Bullied


bullied

I’ve been dealing with bullying a lot this week. Sometimes, people are just plain mean to each other. I am not always sure how to handle it and many times the students involved and the circumstances dictate the approach that you use. Something in me fires up when dealing with kids that are being bullied. When you dive into the issues though you often discover that both the victim and the bully need guidance and support.

This week a girl was crying in the hallway after she got punched and filed a report. I walked her down to the nurse to get some ice and just started asking what happened. She relayed her story and to be honest, some adults messed up in the story too. When she was asking her to tell her story I would make sure to have my phone away and then when she took a breathe I would recap what I was hearing so far. Practicing empathetic listening can go along way with someone who is being bullied. I got the information then I decided to communicate with people that needed to get involved further with disciplinary actions. I just made sure she was safe, she had a need met, and was simply heard.

During mediations with students sometimes kids rekindle past frustrations. When someone is amped up and quickly talking, on the verge of yelling, simply ask “can you slow down, I want to help?” This quick statement helps them to acknowledge they need to slow down but in a way that is non-threatening and allows you to say that you are here to help out. Allow for everyone speak, they should try to stick to their side of the story and how it made them feel and act. I ask a lot of clarifying questions and ask why a lot. It helps students to process their emotions and the situation at hand. I try to bring the bullies into a place of empathy with who they bullied, even with a small connection.

Often times, something is going on in the life of the bully that drives them to bullying behavior. I try to talk with them on the side quietly. I ask them questions about life, the emotions they are feeling and process why they would want to hurt someone else. You would be surprised at home many students lash out simply because they themselves have been bullied or hurt someone else simply to feel better about themselves. These can sometimes be tough because there is a misconception about bullies, being tough, and showing off for peers. Building a relationship with the bully is just as important as showing up for the victim. It can change a life.

When working with students you will encounter bullying. Social media, physical, verbal attacks, groups gossiping and even fights. How you step into the hurts of these students tell them a lot of you and about themselves. Be a bridge builder between people, develop their empathy towards one another and walk with them in the hurt.

Art of the Ask

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Many of us are in the need of help with something. Some of us need volunteers, others need financial help and others are simply looking for ways to connect with people through an organization. Sometimes I just comes down to the ask, but don’t get me wrong, that ask can be tough. It is a mental game and you really just don’t want to be annoying. When going to ask someone to help, give or just connect here a few thoughts to go in with.

I don’t think I have ever just cold called someone and asked them to be part of what I was doing. I always try to connect with them without my own agenda. I like to get to know them as people and what they enjoy doing. Asking someone to help isn’t manipulating them if you are invested them as an individual over your own agenda. I try not to get selfish with only seeing them helping me out but by getting to know them I can help put them in a place for them to thrive with others. They may not be a fit for the direction you’re going, but you may know someone who they could help considerably.

After getting to know people on a friendly basis I just ask them to meet up and may let them know that I want them to think about helping out. Before I do I really sit and  think through what I am asking that person to contribute. Is it time, their talents, or asking them to give financially.I try to get specific. For instance, instead of asking for money, I tell them about how we need a new printer, or instead of saying I need a new volunteer I talk to them about role they would be filling. I have a clearly defined role planned out, with expectations, for people to understand what they may be committing too before I ask. I try to think through their questions and have some answers. When you have a better handle on what you are asking from people, they get a clearer idea of it too.

I always try to share with them why I feel they would be a great fit. I share with them somethings that I have seen from them already. I talked to them about our need and how they can help. I share stories. Stories are a great way to connect with people. They help connect us to one another and to the mission of where we are going. I try to tell them stories of why I got involved, of other volunteers or success stories that we have seen.

Then, I let them make the choice. I don’t twist their arm, or guilt them into saying yes. I pray hard. I take what they can give and leverage that for wins. Sometimes, a yes to a small ask will lead to a yes to a bigger ask, later down the road.

So what do you need to move forward in your ministry? In your life? In your next steps? Who can you ask to walk alongside with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. Walk with people with no agenda, have a clear idea of how they an help you or someone else, share with them a vision of thriving and then let them do the rest. Be bold in your ask and you’ll be surprised at how people come through.

 

Connection

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     I sat listening to a speaker, with my wife, the other night talk about the need for connection, a need for relationships, with people in order to change the world. At the end there was time for Q&A. Many people understood the need for connecting with people who are hurting, lost or in the midst of struggle. However, many questions were geared to how to engage and connect with the people the see everyday.

     Many people felt unqualified to help others. The presenter said that someone asked him once what made him qualified to help others and he responded, “because I have a pulse.” We often underestimate our ability to simply be with people. You are qualified, you have a passion, you have talents and you are surrounded by people all the time. Sometimes, all we need to do is be vulnerable enough to invite someone else into our lives. Through this invitation we can connect with people. 

     Having a hard time figuring out how? Start small. Learn a persons name. There is power in a name, the feeling of being known by someone. Ask questions to get to know them. Go do something with them; share a meal, or go volunteer together, anything to allow proximity. Then, be vulnerable to share about yourself first.

     Impacting the lives of others impacts our own lives too. We are able to grow and learn along with the people that we interact with. Maybe you’re a mentor, a teacher, a volunteer or an advocate, your proximity to other people rubs off on you. It is meant to. Rubbing shoulders with people can be messy, don’t be afraid. When you walk with people through life the learning is reciprocal. 

     Don’t go into a relationship hoping to fix someone, go in just to be with them. When we go in with our own expectations and our own agendas we miss the opportunity to simply be with someone else. There may be frustration when they make a decision we don’t agree with or relapse into an old habit. If we have our own agendas we will be tempted to simply walk away. When we walk away from another we lose the opportunity to share life together. 

     Life change is not a sprint it is a marathon. Love over time. Sometimes a very long time. Connecting with people, especially those who society has pushed to the margins, is what life is about. Go after authentic relationships, have great conversations, get messy and laugh. You are qualified, you have a pulse.

For Our Neighbors

 

We Misfits are for our neighbors. So are our friends at Orange. Every year they put on a conference in Atlanta that challenges and grows people to engage the world around them in a different way. Orange helps churches to build relationships with kids and their families to grow their faith in Jesus. This year they are using those relationships to not just engage the families but the communities they are a part of.

The theme for this years conference is “For Our Neighbors.” I am really excited for it. Neighbors, that means, people who just don’t quite fit in, the rebels, the dreamers and the innovators, and us Misfits. We are also for the people who are like us and for those who are not like us, equally. Being “For Your Neighbor” means helping someone else win, even when we don’t always agree with them. Being “For Your Neighbor” means supporting someone else, whether they are right next door or across the globe. “For Your Neighbor” means supporting someone, showing up for them, even when they are different then ourselves.

Orange wants us to be for our neighbors and we agree. We want our communities to be transformed and for people to see Jesus in new way. Maybe you’re reading this and you hate God and you hate church. You’ve been hurt there before, your trust was broken, someone lied to you or you just don’t believe in the same things. That’s fine, I’ve experienced those same things in church. But what if this conference helped change your ideas and transform churches. What if churches were a place where kids and families could build friendships, where churches knew how to help when something goes wrong in our communities and could restore hope back into the lives of their neighbors and to the cities they are a part of. I would be for that.

If you’re interested in learning more about Orange Conference head to

https://theorangeconference.com/

 

We are all part of this world and we are called to be for our neighbors. Lets come together and learn how to do that better. See you there.

Risk

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Chances are you’ve taken a few risks in your life. Heck, simply asking my wife on our first date was a risk. I took a risk this weekend with the cheese in the fridge. Everyday life throws us opportunities and chances to play it safe or take a risk. Sure there are somethings that you don’t want to risk (like your marriage, or safety of your kids) and there are smarter ways to take a risk than others (like don’t quit your job until you have a lead on another). Yet, I am always amazed at how often those around me, and myself, simply choose the safe route. I may talk a big game, or prove my risk taking initiative by doing something just slightly more risky than usual, yet I am still where I am. And often I can feel stuck there. 

The courage to take a risk produces some of life’s best moments. Sure, there is never 100% chance of success, but that is why it is a risk. Think about it, that moment where you think of what you want to do, you visualize all the outcomes and failures and then say, “I’m in.” That moment, even with failure, brings out a sense of freedom and confidence in us as people. 

Working with youth, many of them face a lot of decisions. Some of these choices are small, but some are huge. What college to go to? Should I ask that girl out? Should I really eat 25 packets of Diablo sauce at Taco Bell on a bet? I remember one student being a romantic and really wanted to ask this girl out. He was super awkward, typical 15 year old. I just said, “do it, the worst that will happen is she says no, and you’ll be in the same situation you are right now, but at least you’ll know.”

That’s mostly what taking a risk is about, discovery. There is adventure and joy in that moment when you step out in order to take a risk you didn’t think you could.

Maybe it is a job change you’re thinking about. Or you have a new business idea. You want to ask that person out. You want to do something but are too nervous about the odds and the outcomes. You have had a dream in your mind for years, but have always thought it wouldn’t work out. 

If you’re like me you argue with yourself a lot. If you’re like me you try to wait for a “sign” from God. If you’re reading this, this is that sign. You’ll be surprised what God is capable off when you step into that risk that He has been nudging you towards.

Here are some things I do when I approach a big risk I am deciding on:

1.) Think it through and weigh the cost/benefits

2.) Ask people their thoughts, especially people who can ask you really tough questions

3.) Small cost probes, little things that give you a taste and experience with that new risk

4.) Close your eyes and jump

I would love to hear about some risks you dreaming about and think of ways to take that risk boldy. Follow us on twitter or Instagram at misfit_min, or leave a comment on here.

Come to Me

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Jesus invites people into a relationship with Him. He invites them in close. Jesus could smell the disease on the lepers and  was close enough to get spit at from possessed man. He wasn’t afraid to share an intimate space with those that the society of His time viewed as outcasts, villains, sinners and those who people forgot about.

We are coming to this point here in our world today. Where we can choose to bring people in, care for them, love them and point them towards Jesus; or we can choose to turn people away, shun them, treat them as villains and abandon them.

Matthew 11:28 came to mind as I reflected on the last few days. I have heard a man, speaking on behalf of a faith, alienating another group of people. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to Me, ALL who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Over and over again Jesus invites all people in. The Good Samaritan would’ve been despised by the man he saved, yet he had compassion. Romans, a people group not too friendly with the Jews, would come to Jesus. In fact, Jesus commends a centurion for his faith.

We are blurring the lines of faith and politics. Faith always trumps politics. They are not the same. Sometimes, they agree and sometimes they disagree, but they are not the same. We contradict our faith and our beliefs with how we act. Our actions then are what seems best to us at the time, not led by our relationship with Jesus. I think it fitting that a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, a sight millions of immigrants would see coming to America, says this “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Jesus would say the same thing. 

My wife said something the other day and I loved it. She said “I don’t want someone in the name of my Savior, of my faith, to give me favor, or blessing, and take  away freedom, opportunity, safety, compassion from someone else. That is not what a christian does. It’s not how Jesus would have it.”

Remember, Jesus invited everyone to come to Him. He invites us still. As Misfits we see this. We see that the lines are blurred and many are asking questions. In these moment, push into Jesus. Ask for understanding and for words in the midst of heated discussion. Use your influence and your talents to point all people towards Jesus. Demonstrate care, compassion and   humility. Open the doors for the weary, the oppressed, the burdened, the refugees and point them to Jesus.

Here is a link to some thoughts on how to treat refugees and immigrants from Relevant Magazine. 

Empathy

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We will only go as far in bringing justice, peace and hope to our world as our ability to empathize with one another will carry us.

I don’t see unity. Even conversations about fast food restaurants are fueled by hate, fear and anger. I believe that we are a divided people. This division from where I sit comes from our inability to simply feel how someone else feels and see a situation from another persons perspective. From there, we fall short of standing up for someone once we have begun to empathize. We fall short of building connections and building bridges between people. We let our differences divide us.

Those differences come in many forms. We fall prey to the separation caused by political parties, race, religion, culture, upbringing, and who’s turn it is to do the dishes. When the spotlight is on the differences we often turn to anger and hatred towards that person which then leads us to dehumanize them. When this happens we are not able to empathize, we don’t even care. In the midst of the arguing we focus on our differences and not on those things that we all share.

We have a lot of things in common. We obviously feel that our view, our side, our team is the best and if we are the best then others are of lesser value, we are all people who are passionate about something. I often find that the emotions that spurn on peoples passions and views are often the same. We speak from experiences, hurts, doubts, and worries. The things that drive us are often times the things we hope to fix most. We experience things in life that have shaped our views. People have similar emotions even in the midst of the tension we share. Fear, confusion, anger, these things are shared by us in that moment. We also share the hope for something better than our current situation.We must use these similarities, however small, to help drive our ability to empathize with one another.

So how do you build or even find empathy? You fight for it. You look for the humanity in people. That little something that says, I know how you feel. We’ve all suffered loss, hurts, pains, we have all faced some tough stuff in our lives. We have all also seen great joy and triumph. We must listen to the stories of one another. Let those stories sink it and resonate with us. Discover the connections between one another, don’t just blow them off because it is different from you.

You should have people in your life that are different from you. They should look different, work in different industries, believe differently and even vote differently. Then take all those differences and share life together. Eat a meal, laugh, share life stories and love people for who they are, and not who you wish they would be.

Create safe space. Sometimes, we need to talk through our differences. We need to be humble enough to admit when we are wrong, vulnerable enough to admit our flaws and caring enough to not let these differences separate us. Listen to one another. Truly listen. Hear their hearts and their fears and not just wait for your turn to talk.

Our ability to empathize with one another is what will save the day. 

Fresh

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We have officially left 2016 in the dust. It’s 2017.

There are a mixed bag of emotions when a new year starts. Looking at social media it seems many people have had a rough go of things this past year. For others it was filled with joyous occasions and laughter. We lost a lot of good people. A lot more were born this year too. Yet, for all we enter into 2017 with renewed vitality. There are new goals, aspirations, and recommitments to ourselves and loved ones. This past week I have had some great conversations, found some rest, and am looking forward to 2017. Here are somethings that will help me make the best of this amazing year.

Goals

The week between Christmas and New Years I take some time to set goals. These goals are range in a variety of topics. I set personal goals often about working out, reading books, writing and personal projects. There are goals about my finances. These goals help me to stay motivated for the year and work towards a target. These goals usually span the entire year so they are long-term. I work hard to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented). I can look at these goals throughout the year and check on progress.

Accountability

In the upcoming year I make sure to have people close to me to help hold me accountable. They hold me accountable to my goals but also to my faith and my personal struggles. Letting people into my world helps create authentic relationships. It is these relationships that have made 2016 an amazing year and I look forward to 2017. Accountability looks like making phone calls and meeting up with people. It is setting time aside to connect with another person and being honest and transparent with them. It is in these relationships that I look forward to an amazing 2017. 

Adventure

I love adventures. I drive my wife crazy because whenever we go somewhere I’m usually doing things I shouldn’t. Those areas beyond the “no visitors past this point” signs are usually where you can find me. In 2017 I hope to create some spontaneity and adventure to my life. This energizes me and I get to have fun. Adventure can be trips but it can also just be doing new things. Shake up your life in 2017. 

Loving others

My wife has created a monster. We have created a generosity fund that we use to love people. We both love to bless other people and see huge smiles on their faces. We set aside some of our paychecks in order to give to others. I believe that living a live that builds and encourages relationships with people is the sweet sauce of life. In 2017 I hope we can continue to love people and do some crazy things in faith with our finances. T

What do you look forward to this New Years? How can you make this the best year yet?

For The Outsiders and the Misfits

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Jesus was a Misfit.

He was an Outsider.

He was born to reconcile all of us back to Himself. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas time can be a tough time. Many people bring up the history of their hurts and struggles during this time. People are triggered and many face relapse. I was reminded this year that Jesus was for all of us. All of us Misfits and all of us who have seen brokenness, hurt and loss.

Jesus was born in a barn. Literally. He took the idea of what a King, a Savior, should be and flipped it on it’s head. Instead of being born in the Temple, or in a Throne room, He was born with sheep. His first visitors were like you and me, the Misfits of society.

Angels came to announce this birth to some shepherds in a field. The sheep these men tended would be used in ceremonies to wash sins away. Jesus was born in the same place as these very lambs. Yet, in keeping these sheep the shepherd themselves were deemed unclean. They were marginalized, outcasts, isolated, yet recipients of the grace of of Jesus.

This Christmas season we are reminded of how Jesus came to bring salvation, redemption and joy to all people. Those the world have deemed Outsiders, us Misfits, Jesus has called us Sons and Daughters of God. Walk in that.

Systems

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Systems do not create or hinder culture, they allow culture to flourish. There is a fear that systems create a rigidity in an organization. That a system does not allow for adaptability or the handling of unique situations. These systems then lead to a culture and organization that is too rigid. Systems are created to allow the culture of your organization to flourish. If systems are failing to do this for your organization it is time to get rid of them and start fresh.

In creating systems you need to first figure out the identity, and mission, of your organization. Some may call this your brand, I believe though that brand is just one part of the culture. Who you are and what you do creates the culture of your organization. If you are known for incorporating the arts, for outreach in the community, connecting people or for your innovative ideas, systems must be in place to allow those to be at the forefront of your organization. These systems help to prioritize the pieces of your organization you want to see flourish and streamline the messy parts for even greater success. Systems are routines and procedures that are created to help your organization do what it does best.

Whether your organization is just starting or is as old as I am there are always some problems that arise. Being proactive with these problems helps to maximize time doing what you love to do best. Spend some time up front thinking through problems and issues that have arisen in the past, in similar organizations, or that could arise in your organization. What would be devastating to you? What is the most common issue that arises? Then, begin to think through strategic solutions to these problems before they make life miserable. Always in a rut with volunteers? Think of ways to recruit year long, improve the volunteer culture you already have and look for ways to streamline the process. 

In creating systems it takes time up front to analyze your current situation. Be honest with the current state of your organization and think of different ways to make it better. Create systems to further the reach and influence of your organization. As your organization grows the systems you create will change and adapt to meet that growth. When productivity, growth, or your culture begins to go places you do not with it to, begin to look at the systems that allowed the divergence in the first place.

Your organizations culture will flourish and you will find more success when the systems that you create allow it to do so.