Every leader has a bias, and this is good… BUT

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It’s getting to that time when leaders and teams start to take stock of the year that’s been and plan for the year to come. It’s a hugely important part of the rhythm of a year and therefore deserves a leaders time and attention. Lots of leaders and teams go through the process of asking:

What do I stop?

What do I start?

What do I sustain?

These questions are crucial as they relate to projects, programs, budgets, and strategic plans. Each of these items are tactile and controllable enough to be changed and shaped as needed. However, the most influential factor related to the success of any ministry is the team of people deployed to do the work. If we’re going to assess the actions of our team as it relates to the vision we’re pursuing, it’s crucial that we also assess the balance, gift mix and cohesion of the team of people working together.

My leadership context has mostly been youth and young adult ministry and whilst I have struggled with the tension of different personalities and priorities within teams, a slight shift in perspective has taught me to embrace the enormous opportunities such challenges afford. Allow me to elaborate with an example.

what-is-an-unbalanced-questionT H E  M E E T I N G

The leadership meeting went something like this…

“I don’t care what we do, as long as these students are cared for and are experiencing genuine love and acceptance nothing else matters!”

Then someone else said,

“It’s all well and good that we care for them but if they aren’t learning anything about Jesus and the word of God then we are not really building the foundations of their faith.”

Then someone else said,

“We might be teaching the kids we have but if we’re not reaching out to young people who don’t know Jesus then we won’t have any kids to teach!”

Then someone else said,

“We need to think strategically about how we will develop the youth ministry and make sure that our planning allows for growth and multiplication, that’s what’s really important.”

Yet another said,

“You’re all wrong, the way we’re doing things now needs to change, and if we don’t do it soon, there’ll be nothing to multiply!”

Sound familiar? Most youth leaders and ministers have all been involved in a meeting or two like that. It is frustrating, and can leave you asking ‘How on earth can I get this team to agree on a direction let alone work together?!’ But when we look more closely this is not an issue of disunity or a lack of shared vision. It is more just a reality that every leadership team will face, especially if the team has a diverse mix of gifts and leadership styles.

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A P E S T

Through a seemingly conflicted moment we are actually seeing the five fold ministry gifts expressed as described in Ephesians 4:11-13, and if it is understood and embraced rather than resisted, it can serve your ministry in ways that might not otherwise occur. The Apostle Paul said…

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 TNIV)

Leadership should be diverse in approach and practice. It should have a different emphasis and focus depending on the person, their leadership bias and the season of the ministry. Teams that embrace the difference understand that different leadership styles will be elevated to prominence depending on what is necessary for the time. They will not elevate one gift over another for the sake of the leader and their need to exercise the gift. But they will demand an approach that helps their young people to

‘…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.’

And from time to time, for each young person the leadership approach will be different. This is why we need to have different leaders with different gifts avoiding uniformity and apparent conflicts. None of us can become ‘all things to all people’; we need each other and our young people need us to know this.

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W H A T ‘ S  Y O U R  B I A S ?

So… the question is, do you know your leadership bias? Are you an apostle charged with the responsibility to see new kingdom works established and multiplied? If so, then you will need the prophets to question your decisions. You will need the evangelists to reach out to and embrace the lost. You will need the shepherds to care for and protect them. And you will need the teachers to help them learn and grow. You get my point… whatever your gift-mix you NEED the others so that,

“…the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (vv12-13)

And surely we can agree that is what we want for our young people.

I regularly meet with many teams that are not well balanced which inevitably hinders their ability to get the job done. Indeed it is completely possible to have too much of a good thing! So take stock of your activity AND be brave enough to assess your team.

So tell me… How do you asses the balance of your team’s gift-mix? What tools or framework do you use? How have you managed the tension between different leaders bias? Let’s hear it!

BK

**If you want explore further your own gifts and how they might fit in a team context you can go to http://www.apesttest.com (not sponsored).


 

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3 simple words that could save your life – part 3 of 3

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A Youth Worker a Nun and a drunk are seated on a plane together… I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but the story I shared in the short clip above is 100% true. I (the youth worker, just to be clear) found myself in a near impossible situation stuck in the middle of two people with whom I was unable to connect with or escape. To the left of me, a person who was about to share the inside of their stomach, to the right of me a person that represented all things good and wonderful and holy. And then there’s me, completely and utterly stuck in the middle.

Everyone feels stuck from time to time. Life has a way of sometimes taking us to some very tough places. We look one way and we see challenges and struggles, it feels as though the proverbial bile of the universe is moments away from dropping into our lap. We look in the other direction and we see all things good, beautiful and wonderful, we desperately want to find our way there but it seems as though there is no conceivable pathway to get there.

Stuck.

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Stuck somewhere between the fear that our challenges will never ease and the hope that maybe one-day we will somehow come through the other side. You know the feeling?

Like when we crave the restoration of a relationship gone wrong.

As we deal with the rejection of a lost a job whilst trying to find another.

Like when we face the bully who won’t go away.

Like living in a period of ill-health without a foreseeable improvement.

Or just feeling ‘blah’ for no apparent reason. All of these can leave us feeling totally and completely STUCK with no way out.

Situations like these might take us to the end of our tether, but they do not need to be the end of the story. There’s more to be written. A new script. A new day. A new story. Full redemption is possible and it begins with a conversation.

It’s exactly at this point that we need to call on the most valuable of all our assets. We pull out the big guns, the high-end ammunition and attack it with the full arsenal of weapons at our disposal –

W E  A S K  F O R  H E L P

So I’m sitting on a plane, stuck between fear and hope. My anxiety was paralyzing and my feelings of panic were off the chart. What did I do (aside form panic) you might ask? Well I did the only thing I could do. I reached out and hit the button. I called out for HELP. The flight attendant came to my aid, ushered the spanish speaking Nun from her seat. I was able to get out, the vomitus vixen to my right was able to get to the bathroom and do whatever she needed to do. Shortly after we all resumed our seat and continued on the journey. Problem addressed. Sometimes all we can do is call out I NEED HELP and sometimes that is enough. But how will we ever know unless we speak up?

I have felt really stuck many times, and many times I have had to ask for help. On one occasion it saved my life. I suspect that you might be surprised at just how many people there are who are also willing to help you. But in order to unlock this support it’s possible you need to speak up. Talk to a friend, your family, your parents, your doctor. Or if you prefer contact one of the many HELP lines available (I’ve listed some below).

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The bottom line is you’ve got to seek some HELP and now is the time to do it. Coincidentally today is R U OK? day, so consider yourself asked! Should you need to I hope you can answer with these three simple words:

I  N E E D  H E L P

Say them, repeat them, type them, write them, send them to someone, SCREAM them if you have to.

I  N E E D  H E L P

Oh… and if someone trusts you enough to share these words, please respond well. Sometimes it is as simple as just listening as they talk about what is troubling them, but this simple act can indeed save a life. (You might like to check out the R U OK site for some excellent tips and resources for both helpers and those seeking help.)

Saying ‘I need help’ reminds us of our worth.

Saying ‘I need help’ moves us toward others and an experience of connection and belonging.

Saying ‘I need help’ is an important step toward hope, change and becoming un-stuck.

So remember these three simple words. They could very well save your life.

This is the last of the three post series on the topic. Thanks for hanging in there with me, I know it’s been pretty heavy. As always, I’m keen to know your thoughts. Where have you found help? What or who gives you hope? When have you said ‘I Need Help’?. Lets keep this important conversation alive.

BK

If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact:

Lifeline    |    Beyond Blue    |    Man Therapy    |    Kids Help Line    |    Headspace


my favourite four-letter word…

When was the last time you did something different? I mean truly different? I’m not talking about a tweak on the status quo or a slight adjustment on a pre-existing thing, I mean a brand new idea that you dreamed up and then committed time to implement it.

I often ask leaders and teams that exact question, and you might be surprised to know that most of the time the answer to that question is ‘never’. Even more interesting is that many don’t actually see this as a problem. I hear leaders regularly tout the words of Solomon ‘there is nothing new under the sun…’ as if to find some kind of comfort or solace in the realisation they are void of the responsibility to dream the impossible and initiate a unique and alternative response to the myriad of issues people face today. It would appear that our culture’s ‘cookie cutter’ approach to living has informed the way we do ministry, that we have forgotten the place of innovation and creativity in our work. Personally I find this really disconcerting.

It leaves me pondering ‘what happened?’ When I consider the early church and the creativity and innovation they had to employ (for the sake of the gospel and the survival of the church), I can only wonder why we are so reticent to do the same. As I read through the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles I am constantly confronted with the incredible risks people were prepared to take in response to the Creator, His work through Jesus and those who would be brave enough to follow. There are countless stories in scripture of people pursuing the impossible, displaying incredible innovation and creativity for their time, and seeing extraordinary outcomes as a result. So again I ask… what has happened?

It would seem that our image conscious age has impacted our ability to innovate and take creative risks. For many people in today’s context and culture, RISK has simply become another four-letter word! The worth of an idea is measured by the maxim ‘will it work?’. An important question, granted. However such a question does not allow for the possibility that the dreams and desires that well up within us (on the rare occasion we allow them to) could actually have something more to offer than that which simply ‘works’. Unfortunately,

we have replaced our creative yearning with market research, popular opinion, and projections of estimated outcomes. Innovation is deemed too risky if this holy-trinity of marketing is not in alignment therefore willing us to continue.

Furthermore, feeding this image conscious psyche is our incessant pursuit of perfection. Creativity and innovation on the other hand are usually far from perfect. It can be a messy and sometimes un-measurable process. As a result the average person finds it very difficult to put themselves out-there and attempt something that might come off as less than perfect. And who can blame them? After all, we are constantly bombarded by high quality creativity. Think about it… The music aired on commercial radio has been designed rehearsed recorded edited produced market-tested and refined… TO PERFECTION. Only then is it shared with others. And so it goes for most creative endeavours in our society. The art on display, the fashion we buy, the movies on show, the technology we use – it is all manufactured to perfection long before it becomes available to the public.

The effects of this is that we have come to believe that something with humble, less than perfect beginnings, is simply not worth pursuing. Of course the flow on effect for those of us in leadership is obvious. We pick and choose from the seemingly perfect range of products and apply them to our situation at will. Do we consider the possibility that there might be a better way? An original response? One that serves the need and inspires others by its own merit?

The influence of the must-fit-in culture of our age demands we take on a persona that is tried, tested and current.  We may well desire the creative but in actual fact we have settled for conformity. This is a shame, because very few things in life begin as ‘perfect’. But who is to say that perfect is the goal anyway?

If we are looking for perfection in creativity (by the worlds standards) we are missing the point. Creativity is meant to be experienced first hand as much as it is observed. We are meant to create because within this process the creator is offering something truly original, and this is a reflection of the beauty and imagination of The Creator. This unique expression of the true self is in essence innovative. No one has done it before, it is inspired and it cannot be replicated as it is first experienced.

The ministry we are entrusted with invites us to enter the creative mind of God and partner to see The Kingdom come. It is important to learn to think this way because all ministries will be faced with future challenges that current forms of thinking are simply inadequate to address. The core values and ministry priorities may not change, but the method will change in response to our rapidly changing context and culture. Indeed one cannot solve a problem with the same mode of thinking that helped to create the problem in the first place! It will require a new set of eyes, a new way of thinking, and a different approach altogether.

One of the best ways to begin the process of creative expression is to spend time with fellow imagineers. As the adage goes ‘when the elements are right, a spark ignites into a flame’. It’s vitally important to have people who will dream with you and encourage you to take risks for His sake. There are many places this can happen. I am particularly thankful for the support and encouragement I receive through the Youth Vision network, and the inspiration shared as I spend time with like-minded people at events like The Road, AND festival, and The National Youth Ministry Convention. These are great places to connect with others on similar journeys and be inspired with creative thinking and innovative practice.

So… when was the last time you did something new? Maybe it is time you for you to put aside time and energy to explore some new possibilities? Maybe it’s time you tapped your creative well? Maybe it’s time you inserted this four-letter word into your vocabulary? Maybe it’s time to put your good (albeit risky) ideas into practice? It’s time to get started… This short clip might help you.

**This is a rework of an article I wrote for YV.Q published October 2011