Losing the Battle

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxer

Are you willing to lose a battle to win the war?

This thought recently came to me when talking with a room full of probation officers. They were upset that their youth weren’t engaging with community programs. I asked them how these conversations go, how these programs get selected and I asked them about youth themselves. The current process is a P.O. would select a program they felt fit the youth and tell the youth to attend. For me, this current process is losing the battle and the war for the hearts of our young people.

Breaking down the situation I encouraged them to define the win, which was to get young people connected to a positive community program. This is the goal, this is the win.  We began a conversation that would empower youth to select programs that played to their strengths and brainstormed strategies for the P.O’s to be more than just P.O.s but positive adults in the lives of these youth to encourage them and even attend programs with them.

What the P.O.’s would have to lose something: their feeling of control.

Are we willing to lose the battle of control over young people, in order to empower them to make decisions that align with the values in which we teach them, in order to win the war. Can we set aside the secondary, and focus on the primary.

Somewhere you are struggling with coercing a young person; struggling to engage them in the program, to change a behavior, or to eat their vegetables. What would it look like to empower them to make a decision, to offer a third option, to teach them the value and the end goal of the decision-making process. When we can empower youth to make their own decisions we communicate that we trust them and believe in them.

Fear is a Liar

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I still think there is a possibility that there is a shark in any swimming pool I go into. There is this small nervousness of going in the deep end and not being able to touch bottom. This past weekend I was able to help a friends son swim around for the first time in the deep end. There was a lot of nervousness and fear but we took steps towards the ultimate goal. He swam around in a float, walked around the edge, hung onto me as I waded in the deep end, practice floating, and swam back and forth in the shallow end without touching the bottom. By the end, he swam in the deep end  and was jumping off the diving board with no fear!

Over the years, we have seen an increase in youth who are worried, anxious and fearful of the world around them. As adults we get to help youth to deal with and overcome these paralyzing emotions. Here are some ideas that have help me work with youth to overcome fears and worries.

I try to take their fears seriously, even if they aren’t that serious. By validating their fear, you are able to acknowledge it and begin the process to move past it.

Communicate with youth about when you were able to overcome your fears and the result.

Take baby steps and don’t push them past their comfort level. Create a strategy together of what those steps look like.

Be close to them as they work through their own worries. We all are capable of pushing past our comfort zones when we know someone bigger has our back.

You may even be in a season of worry and fear. Who can you connect with to help you overcome those feelings?

Anxious

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When we connect relationally with youth, we get a first row seat to some of the anxiety that fills their lives.  By being equipped to have a conversation with youth you can really help them get the help them overcome fears.

Ask youth some of these questions to process their anxiety:

When do you feel anxious? What happens and what do you feel?

Do you notice any patterns of triggers that make you anxious?

When you are most anxious, how does that impact your mood, activities and relationships?

Do you have any coping strategies for your anxiety? When does the feeling of anxiousness subside?

If you could handle your anxiety better, what do you think your life would look like?

Through these questions you can help youth to do a variety of things. You can start to watch out for triggers in their lives, and develop strategies to avoid them. Help youth to challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs by being a supportive person for them, give them reassurance about their strengths and abilities. Be patient, dealing with fears and anxiety can be a process. Make sure to connect with parents and have youth talk to them about their anxiety. Encourage youth to see a licensed therapist if you see signs of extreme and irrational worry, physical tension (like unexplained headaches) and if you notice an excessive need for reassurance during particular moments.

Stay informed about what anxiety looks like for youth, examine your programs for potential triggers (like calling up the new kid to the front), and help connect them to community resources if appropriate.

Flying with the Helicopter

helicopterparents

When talking about the challenges of working with youth, it amazes me how often it is not the youth or their problems that are most often brought up, it is their parents. It can be tough trying to work with youth in any context when there is an overbearing parent. Yet, despite frustrations, there is a lot you can learn from these parents.

  1. When talking with parents that can be overbearing I try to get to the root of the complaints or the situation. For instance, if a parent is talking about all the risks, liabilities and issues that can come up with youth ministry I get a sense that safety is a big value for them. I then say something like “I get the sense that the safety of the youth is a big deal for you, I hope you know we don’t take safety lightly.” I then can show them some of the areas and procedures that demonstrate that and inquire about what solutions they could think of. If you don’t have some of those procedures and systems in place, it is a legitimate ask for you as a leader to have.
  2. For me, I can easily get frustrated when people come to me laying out all the wrongs and problems of the group without balancing it out with what is working. I often take these conversations and navigate them into a place that is solution focused, and challenge those people giving criticisms to offer solutions too. Then, I empower them to think through how to implement their solutions and go for it.
  3. Often, overbearing parents have a heart of gold. They want what is best for you, their kids, and the group. Legitimize their voice in the process and don’t shut them out because you feel annoyed in the moment. What these parents have to say is important, they see things differently than you do and by finding solutions you can help other parents of the group build more trust with the programs.
  4. There is a no one more influential in a kids life than their parents. Don’t forget that. Look for ways to partners together to improve systems, safety and remove barriers in the programs you run.
  5. Sometimes, those overbearing parents become volunteer leaders simply because they don’t want to leave their child. Talk to them about a boundary and inquire what they are going through as a parent. Remember, we aren’t just working for the betterment of youth, but for the families as a whole.

Building rapport with parents in essential to running any youth program. Learn how to communicate and speak to the issues and priorities that they put value too. You will have a better group for it.

New

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Coming into a ministry as the new leader can be tough. There are various expectations, concerns, and procedures to learn, not to mention all the names of the people involved in the group. As I have recently found myself being the new lead for a youth program, here are a few steps that have helped me to navigate the transition.

Being in the position only a couple weeks, I have tried to hear the wisdom from the leaders who have been there longer than I have. I want to honor their commitment and time by not rushing in and making it all about me. They know the youth best, have taken years to foster amazing relationships and know what works and doesn’t. I am in the process still of having meetings with them all just to pick their brains, hear their hearts and talk about the next season. Empowering leaders to take ownership of the group, honor them by listening, and create a conversation of what is next.

There have been a few events already where there are a ton of families, adults, and youth. Coming in, I have fought for my time to spend it with the youth. The first few months I have devoted to simply build relationships with these youth. There is a student leadership team and I am usually asking them a bunch of questions, laughing with them, trying to give them more responsibility and buying them a slice of pizza. Don’t get too caught up in the procedures and systems that you forget to actually spend time with the youth.

I am also spending the first few months intentionally starting small. There are a ton of amazing things happening and there are some things that could be improved on. I hope that by looking at small tweaks that will have big pay offs I can start to build more trust over time. If this is day one for you, don’t go nuts and feel like you need to scrap everything and start new. From my experience this usually ends badly. Remember, build up relationships, build up trust, create a vision together and leaders will walk with you into fresh ideas you may bring to the table.

If it is day one for you somewhere, congrats! If you have been in the same place for awhile, how can you begin to look at your program with fresh eyes? Get a mercenary to come evaluate your program or follow other programs on social media to get some of the best ideas!

Together

 

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For several years now we have been attending Orange Conference. Every year it allows us to hear new innovative ideas, meet new people and get refreshed to go back and impact our communities. This year was different for me though. Coming back home it was tough. I had all these awesome ideas and left Orange inspired. On the drive home, there is this spot that I see and since I was a little kid it always marked that I was home. This year, I panicked. All these thoughts of doubt, dread, and the feeling of being isolated started to creep in. I started to process all that was going on and decided to come up with some ideas to keep me motivated after Orange Conference.

One of the things that I did to stay accountable and start to look at ways to implement what I had learned into my work with youth was simply to talk to friends. I love being able to connect with old friends from Orange and making sure I touch base with them afterwards helps me to stay motivated. We talk about different situations, ideas and I can share about new ways to help youth. There is a sense of accountability that forms when I can reach out to community of people that I trust

I don’t always have the answers though so I have been committed to reach out to Orange Specialists. This group of people get it and want to use their knowledge, resources and expertise to help you out. From touching base with rural strategy to urban strategy to all age groups, reaching out to Orange Specialists has given me a new way to move forward.

I have also decided to attend Orange Tour. Sometimes, it is tough to actually get to go to Orange Conference. With Orange Tour the party comes to you. I am excited to go this year, get refreshed and find out what people are doing in my region to impact youth and communities. Check out more about Orange Tour here. 

If you are having trouble staying motivated or feel isolated in the work that you’re doing, then find your tribe. Find the people that are working with a similar goal in mind and have the same passion as you. The impact you can have collectively is more than you can do alone.

Working with Self-Care

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As leaders we often get caught up in looking out for other people, we truly forget to look out for ourselves. Even typing that last sentence I felt weird making the statement to look out for yourself. It really is important though. Getting pulled in so many directions it is easy to get overwhelmed, feel burdened and lose sight of the work we do. For me, when this happens I usually end up getting super anxious and then lazy; as if what I am about to do won’t have any impact. What do you do for self-care to help you refocus and get in the game? Here are some ideas that I try to use

Goals

Every week, usually on Sunday nights, I set up a few goals for the week. I hit the big events that I need to crush, but also remind myself to get in the gym, read more, or create goals to positive habits. For instance, this week I have a goal to get in the gym four times. This helps me know that I need to do it four times, but that I won’t beat myself up one morning for sleeping in (like this morning). I have the rest of the week to make up for it and can plan accordingly. What goals are you currently working on? Make sure they simply aren’t work related, but related to your personal wellness, growth and your relationships.

To Do Lists

Sometimes I just make to-do lists for the sake of making a list. I love being able to sense that I actually accomplished something when I can cross it off the list. Even if one of the items was to “cross off an item on the list.” The sense of accomplishment helps me to build momentum through the day and tackle some projects, break down big things into small tasks, and allows me to visualize my work so I can stay on track better. Personally, my confidence is tied into a sense of accomplishment. To-do lists are a great representation of this, and can even be tied into your goals. At the end of a day, even when I feel like I haven’t done anything, I can look back and say that I had a really productive day and it was a step in the process.

Phone-a-Friend

I am a highly relational person, so one of the best things for me to do when feeling anxious or overwhelmed is to call a friend. This helps me to vent, process information, hear what they are doing and even get some external motivation. I can be my own worst critic. It takes the perspective of others to help push me through some hurdles.

Treat Yo’ Self

This is probably my favorite self-care strategy. Treat yo’ self is simply based around rewarding yourself for what you do. For me, I set up my work time into 30 minute increments, with a 5 minute treat yo’ self time to be on social media, play a game, or look up how the Quantum Realm will be used to defeat Thanos. Seriously, this has helped me to be a better worker, learner, and feel better. Sometimes, I treat myself with a milkshake, or a new outfit for bigger moments. In college, I saw post about someone who put a gummy bear on every page of their book to help motivate them to read more. Whatever it takes! Use these rewards to help motivate you, change your attitude and stay focused.

Practice Gratitude

This is tough for me. Gratitude doesn’t come naturally, cynicism does. I have to intentionally look for ways to show gratitude. Usually, this looks happens at the end of the day as I journal. I take inventory of my day and write down three things I am grateful for. Other times, this looks like a note to my wife or a text to a friend. For me, practicing gratitude has helped me to take a realistic look about the situations I am in and lessens the weight that I can feel.

Working with youth can be tough at times. It can feel like a pebble in the ocean, but what we do does matter. By thinking about self-care as you work you can be better reminded of the impact you make on the lives of others.

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Day 2 is all wrapped up and it was great day of learning and processing all the challenging topics and new ideas that speakers presented. Yesterday started with a main session with some great ideas and quotes from Doug Fields and Andy Stanley with an entire day of workshops. I have posted notes to these workshops and my favorite quotes from the main session below. We love podcasting with our friends at YMSidekick and you can find our breakdown of the day here.

Main Session 2

Doug Fields

We can do more together when we recognize we can’t get there on our own

“We is greater than I” (better together) WE>I

We have created in ourselves, Consciously or unconsciously, the role of individual ministry leader

There will be no statues built in your honor. Great leaders don’t do it alone.

We>I

I need you here.

Culture doesn’t change because we desire it to change. It changes when the organization is transformed. The culture reflects the reality of the people working together every day. Transform it by relying on each other.

Andy Stanley

We can do more together, when we lead the church to stay focused on what matters

IF we get the “one” part right, everything changes… because once upon a time ONE, Won.

when we function as one, the world can change.

Oneness –We will be united on that, Jesus is the christ, son of the living God, Messiah, and if you stay focused on that, that will drive and move you forward. This is a common denominator and we have common ground. It should galvanize our passion, and our passion for what one another is doing.

He prayed for our oneness, our unity: John 17

Unity is mission critical, if we are not one we will not win.

Disunity disrupts the mission

Imagine a world where people were skeptical of what we believe, but envious of how we treat one another

Be the Bridge – Latasha Morrison

The Grown-ups Guide to Teenage Humans – Josh Shipp

Partnering With Parents in The CityDr. Deborah Tillman

The last day of Orange is coming up and is full of expectation. Check back later to see how Orange Conference 2018 wraps up.

#OC18.1

OrangeConference18

 

The first night of Orange just wrapped up and even though it is just starting there is a ton to think about and inspire us to do more. There was great conversations about how to innovate in your team, create space for the church, justice and hip hop to come together, leader tips from movement leaders and techniques to bring out the best in your team. Check out the workshop notes from todays YouLead sessions and my favorite quotes from the main session.

Volunteer Recruitment Makeover with Tom Shefchunas

Techniques to Get the Best Out of Your Team with Amy Baker

Hip Hop, Justice, and Faithwith Joseph Sojourner , Sam Collier and Lisette Fraser

Main Session Highlights

 

Gerald Fadayomi

If you could only pray for one thing for the next generation what would it be?

If Jesus could pray for only one thing, what would it be?

John tells us, Jesus would pray for Unity, that we would be one

Being one does not mean you think the same way, but that you are moving in the same direction

Unity is setting our differences aside to make a difference

Unity is finding common ground for the common good

Unity is the realization that we can do more together

How can the next generation believe that here is a God who is for them, forgives them and loves them if we cant do those things for one another.

Reggie Joiner

It is not what you build that matters, it is what happens in you, what happens to you, what happens in the process as you build it as a team and work together that truly matters.

We can’t ignore what is broken

Nehemiah was able Leveraged whatever he had. So, we must leverage everything we have, access, knowledge, privilege for those around us.

We cant rebuild anything without it costing us something

Go see for yourself, proximity changes perspective. Go see the struggles of others for yourselves

Nehemiah challenges others to do something they did not know how to do.

Everyone Nehemiah needed to rebuild the town, was already in the town. The volunteers, the people you need to rebuild the broken community around you is someone to breathe and rally a group of people around a new vision.

When things seemed desperate, Nehemiah takes people and fills in the gaps to fight for their families. When you see Moms and Dads standing in the gap for their sons and daughters, you don’t want to face that.

Rally and inspire every parents and families to show up, take their part and make them the champion of their sons and daughter.

Expect to see God, but be prepared to see a God that you didn’t expect.

How we work together will change how a generation sees God.

Don’t forget to get a full breakdown tomorrow morning by checking out our podcast with YMSidekick here.

#OC18

Orange conference is here!!!

We will tweet and post a ton of information over the next few days.

Be looking for posts recapping each day including notes from workshops, main stage speakers and highlights of all the fun.

We will be podcasting with YMSidekick each day to chat about Orange and processing all the great stuff we have heard. Check it out here

Orange has posted a bunch of great resources, schedules and information on the Leader Blog, check out these links:

Schedule

Resources

Social Media

Live Stream

This year is going to be awesome and can’t wait to share it all with you!