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?

#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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Fresh

newyear

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?

Keep them Around

volunteer

 

Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.

Value your Volunteers

Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.

Clearly defined roles and expectations

Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.

Create ownership

Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.

Stay organized and ahead of the game

Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead  of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.

A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.