Archives For leadership

This past weekend, my wife, Dana, and I decided it was time to do some much-needed landscaping at our new house. There are a lot of hobbies that I enjoy, but gardening is just not one of them. The main reason I don’t enjoy it is because I really don’t know what I’m doing. In the past, we’ve paid hundreds of dollars for plants only to watch them die due to my lack of horticulture knowledge. But this time was different because I had a mentor.

My father-in-law loves gardening and he’s extremely good at it. He just happened to be in town this weekend, so he came over to help with the task.  I quickly learned that having a mentor is a powerful advantage that transforms the entire experience.

Here is what I learned from the landscaping project:

You need a mentor to increase your passion
As the day went by, my disgust for gardening faded because of my father-in-law’s contagious passion.  He was teaching me about the process that he really loved, and pretty soon I was hooked. I realized passion exponentially increases when you’re exposed to a mentor who is passionate.

You need a mentor to increase your knowledge
One of the major reasons that I was beginning to enjoy the landscape project was because I felt like I finally understand what I was doing.  I wasn’t simply following instructions that came with the plan. I was watching and learning as he explained the best way to prepare the soil and care for the plant.  My knowledge was increasing because he was showing me how to get it done.

You need a mentor to increase your work
The landscape project only included the small flower bed in front of the house. I was too scared to tackle the larger beds that were on both sides of the house.  I was also too scared to touch the existing plants and shrubs that had become overgrown. So what did we get done? All of it! We pruned the shrubs, pulled out the weeds, and spruced up all three flower beds. And we did it in record time! What seemed daunting and impossible to me became a fairly easy project because I had leadership and encouragement from a mentor. We’re able to get so much more done when we have a mentor that is leading us and cheering for us!

As a ministry leader, you need a mentor. We all have blind spots. We all go through seasons of stagnation. We need a mentor to lead and encourage us to move forward. 

By the way, HUGE shout out of thanks to my father-in-law, Gary, for all the landscape help. We now have a much more beautiful yard thanks to him. More importantly, I feel like I have a lot more horticulture knowledge!

As I was walking through the halls of church this morning putting the finishing touches on Sunday’s setup, I ran into a mom who brightened my day.  It was a very brief encounter, but what she said was full of encouragement. As I walked away with wind in my sails, I thought about the power of encouragement. 

Here are a few ideas for encouraging others:

Catch them in the Act
Everyone likes their work to be noticed.  A toddler will bring you a piece of paper that looks like a crayon box threw up on it, just to say “Look what I did!” It’s in our DNA to be recognized for what we do.  If you want to encourage others, try to catch them in the act of doing something well.

Praise Them in Front of Others
The mom that spoke to me this morning shared how she was also talking with another mom…about me!  That’s not always a good thing, but this time it was.  It really encouraged me that they both thought enough of my actions to have it be a topic of conversation.  If you want to encourage others, hold them up as an example of excellence in front of their peers.  This will breed more excitement and determination in everyone because they see that you value their contribution. 

Encouragement002

Use Brief Comments
I typically think of encouragement as being a card, an email, or a gift.  The reality is that personally delivering a few encouraging words is much more effective. The conversation I had was only 1 to 2 minutes long, but her words have given me energy for the day.  It even prompted this post!  If you want to encourage others, take a moment to speak words of encouragement to them.  Gifts and awards are great, but don’t forget the power of your words.

 Use Their Language
This is a tough one because it requires you to really get to know the person.  Our staff has been learning about the differences in personality and how that affects communication.  What we’ve learned is that each person receives encouragement differently.  For example, if you told me that you were proud of how I kept a smile as I stacked boxes, I would not be very encouraged. I would thank you for your comment, but inside I would be thinking, “I stacked 482 boxes and all you saw was a smile??”  This is because my personality type places a high emphasis on dedication and achievement, not so much on feelings or sensory.  A better word of encouragement for me would be, “Thank you for all your help. I saw how many boxes you stacked, and I just want you to know that it means a lot to me.  You worked very hard, and I appreciate that.”  Those words would be like manna from Heaven for me!  The point is, if you want to encourage others, be observant and find out what really motivates them.  Everyone has a root motivator that leads them to do whatever it is that they do.  If you can find that root and speak specific encouragement to it, then your words will always resonate in the heart of the person.

How can you encourage others today?

If you don’t scour through the bargain books at your local bookstore, you really should!  In doing so a few days ago, I came across The Generosity Factor by leadership/business guru, Ken Blanchard and Chick-Fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy.  The book is almost 10 years old, but the principles are so timeless and wise.

Generosity-factor

The book is written as a parable about a young, hot-shot broker who despite success is searching for significance. He visits a sage executive who conducts business by a much different motto—generosity. The executive teaches the broker some rock-solid, Biblical principles that are true for business and life. In the end, the broker realizes that the 5 principles make an acronym that spells, “HEART.”  He teaches the broker that a changed heart is the key to life. It’s not about how it changes, but about Who changes it. As the broker puts the principles into practice, it not only changes his life but the lives of those around him. 

The five principles are:

  • He (God) Owns It All—we are merely stewards of God’s gifts
  • Every Day Is an Opportunity—everyone has a chance to do something to bless others
  • Action is Required—“It’s one thing to think about ways to help others, it’s quite another to act.”
  • Remember Your Blessings—Take inventory of the gifts God has given
  • Thank Him–Be thankful for what God has given and for opportunities to give to others

These principles form the generosity factor—a changed heart that decides to give of what has been given to him. The principles and examples of the book are taken from the life of S. Truett Cathy.  He has do amazing work to serve others through Chick-Fil-A.  It’s amazing to see how he has given of his Time, Talent, Treasure, and Touch.

I highly recommend picking up this book—especially if you are a business owner or manager of people.  These principles will undoubtedly help you to be a stronger leader.  I’ll end this review with a few quotes from the book:

“Generosity isn’t about doing the minimum—simply doing the expected. Every day I look for opportunities to do something extra. I make it a part of my routine. Kind of a habit, you might say.”

“Generosity is an attitude. It must be cultivated daily.”

“I’m just the steward of anything that’s been given to me. I’m a caretaker. Because much has been given to me, much is required of me. That’s my responsibility, and I accept it with gratitude…The natural by-product of gratitude is generosity.”

 “The success-motivated person tends to measure his or her life in terms of money, power, status, achievement, and recognition. The significant person places emphasis on a more spiritual view of life—generosity, empowerment of others, service, building up others, and helping them develop solid relationships.”

“You will know you have truly attained significance by the sincerity of your generosity, the joy you find in service, and by the selfless nature of your relationships.  You will know by the depth of your changed heart”

One of the most difficult parts of preteen ministry is keeping your leaders fresh and equipped for the task at hand. We kick-off the year with a huge training event, and we host periodic training events throughout the year. But I always wish we could do more.

When I read a great article or blog on preteen ministry, I want to pass that on to volunteers to encourage them.  When I read a great book that deals directly with the series we’re doing, I want to pass that book to the leaders to equip them.

But how?

This year, we launched The Library. It is basically just a bookshelf in our preteen area, but on it are books, articles, and other pieces that are designed to encourage and equip our preteen leadership team. We look for resources that will help leaders to grow spiritually, help leaders understand preteens, or help leaders develop skills as a leaders/teacher. We don’t require them to use these resources, but we strongly encourage them to check out at least one resource during the year. The resources are there for their use…at their convenience. They can take any resource and keep it for as long as they need to When they’re done with it, they return it and take another resource. They can also add resources to share with other leaders. . If they read a good book or see an interesting article, they know that putting it in The Library is the best way to share it with others.

The Library has been a great help for our ministry. Our goal is not just to fill the volunteer spots that we have in ministry. We want to build up leaders and equip them to serve at church and at home. That’s a really hard task when people are so busy and can’t make it to tons of meetings. These resources in The Library are helping us meet the challenge.