Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parents - Allies or Enemies?

This post is also featured on the Youth Cartel blog here and also on Canadian Youth Worker.

When I first started out in youth ministry I thought my role was to be everything a teen's parents could never be in their life. I focused on being edgy, cool, hip and of course up to speed on pop culture.
Then something happened. I myself became a parent.
So what was my new role as a youth worker going to be now that I was parent myself? Did this eliminate my identity as a hip, cool and with-it youth pastor?
The truth is, being a parent has enhanced my ability to both pastor and parent. Neither of these roles are mutually exclusive, but somehow they have blended together to help me reshape how I lead families in the present and into the future. Here are three things that I'm learning about working with parents in ministry.

1. Parents aren't the enemy. We've all had negative interaction with parents I'm sure, but these experiences don't make parents bad people. Parenting is the most difficult job on the planet. Add into the mix the explorative tendencies teens possess, and you get an emotionally charged scenario 9 times out of 10. Parents are passionate about their kids, and sometimes their passion is mis-communicated as anger, rage or displeasure. Wise youth leaders find ways to disarm emotionally charged confrontations and turn them into win-win scenarios for all parties. Parents sometimes just need someone to listen...just like teens do. I wonder if we spent more time listening to the stories and needs of parents if we'd build greater partnerships with them?

2. Parents need to be loved & valued too. If you're constantly told that you aren't doing a good job, wouldn't you begin to believe it? Most teens (like most human beings) have no problem telling people when things aren't working well for them, but when it comes to sharing encouragement, they might struggle to do so. Consider your next upcoming parents gathering. Spend a few moments encouraging and inspiring parents instead of asking them to change something they do right away, you might find that they are more willing to consider your ideas once you've spent some time listening to them.

3. Parents want to belong & fit in. Often times parents feel isolated in their parenting struggles or wins with their kids. The family schedule is usually oriented around that activities of the children. Parents often sacrifice their own desires and needs for socialization for the sake of their child's development. Are your parent connection times more about information being given, or relationships between parents being built? The most powerful gift you can ever offer another human being is to help them see that they aren't alone in life. Parents long to belong and fit your ministry to families a place where they can do that? 

What are you learning about working with parents? Post your ideas below!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Leaders who are Different

This post also appears on the Youth Cartel blog.

There is no “one-size fits all” approach to leadership. There is an abundance of examples of rich diversity in nature marked by the sheer volume of unique species of plants, animals, fish, rock or foliage. And as diverse as creation is, leaders too are developed through different gifts, personalities, abilities and styles.
Here are four types of different leaders I’ve had the privilege of serving with:
1. The reluctant leader – I wrote about this at length here. A reluctant leader is someone who believes that they could be or should be doing something else. There are countless biblical examples of this leadership type. For this conversation, however, let’s refine our thoughts to the person of Moses.
Moses didn’t want to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  He didn’t want to carry the burden of leadership while wandering in the desert. Moses was called by God to lead even though he wanted to live into a different calling.
We sometimes will work with leaders like this. It’s important for us to affirm their calling, while encouraging them to engage emotionally in the leadership opportunity they’ve been given.
2. The timid leader – Gideon is a prime example of a timid leader. Timid leaders question both their calling and their ability, and yet timid leaders are often times the most powerful and profound leaders of an organization. They spend a great deal of effort connecting relationally with those whom they are charged with leading because they are willing to earn the right to lead through relational connection.
Timid leaders are catalysts for relational depth in your community.
3. The headstrong leader – These leaders are intense. They push through obstacles and often times run over people in the process. Peter was this kind of leader. At times their intensity can be misdiagnosed as arrogance. Headstrong leaders have a clear picture of where they are going and are determined to get there.
Headstrong leaders need boundaries or they will run over everything in their path. Be firm, remind them of vision and set them up to succeed by allowing them to help lead your organization and community forward.
4. Systematic leader – Systematic leaders choose their path wisely. They calculate the pros and cons of any given leadership situation and have often thought through a variety of different solutions to a problem while others may still be attempting to describe what they problem is. One biblical case study for this type of leader is Joshua. Joshua learned how to bring a vision to life by leading the people of Israel into the promised land.
Systematic leaders can help you make wise decisions that may bring a larger vision into focus and/or into reality over time.
The reality is that each of us is a blend of these different leadership types, but we may possess a natural tendency or dominance towards one or two of these profiles. Think about your team of leaders. Which ones fit into which profile? Are there other types of leaders you would add to this list? What type of leader are you, and how does this shape how you lead?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What's in a Name?

This post appears on the Youth Cartel blog.

I remember the first moment when I found out I was going to be a dad. Mixed emotions of excitement, nervousness and joy flooded into my soul. The weight of responsibility of caring for and discipling a young child into adulthood became the focus of my thought power and energy leading up to the moment of birth (and beyond!). Of all the responsibilities associated with being a parent, none seemed as important as providing a great start for this new child by choosing the name they would live into.
My wife Bonny and I spent countless hours creating names for our children. We created a spreadsheet listing all the leading name candidates, researching their meaning and dreaming about what we hoped our children would live into in terms of values, character and aspirations for their future.
The day came where we met each of our three children and called them by name. In that moment everything seemed settled, new, hope-filled and amazing.
Fast forward a couple of years and these young little babies who are now young children are beginning to live into and own the name that they have been given. They respond to it when it’s called (for the most part…), they introduce themselves by it and they know how to write it. My kids are beginning to share who they are with others, starting with their name.
I often marvel at the power that names have in each of our lives. Working with teens I’ve seen firsthand the positive and negative effects of names or labels that have been placed on these kids by those who they trusted and cared about. How we speak to each other and what references or names we use matter. The grade 7 boy who is home-schooled is more than just a home-schooler. The grade 10 girl who has dated half the youth group is more than just the floozy. The student that lives in the rough part of town is more than an underprivileged kid.
The names we share with one another and we give to others matter. What names are you using to refer to the teens and families under your sphere of influence and care? Are they names that breathe life into their souls, or names that reinforce all the lies they may be tempted to believe about who they are? What’s in a name, and does a name really matter?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What do you really value?

This post also appears on the Barefoot Ministries blog here.

What do you really value? In different seasons of life I’ve found this question to be both motivating and debilitating. As I’ve stared into the mirror and seen the reflection of how I have invested my time, resources, and abilities, I’ve experienced moments where my values are inspiring and moments where my values humble me because they are different from what I hoped them to be.
Life is a journey, filled with a sequence of highs and lows. Self-discovery is critically important for an individual, his or her family, and his or her broader community. The process of self-discovery begins with uncovering what our values really are.
Values, beliefs, and customs are directly related to tendencies, priorities, and actions. Objectively identifying how we behave will lead us to question why we do what we do. It is the determination of the why behind a particular behavior that leads us to discover what value drives our activity.
The sobering reality is that much of what we say we value actually differs from what our realistic, lived values tend to be. While it’s true that an external environment, perceived limitations, or uncontrollable circumstances contribute to the development of a set of values, personal choice and activity still bring a set of values to life.
Let’s look at the state of the North American church for a moment. Consumerism and democracy have shaped North American faith. As a result, people have a tendency to voice their individual opinions while searching to create (or consume) their own personal spiritual experiences. The resulting factor has been an elevation of personal spiritual development with the resulting diminishing value of a communal experience or expression. The question of, What do I get out of this? becomes more important than, What can we contribute to this?
Knowing what we value will help us redefine a vision for our present reality and our future hope. Values shape who we are and what we do. What do your values say about you?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New things?

I've never been one to sit down and generate a bunch of resolutions for a new year, which might surprise some of you. Yes, it is true that I'm somewhat of a hyper-active planner but there are some things that even a systems oriented guy like me don't really enjoy spending a lot of time thinking about!

Here's why I've never generate a list of new things to accomplish in a new year:

1. I'm usually on vacation as I usher in a new year. For the last 10 years or so, I've used the Christmas/New Year season to slow down, unplug and recharge. In other words, I like to attempt to shut my brain down for awhile. I discipline myself to attempt to live in the present alongside my family & friends and really enjoy what the season represents.

2. I don't like feeling pressured to come up with something. I don't mind working in an instance, high-driven environment. But I do like to plan on my own terms and in my own time frame. Just because someone else is coming up with something doesn't pressure me to do the same. While others may generate their resolutions out of habit, how many are simply living into the "monkey see, monkey do" imitation culture that is too prevalent in our world?

3. I need clarity. I take my faith and my life seriously. Both are gifts that I cherish. When I plan, I seek wisdom that only comes from God's revelation through the Bible, through creation and through Christ-like people that intersect with my life over time.

I've made plans and goals for 2014, but I hold them loosely and I'm willing to allow them to be changed, grown and re-directed as needed.

What about you? Have you planned new things for this new year? If so, how did you begin to plan towards these new things? If not, why not? Share your feedback with a comment, email or social media interaction.