on. I resigned, and started the process of dreaming again. I left the comfort of the big church with the nice salary and good benefits and started over.

It was terrifying. I had to ask the question, “What would I want to do if I could do anything?” I had to reengage my heart and connect it to my mission again. While it was scary and uncertain, it was exhilarating at the same time. We are not designed to mail it in. We are designed for greatness, to achieve more than what we thought we could. We were created to chase dreams, God’s dreams, to grow and develop, to do hard things.

If your heart has become disconnected from your job, you owe it to God, to your people, to your family… Most of all you owe it to yourself, to re-engage. Start the process today.

Your life depends on it. You were not created to mail in a mediocre existence.
You were designed to dream God dreams. Get to it.
-M

 

What kind of leader are you?


Do you know an insecure leader?

Some great leaders I know...

Some great leaders I serve with…

I’m not sure what it is about ministry that attracts a certain type of leader, but it does. You’ve seen it and you’ve experienced it. There is definitely a consistent DNA pattern that runs through many leaders in the church. It’s insecurity. And it’s glaring problem in church leadership today. This holds true in Youth Ministry as well as the Senior Pastorate. Maybe it’s that Jesus gives insecure people the validation they are looking for, but whatever it is, insecurity is one of the most common personality traits I see in ministers. And it’s horrible to see and experience.

If you’ve ever been part of a congregation with an insecure leader you know what I’m talking about.

Here are some sure signs of an insecure leader:

  1. The insecure leader has very few volunteers; “no one else can do it right.” He says he is open to people volunteering, but he has nearly impossible standards for volunteering. The insecure leader loves being important, (feeling irreplaceable), and does not like to share the limelight. In contrast, it is the secure leader’s joy to train up and release others to do ministry.
  2. The insecure leader only recruits “yes men” to his board or inner circle. One of a leader’s greatest difficulties is the ability to solicit accurate assessment and garner honest feedback. The insecure leader sees the contrary voice as opposition, and will not stand for it. Conversely, the secure leader surrounds himself with wise men and women whose different voices bring balance to his blind spots. In sports, a head coach wants his assistant coaches to point out the team’s vulnerabilities. This makes the team stronger as the team can then address those weaknesses instead of foolishly overlooking them.
  3. An insecure leader cares too much about what people are saying & thinking. Constantly asking people “What do you think?” the insecure leader determines direction by getting it from others. In another expression, the insecure leader uses questioning to attempt to maintain control over the court of public opinion, “What have you heard?”  The secure leader is confident in the direction he is headed and does not lead by public opinion polls. He does not feel threatened when others do not agree. He cares about the thoughts of others, but not overly so.
  4. An insecure leader hates conflict while a secure leader almost enjoys it.  The insecure leader sees conflict as a threat to his leadership while a secure leader sees conflict as an opportunity to shape the contrary opinion or action, and bring the individual on board. For that to happen there must be discussion, the issue must surface, at times to the point of conflict for there to be resolution and incorrect thinking shaped or brought into alignment.

In my experience as a youth pastor, I have worked for both extremes:  the insecure pastor, and the very secure pastor.  It’s been said that “you learn more from a bad boss than a good one.”  And while I’m not sure that’s completely true, I certainly learned quite a bit about the type of leader I desire to be from experiencing both.  I have not always been a secure leader. But I’ve seen up close the tyranny of the insecure leader. So when conflict arises in my life, and I want to go all schoolyard on people, I pause and remind myself about the type of leader I wish to be and act accordingly, knowing that eventually my feelings will get in line.

So the question isn’t so much “What kind of leader do you work for?” It’s “What kind of leader do you want to be?” I certainly know which one I’d rather follow.

~Mark

“Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity.”  Colin Powell

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