Appreciate

 

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Showing appreciation for others is a big deal. Whether it is a pat on the back, a high-five, or an award, valuing the work that others do is important for an organization to flourish. These tokens of appreciation go a long way in building relationships, rapport, trust, loyalty and investing in the emotional bank accounts of your team. Many people have the misconception that appreciation is linked to finances. It can be, but demonstrating appreciation goes further than a buck or two.

Appreciation, and honoring, people doesn’t just go from the bottom position of an organization to the top. It has be invasive of the culture in which you are a part of. How you appreciate the low-rung on the ladder speaks volumes to those looking to be a part of what your organization is doing. Here are few things to think about in showing appreciation to those who are getting their hands dirty with you to improve the lives of youth.

Make it personal

Finding out what your youth workers love to do in their off time is a great way to show appreciation. Maybe it is letting them leave an extra hour or two from work, or getting them a movie ticket, or putting the playoffs, or the big match, on  in the meeting room. When working with volunteers, I often ask them what their love language is so that I can best show appreciation. Some of the things I have done is babysat the kids of the leaders so they could do a date night with their spouse, we’ve done giant dog piles, talked them up in a big meeting and or simply wrote them a thank you. Look for ways to honor the people that are working alongside you in a way that makes it personal to them.

Make it fun

Fun is a core value that can change the atmosphere of your organization. Making the way you appreciate people fun is part that. Rent out giant soccer, get lunch catered, buy a dozen donuts, or have a wacky clothes day. Do a big awards ceremony for your staff and volunteers (watch the Office episode about the Dundies for inspiration). When fun is involved in how you appreciate youth workers, it creates excited, generates momentum and establishes culture.

Make it part of the culture

When you begin to show value to the people that are part of your team it becomes a catalyst for great things to happen. People get more excited for the work they do, they begin to form bonds between one another and are willing to go that extra mile. When you lead by appreciating others, that same attitude spreads to others  and builds momentum for a great environment to be a part of.  Make appreciation a part of the culture by doing it routinely and publicly.  Before you dive into staff meetings, take a moment to recognize people and for others to do the same. Throw a party!

Do the people on your team feel valued and cared for? How do you know? What can you do today to help show them that you appreciate all the they do to impact the lives of youth?

Lenses

eye-exam

The way we think about youth today matters. People are inclined to either view youth as an asset or as a liability.

This thinking can be considered to be either from the perspective of strengths or deficits. This small difference can change how we interact, serve and work with youth. It can be a challenging concept but think about the past week, how have you seen the youth you work with? 

Seeing youth as assets, and creating environments and conversations based on the strengths of the students allows youth to find a greater joy, peace and sense of self then just looking at their deficits and the things that are not working for them. Even the things that youth lack become an opportunity for better relationships, growth and learning than simply a problem.

If we ask people to examine our own lives they are sure to find deficits, things that are missing, ways that we have failed, and our less honorable moments.  A different, strength-based, approach creates a sense of personal accomplishment, looks at the relationships of youth and allows youth to develop in a way that helps them build grit in order to overcome the challenges of life. This distinction is the lens in which we choose to see the world.

When you choose to interact with youth, and even their families, through the lens of their strengths it changes the attitudes and perspectives of those involved. There is now hope where things once looked bleak. There is new life, because someone has decided to look for the strengths where others missed the opportunity. Youth are able to engage in the world around them in a positive manner, they can see what is going well for them, they feel competent to accomplish tasks and meet expectations, and allows the relationship between adult and youth to be a positive one.

There are three basic ideas when we shift perspective to the strengths of youth:

  1. All youth have strengths
  2. All youth can be motivated by a caring adult
  3. Just because something is not a strength, does not mean it is a deficit, it is an opportunity

Here are some great questions to start asking youth in order to look through the lens of their strengths:

  1. What is working well?
  2. If you said one good thing about yourself, what would it be?
  3. What do you like most about your friends? Why?
  4. How do you think your friends would describe you?
  5. Who is someone you look up to? Why do you like them?
  6. What do you do to blow off steam?
  7. What is life like when you are most at peace?
  8. What gives you energy?
  9. How have you overcome the challenges in life?
  10. What is one thing you can do that would help improve _______ in your life?

Youth are more capable then we realize. However, during life it takes caring adults to help show them their strengths, not just berate them on failures. The conversations you get to have with youth as you walk through life with them helps to reinforce that they belong somewhere, that they are significant, that they have something to offer the world, and they are worthy of love.

 

Self

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Sometimes youth simply need space to figure things out on their own. Come on, this one shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Think back to when you were a teenager. No matter how many times someone told you not to do something or warned you about the “severe consequences” of this or that, chances are you still did it.

One of the basic needs for youth is to “experiment to discover self, gain independence and to gain control over one’s life.” In other words, youth need space to try to figure out who they are.

This can be very difficult for some people, especially parents. Hopefully, a trust has been formed through giving youth the other basic needs that you can put some slack out on the reigns.  Think about it for a moment, you’ve helped give you safety and structure, given them a place to belong and helped them develop self-worth; they should be getting a great glimpse of their identity.

Youth will try to test that out. This is the experiment phase as adults we dread for our young people. They can engage in risk-taking behavior, question their faith, question authority and in their journey of self-discovery have the potential to miss the mark completely.

It takes caring adults to walk with youth in these moments. Adults who will act as waypoints when youth lose their way; to be a lighthouse calling the ships back from sea.

I love the stories I’ve heard recently about parents creating codes with their kids so the kids can have a way out of a tough situation. The teen will text their parents, older siblings, or even you, the code word and in response they would call the teen saying that they are coming to get them it is an emergency, or some other excuse. See, youth often know that they may not want to be in a situation, they need that independence to make that choice themselves, and sometimes they just need an escape plan. This plan works great because the teen has an escape but feels safe because the parents establish trust enough not to ask the teen questions and punish them. What steps can you take to help the youth around you get a sense of independence?

Hang tough as the youth who you work with are on this journey of self-discovery. Call out the greatness you see in them. Walk with them in the messes they make and help them figure out how to clean it up best. This is how teens learn to handle all the stress, poor decisions and chaos that life can throw at them. It is scary, but love them and pray like crazy.

#Basic

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As youth workers we often get the privilege of watching a youth grow over multiple years. Friends over at Orange have broken these down in what they call Phases. Each phase has unique strengths and challenges for that age group.  Youth are often asking similar questions and have similar concerns that are unique to that particular phase. Many moons ago, Dr. Gisela Konopka, helped pioneer the way for youth development and helped generate eight basic needs that all youth need to develop in a healthy way. Over the next few weeks I want to look at each of these basic needs, why they are so important and ways that you can help youth that you work with meet these needs. The eight basic needs for healthy youth development are:

  1. Feels Sense of Safety and Structure
  2. Experience active participation, group membership, and belonging.
  3. Develop self-worth through meaningful contribution
  4. Experiment to discover self, gain independence, and gain control over ones life
  5. Develop significant quality relationships with peers and at least one adult
  6. Discuss conflicting values and navigate their own values
  7. Feel pride of competence and mastery
  8. Expand their capacity to enjoy life and know that success is possible

Before we dive into the how we can help youth attain these important developmental needs, we should evaluate where we are currently.

First, when you think of youth development what do you think of? What does it sound and look like?  what experiences are important? What do youth value? What does it feel like? Jot some ideas down and hang it up somewhere.

When you were a youth, which of these were important to you? They all have an importance to the eight basic needs of youth.

Whichofthesewereimportant

Finally, what is your program doing right now to meet some of these needs?

When we are able to help meet the needs of our youth, we are able to better walk with them through their lives. As we look through these basic needs, we are able to improve our practices and our programs to allow for youth to have a place to belong.

Party Time

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We all have the one type of kid we wish we could connect into our programs.

She’s the cheerleader and bible study leader, the captain of the sports team, the influencers and role models of the youth we hope to influence. They would be the core kids and the leadership team members. Just think, if we could influence the influencers, oh the possibilities.

Sometimes they come, and sometimes, they don’t.

We can get so wrapped up in these kids we forget about the ones who do come. Who show up consistently, who feel they belong, who need a connection to Jesus and to an adult that will give a crap about them.

This story popped in my mind this morning, it’s in Luke 14:15-24

In the story, a man decides to throw a dinner party. My imagination takes me to the blowout bash of the year.  The event has great party gifts, Gordon Ramsay is cooking food, Jay-Z and Beyonce are providing entertainment and there is an A list guest list.

And no one shows.

They all have something else to do, some other event, some other priority that takes their time.

When the man threw the party, he had an expectation of the type of people he wanted there, and who would come. They didn’t.

Then the invitation went you. The Misfits came. The homeless and wretched came. Those from far off came to the party.

What if you are planning events and programs for people who won’t show up? They have sports practices, school assignments, time with friends and family, and other priorities that eat at time.

What if the perspective changes? What if we send out for the Misfits and the wretched? The ones in your group who show up and need your group to connect them to Jesus, to one another and to adults who will champion for them. What if we made it a safe place for all youth to come and they don’t need to fit a certain mold or expectation we put on them.

Party with the youth who are there, celebrate with them, share your life with them, help them discover the purpose of their own life, and point them to Jesus.

Books!

books

 

I love reading. Every time I do I learn something new, take a adventure, get some crazy ideas and grow in confidence in a new area. Over the past few years there are a few different books that I wanted to share with you all that have helped me grow as a leader, teacher, mentor, and husband. They have helped me to influence other people and challenged me to grow closer to God. Here are a few essentials to add to your reading list.

My Utmost, His Highest – Oswald Chambers

https://www.amazon.com/My-Utmost-His-Highest-Paperback/dp/1572937718/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=HW3E38186B4CMJVQJEG5

I have loved this devotional since college. My friend Louie put it in my hands and he always referred to Oswald Chambers as Ozzy. I have probably read this book through and through seven or eight times and it never gets old. It is like a spiritual kick to the face and helps me to navigate life. It is a great addition to your daily readings and you can download it as an app. It has challenged me to grow in my faith and become closer with God. 

Wild at Heart – John Eldridge

https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Heart-Revised-Updated-Discovering/dp/1400200393/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469417&sr=1-1&keywords=wild+at+heart

I read this book yearly. Again, Louie gave me my first copy and it has helped me to understand faith, my part in Gods bigger story and how to find an authentic manhood. It is one of the few books I have multiple copies of simply to give away to people (seriously, you want one let me know it’s yours). Reading this book has helped to understand my personal struggles, my role as a man in this world and helped me to see who God has created me to be. 

7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

https://www.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-People-Powerful/dp/1451639619/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469433&sr=1-1&keywords=7+Habits+of+Highly+Effective+People

The first time I read this was with a bunch of youth pastors looking for ways to step up our game. It was impactful in ways that I cannot describe. Even today when I am feeling overwhelmed I think about the four quadrants and where I am currently in (if you don’t know what I am talking about you should pick this book up!). It helps me to be a more strategic person, a better decision maker, become more mindful about my work and has allowed me to stay organize and focused. I am not perfect and don’t have all 7 down to a science, but I try and find that they help me out a lot. 

Love Does – Bob Goff

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Does-Discover-Secretly-Incredible/dp/1400203759/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469466&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+Does

Through reading ‘Love Does’ I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and love other people in a more impactful way. Bob shares a vignette every chapter that helps me to see God in a better way, connects my personal story to Gods narrative, and allows me to dream up new ways to simply love people. It helped me to see that loving people is easier than we think, we just have to have the courage to do it. Bob is funny, loves people and is always up for an adventure. 

Lead Small – Reggie Joiner

https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Small-Ideas-Every-Leader/dp/0985411627/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492469482&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=LeadSmall

I felt like Lead Small was the last kick in the butt I needed to finally realize it is ALL about relationships. Life, ministry, you name it, it is about connecting with people in order to have a greater impact than you can imagine. Lead Small is a cornerstone idea from Orange that helps to inform  leaders on how to think small in their areas of life.   Instead of trying to influence hundreds of people, Lead Small helps us to think strategically on how we can influence a few. Whether it is ministry, in schools, or at work when you think small you discover a big impact. Lead Small has helped put relationships on the forefront of my mind, helped me discover new ways to connect with people and figure out how to walk alongside my few through life. 

What are some of your favorite books? What are owns that have change you and made you better. Comment and let me know.

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.

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.

Dreamers

dreams

 

When I close my eyes and think what God wants me to do I always get the same image in my brain. The same ideas, the same processes, and the same passion. It’s a dream that He’s given me. To be honest, I get scared that my dream will simply be a dream. There are things I am doing right now thought to make it happen.

I talk about my dream a lot. Honestly, I do this just to simply keep me accountable. I don’t want the dream to die so I figure if I talk about it then there is still hope for it to be. People have started to ask me questions about it in conversation and I love processing new ideas with people. A friend randomly gave me a tool I needed to start on one aspect of it. It was probably the coolest thing ever. 

I am doing a lot to learn. I am basing my research papers for grad school on issues regarding my dream. I email random experts in different fields asking them questions just trying to just learn things. I always just have this thought that if they don’t respond or if I get shut down then I am exactly where I am currently. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

I take small steps. I look at what other people are doing in their businesses, or in chasing their own dreams, and I do what I can. I start with social media, or blogging. I try to network with other people and get ideas from them. I plan a lot, write curriculum or fill out forms (in a lot of dreams you end up filling out some sort of form). It keeps me hungry and I know it may not be today or tomorrow but it is going to happen.

Fear ultimately is my biggest enemy. Fear leading to doubt which leads to inaction. That it is a dumb idea, how can I support a family on a dream or that voice that says I am too messed up to even think about something good for myself. I like to tell that voice to shut up (and a few other choice words).

What is your dream? What do you think your purpose is in life? Maybe it is a new career path. Maybe it is to travel more, or to learn a new skill. What are the little things you can do to take steps to seeing it become real. I may not happen in a day, but keep chipping away at it. The biggest advice I got was to do a few small things every day towards your goals, your dream.  These are called low cost probes. Little steps that give you a lot of reward. Experience, knowledge, insight, just about anything that will get you closer to your end goal. Then, go for it.

I would love to hear about your dream. Love for you to hear about mine. Share ideas, help one another and encourage one another to allow dreams to be reality. Comment here or text me 585-441-4610, can’t wait to here what dreams you’re chasing. 

Risk

risk

 

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.