Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Community - Discipleship 177

Community is one of my favorite subjects to write about, talk about and experience. I am fascinated by the human desire to connect and belong to something. The interrelated connections we create and define ourselves by are woven together in a wonderfully complex tapestry. Here are three things I'm learning more about regarding community.

1. Community is created. Community cannot be found, it has to be created. We invest the majority of our time trying to develop connections with people...we are often looking for that significant spark in order to validate our desire. The truth is that every connection we have with another being is a product of creation, not merely the dumb luck of having stumbled upon its' existence. Our desire for connection is a part of our default programming as humans. We, like our Creator, are hard-wired to connect relationally with the rest of humanity. People spend the majority of their lives in pursuit of the impossible task of finding a connection instead of learning how to create a connection. If we are hard-wired to connection, we are also hard-wired to create. Connection, and the end result of community, begins with the willingness to create.

2. Community requires discipline. Community isn't easy. It takes a great deal of commitment, consistency and discipline to stay connected. It is true that we possess the default need to be connected, but we also possess the default habit of resisting connection. The wise person is aware of this emerging dichotomy and is able to navigate the intricacy of this evolving dance. If you look at the example of Jesus, even He needed to discipline Himself to get up early in the morning in order to connect with His heavenly Father. If our Creator demonstrates the discipline required to pursue community, why would we believe that community would come easy to us as His creation?

3. Community is not static. Community is always evolving in some way. It's either growing or decaying. The challenge is knowing when you are in a season of growth, or when you are experiencing a season of decay and responding to the challenges or needs in each of these scenarios. Don't expect things to "stay the same" cause they won't. Embrace the pulsation of community and recognize that there are different seasons to be experienced in the pursuit of community.

There is so much more that can be said about community. Would you agree or disagree with these three facets of community? How do they inspire you to pursue an interconnectedness with others?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Discouraged - Discipleship 176

Discouragement is par for the course as a leader and a parent. There are times when those under our care (yes, even our own children) will not live up to our expectations or hopes and things may not go according to our original plan.

It's in these moments of discouragement that we are our most fragile. The heightened sense of emotional angst often causes us to do or to say things we may have done or said differently in a more stable moment of thought. It's also critical to have a plan of action in order to navigate these moments of discouragement.

Here are three practical steps that aide me in the battle during seasons or moments of discouragement.

1. Remember where you've been. When a moment doesn't turn out the way I had hoped or expected, it's always great for me to remember where I've come from and the growth that has happened in the past in order to get me to the present. This is especially critical as a leader when you might be campaigning for change. Discipleship is a process. It takes time for children to grow into adulthood. It takes time for character to develop. It's always important to remember the journey and where you've come from in order to help you continue to be filled with hope for the future.

2. It's only temporary. Seasons of discouragement don't last forever. Yes, there may be some more significant elements of mental illness that this idea of temporary doesn't really apply to, but in light of the long-term future of the world, heaven and God's plan of restoration, the struggle of discouragement we face is really only temporary. Imagine a different future, celebrate the past growth and learn from the present experiences.

3. Shoulder to shoulder. Do not fall into the temptation to embrace isolation in seasons of discouragement. Talk to those who care about you. Share with them how you are feeling, what you are experiencing and what is going on. Sometimes an outside perspective will help to bring clarity into your current struggle. There's nothing like a helping hand to pull you up when you might be feeling down.

What else might you add to this three part strategy?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How to train your dragon - Discipleship 175

This was one of my most favorite family films in recent memory. My daughter Saydie is relentless on watching it via playback numerous times in a month.

The element that has always stuck out to me from this film is something that I believe is relevant for parents and leaders to ask themselves: what makes training successful?

There are a number of different elements present in any sort of training and/or learning environment. In this post, I want to share three elements that I believe are absolutely critical when it comes to development and formation of people.

1. Share - This is the core of the learning process. When trying to train someone or helping them to learn, you are really inviting them to share in an experience. The success of the initiative will depend on the level to which partnership is created around the learning process...in other words, the ability to share. The learning process involves both the teacher and the pupil. Each plays a role in the process as a whole. If one end of the partnership does not live up to its design, the entire process will suffer. Questions that are key when attempting to create a learning process are: Does each participant have a voice in the process? What is the mutual benefit of this process? How is sharing occurring in the learning process?

2. Model - Its been said that people who can't do teach...and I couldn't disagree with that statement more. Unless someone has some level of experience with a subject matter, they will not be able to transfer their knowledge to another person. As a father of 3 young kids, I must be willing to model things like respect, kindness and listening if I expect them to learn the value of these skills as well. As a leader or a parent, am I modelling what I hope for my audience to experience?

3. Teach - A third element that must be present in the learning process is teaching. When I describe teaching in this context I am referring to the verbal transport of information between parties. Teachers should introduce the concept, invite participation and feedback, while helping to create ownership of the learning process on behalf of the pupil.

These are the top three things that come to mind when I think about training. What do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Key Leadership & Parenting Questions - Discipleship 174

As a parent of three young kids and a pastor to a number of teens and families, I'm learning a lot about the values of listening and asking questions. Here are three critical questions that should be incorporated into every teaching moment or conversation both as a parent and a leader.

1. What do you value? This is the grassroots foundational big bertha type of question. What I've discovered is that there are often times when I'm simply not on the same page with my kids or those in my sphere of ministry care because there is a difference in what we value. Parents who ask me to "fix their kid" are often looking for an immediate change in behaviour, where I may be approaching the situation from a longer-term heart driven and character formation type of initiative. It is absolutely critical that there is clarity when it comes to this question of value. The answer to this question will help you know how to lead, even if that means stepping away from the situation because of a different in values.

2. What do you need? This is a further clarification question for values. Sometimes parents are looking for additional support in the discipleship process of their kids. Other times, kids might be looking for an opportunity to be heart, supported, loved and cared for. The ability to ask and to answer this question will help move the teaching moment towards a preferred outcome that will be mutually beneficial. Additionally, this is an essential question every leader must ask themselves from the organization and community they are invested in. If what you need personally differs from what is able to be provided, it may be a sign that the long-term fit between leader and community/organization just isn't there...and that's ok!

3. What do you expect? No one enjoys being measured against non-verbalized expectations. Have the courage to ask the question and to give the answer so that the teaching moment will have both depth and meaning. If a parent is expecting you to fix the behaviour of their child in a 20 minute conversation you need to know. You need to know so you can share that this expectation isn't realistic. Conversely, you can then help them to craft an appropriate level of expectation by pointing them towards the broader, longer-term vision of lifelong discipleship.

These are three questions that I'm finding very valuable for me as a parent, a leader, a friend and a husband. What do you think of these questions? Do you have others you would add to this list?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Creating Culture - Discipleship 173

Change that is long term and sustainable is all about the creation of a culture.

If you look at the music industry, you will find many examples of artists who created cultural shifts that transcend time, nuance and location. If I say the word Beatles what comes to mind? Floppy hair, rock and roll, and simplicity. What about The Rolling Stones? Pushing the envelope, smash-mouth musicianship and longevity.

There are many other examples of cultural innovators such as these. The challenge we all have as emerging leaders (parents, pastors or others) is being a part of the creation of culture for a specific context, setting and time. Here are three things I'm learning about creating culture:

1. Be honest. When you look in the mirror, don't hide from the things you don't want to see and create things that simply aren't there. Be honest about where you are at and where you want to be. Its' only out of moments of authenticity that true, deep-seeded change and creation of culture can take place.

2. What do you need? In addition to a realistic perception of current reality, you need to have the courage to articulate what you need both in the present and the future. As a leader, I have to be honest about what type of feedback and encouragement I might crave, in addition to what growth and development I long to see. If I don't know what I want or what I need, how can I expect someone else to? Be real, be firm and be willing to enter into the journey of discovering what it is you really need.

3. It's gotta be personal. If the culture you are looking to create isn't something you are willing to embrace yourself, there is NO WAY you will be successful in your creative initiative. Be what you want. You can't inspire change unless you are communicating from a deep level of personal affinity, passion and growth.

Creating culture takes time. If you aren't willing to see it begin to develop over the long haul, perhaps you should re-examine your desire to be a part of a cultural shift. We all want to be known and remembered for something. What does your culture creating strategy say about who you are as a leader, what you want to be known for and what is important to you?

My hope and prayer is that those who affected by the creative cultural initiatives I champion might be inspired by the grace, mercy and love of Christ that permeates to one's very core.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Community - Discipleship 172

I've written about and spoken on this subject matter on a number of different occasions. Today, I want to share a different slant on community. I'm going to be transparent, sharing the fears that I battle in my own personal pursuit of community.

1. I believe the lie of isolation. In some way, shape or form, I believe that lie that suggests I'm better off on my own. Independence is a great thing...but being too independent only leads to loneliness and despair. Codependence, on the other hand, recognizes that need for a communal approach to life. But again, too great an emphasis on codependence results in an unbalanced and unhealthy approach to life. There needs to be a balance between our individual pursuit of independence and our communal pursuit of codependence. No one can truly live in complete isolation from others.

2. I value experience over people. There are times when I simply do not make time for connecting with others because I'm too focused on consuming an experience. Sometimes this experience is something new, but other times it is something all to familiar. In these moments, I believe the experience will satisfy my desires more than a connection with a community of people.

3. What if they don't like me? There are times when I'm so worried about what something might think of me that I refrain from pursuing some form of community with them. I wonder if I will be accepted, mocked or ridiculed. If I put myself out there and people don't respond positively, what does that say about who I really am?

These three named fears are fears that I believe each of us wrestles with in our pursuit of community. The question we must ask ourselves when we come face to face with our fears is if the fear is really worth it? I can tell you from experience that there are many different people (my wife included) that I would never have experienced community with if I didn't face my fear and risk something for the reward of relational connection.

Each of us longs to belong to something, but community isn't something we can find, it's something we need to create. The questions of fear paralyze our ability to create connections, and without connections, community is impossible. Face your fear, take the risk and create community. 

What do you think?