Learning to Lead

10470238_1019000664782821_3748555308970693486_nI’ve spent the last eighteen years trying to teach our daughter and to train her to be more Christ-like. And yet, so often I’ve discovered, she’s the one teaching me. Last night our daughter Ashley shared an essay she wrote for an engineer leadership position she’s applying for at her university and I asked if I could share it here.

In the short essay below, she shares her experiences volunteering at the Hope Center in Omaha and what she learned from them. Something I myself need to keep in mind as I strive to lead, in whatever capacity the Lord assigns.

Learning to Lead by Ashley Slattery, University of Lincoln Nebraska student, 11796175_1116319855050901_6647543837368226488_nengineering major

When thinking back on the moments in one’s life that were impacted for the better by others, one doesn’t remember the boss barking orders as he props his feet up on his desk. No one thanks the professor who yelled at everyone for their lack of character growth. The true leaders are not those who command, but those who guide and encourage. Those who walk with their followers through life, get down on their level, and pull them up are the ones who are remembered for their impact.

One of the toughest, but best, tasks I have ever been charged with was teaching an art class for inner city kids at a local youth center. The kids all came from rough homes. Many had behavioral issues and a few even had PTSD. I was new. I didn’t know what I was doing, and they knew it. Therefore, they had no respect for me.

Try as I might, they would not sit down and do their projects that I had spent hours planning. Art wasn’t cool.

I desperately wanted to make an impact in these kids’ lives. I wanted my art room to be a place where they felt safe and loved. I wanted to show them that they had talents. I soon realized that I needed them to trust me first. So I started coming in early so I could play with them during free time. I became their friend, so I could also be their teacher.

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photo by linlaoyou taken from pixabay.com

As I developed relationships with the kids, I realized that a lot of them didn’t want to do art because they thought they couldn’t. Because they expected to fail, they didn’t bother trying. So I brought art to their level. I taught them about legitimate street artists and other topics that were relevant to them and encouraged them.

I told them that if they did good, I would hang up their work, and the best paintings would be sold in an auction to benefit the program. I started having kids volunteer to come in early to help me set up, and stay after class to help me clean up. During free time kids would ask to work on their own projects and hang out in the art room. They were getting excited. By working with them instead of over them I had helped them discover their talent for themselves. Leadership is about relationships.

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livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! First, to those of you who are parents and grandparents, you’re probably familiar with the saying, “Values are caught as much as taught.” We all know modeling is one of the most effective teaching methods. Are you, through your actions, helping to train up your children or grandchildren? Are you leading relationally or have rules and regulations dominated everything else?

For those of you who are local, on January 6th I’ll be speaking to a moms group in Plattsmouth on parenting to the heart–how we can help initiate life-change in our children, and this is all relational! You’re welcome to join us. I’ll share more info as the time gets closer.

And for all of us, what are your thoughts on leadership? Have you had similar experiences to Ashley’s, and if so, what did you learn from it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

BUT, before I go, I just have to say one more thing, and this is to my daughter: Love you, girl!

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Home Depot Churches by Ed Bahler

Before I get too far, I want to route you over to Rose McCauley’s blog where you can read an article I wrote about my husband. Commercials bombard us with one “necessary” gift after another, but what do our spouses really want?

Now back to my top twenty of 2010. Today’s post first appeared on Ed Bahler’s site on October 27, and it reminded me of a church my husband and I used to attend in Southern California. It was a rather large church, yet it was one of the closest-knit I have ever been a part of. It was dominated by love and a sense of acceptance.

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’ve moved a lot and as a result, I’ve been part of numerous churches. This has actually been quite a blessing. Each church has its strengths and weaknesses, along with a unique slant. Not doctrinally speaking, but one church may be passionate about small groups, another about youth ministries, and yet another about international missions. The church we attended in California was passionate about discipleship. Their motto: developing fully devoted followers of Christ. And it showed. While there, I started a Saturday youth outreach program, a family ministry, an annual Easter outreach event (not sure if it’s still going), my husband and I led a marriage study–the list goes on. What makes this unique is that each of these ministries were new. It wasn’t like the church had an established program and was looking for warm bodies to fill it. It was that I (or in the case of the marriage study, we) went to the communities pastor with an idea, and he sent us off with a warm smile, a handshake and a “You can do it!”

Because of their, “You can do it! Let us help you,” attitude, our church had a rather diverse make-up of ministries and I experienced more spiritual growth than at any other time in my walk with Christ. I remember the day I sat in the communities pastor’s office, bubbling over with my idea of starting a ministry for young families. I asked, “Why don’t we have one?” To which he replied, “Because no one’s  done it.” And viola, it was that easy. He didn’t route me to a bunch of ministry leaders, didn’t initiate countless church planning meetings. It was, “Great idea! Let me know if you need any help.”

During our time there, I got the strong impression that the programs weren’t nearly as important as the people. They were focused on the growth of each and every member of the body.  I’m sure I wore the ministry staff ragged! Because they didn’t just give the okay then cut me loose. They trained me. Staff members would sit in the meetings I organized, they invited me to free training summits, they provided training materials and with each step, they walked along side me. I often wonder, what if they’d said no? What if they’d been so focused on their programs that they viewed me and my rather explosive ideas as burdensome? Perhaps I wouldn’t be in children’s ministry today. I certainly wouldn’t have the wealth of knowledge and experience that those events allotted and the training classes provided.

As you read today’s blog, think about how you can apply this idea to your life. If you’re a parent or grandparent, how can you walk along side the children entrusted to your leadership? If you lead a study, how can you draw others in? And remember, God unites the body, not so we can turn everyone into a foot, but so that each member can do their part, as God wills and leads.

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In recent discussions with leaders from around the country, the big topic is how to thrive in this new environment. Are we experiencing a reset…a step change in the way the world is working?

The prospect of career congressmen being booted from office next week would suggest that there has been a change. The major adjustments in the business landscape suggest this as well.

But what about the church?

My friend Todd Wilson (Exponential Network of church planters) believes that a major reset in ministry is at hand. In the past, the church has been institutional, with a parental attitude about Kingdom work. The message has been, “We can do it, you can help.” And most boomers were content to pay their tithe and get on with life.

But the future is different. It’s about engaging and equipping people to do the work. Home Depot got it and their home improvement slogan, “You can do it, we can help,” was a remarkable success. They picked up on the step change in how young people engage life, their career, and the church. If church leaders hope to engage the next generation then they must make this step change and buy into the ministry vision of:

“You can do it, we can help.”

So younger generation….is this where you are?

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

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Ed is the CEO of Aspen Group and a church leadership coach. He’s passionate about helping churches “ALIGN” their ministry, leadership and facilities with the multi-ethnic, post Christian culture we are rapidly moving into.

Find out more about Ed by visiting the following websites: edbahler.comaspengroup.comaspengroupblog.com, theckn.com

We have one more devo for my top twenty of 2010, then, on the 31st, come back to see the top three! And remember, if you loved today’s devo, fb share it, tweet it, “like” it or leave a comment. And…Rose invites you to leave a comment on her blog as well. When you do, you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive a free book. Woo-hoo!