Category Archives: Coaching

Habits of Leaders: Reading

Welcome to a six-week series of tips on habits of leaders.

A conversation with my son, Rick, this past week was confirmation of this concept I’ve been thinking about for weeks.

Howard Hendricks, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and long time Cru friend, was known for saying, “A leader is someone who knows where he [or she] is going and can take others along.”

I’m an unlikely candidate for leadership. I don’t conform to the typical profile of a leader–directive, decisive, quick, or charismatic, attracting others to my cause or me. I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. I was one of very few in my extended family or high school to attend college. I am by nature, reticent to lead, slow to process complex information, and easily swayed. I am a true introvert, and slightly bookish! Maybe more than slightly!

So…if God can use me, He can use anyone!

With that said, I want to take the next six weeks to consider some habits of leaders. These are selective, not the ones most consider first. But taking time to think and dream, exercise, being generous, and elevating others are a few habits that have served me well.

Reading is one vitally important habit of leaders. I’ve been on a kick for the last dozen years to read classic literature and history, and recently presidential biographies. I wish I had started earlier.

Currently I’m reading six books—a novel, a presidential biography, a true-life adventure story, two Christian devotionals, and one on the state of the church. I don’t recommend that many at a time. But some are because I am in community, and others are yearlong projects.

I’ve read or listened to 19 books so far this year. I could listen to same classic rock Pandora station when I run or workout, but I’ve found that I enjoy listening to engaging audiobooks. LibriVox offers 10,000 titles in the public domain. They have an app for both iPhone and Android. I can’t tell you how many illustrations or illusions I’ve come across listening to books at zero cost to me.

The yearlong presidential biography I’m working through this year is Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald. I’m in no hurry, just a few pages each day. But at least as far as I’ve read to date, I’ve been able to identify with some of what he experienced. Though he had aspirations, one of our nation’s greatest presidents was a reluctant leader. He was gangling, socially out of place, cautious, and often at a loss with little precedent to follow. He was greeted before he ever arrived in office with seven seceded states and four more ready to follow.

On his journey to Washington to take office, he said, “While some of us may differ in political opinions, still we are all united in one feeling for the Union. We all believe in the maintainance {sic} of the Union, of every star and every stripe of the glorious flag.” He had been elected President, “by a mere accident, and not through any merit of mine…a mere instrument, an accidental instrument…the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elected to the Presidency,” a man “without a name, perhaps without a reason why I should have a name.” P. 275.

Abraham Lincoln had no pedigree and had little to commend his leadership. But he chose to take responsibility. The prophet Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” Nevertheless, he offered himself, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:5,8 NIV.

I am the Chairman of the Governing Elders in my church. I did not seek the role. But I seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit and I’ve always tried to be available to the Lord. I’ve never led at such a level with a pastoral staff of over 100 years in our church alone. But this position has stretched me in ways I could not have imagined. While it keeps me trusting the Lord, and we have some challenges, I have thoroughly enjoyed the growth process and seeing God’s leading and answered prayers.

Reading Lincoln’s biography has given me perspective and a long view of leadership. The true-life adventure story I’m reading is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, that I’ve mentioned here. We all have assigned or work-related stuff to read, but reading, is a habit that is expanding me and helping me to be a lifelong disciple, learner.

So what are you reading? Here are some ideas if you need some.

Spring Coaching Tips

Another use for an effective tool.

I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get in a rut with how I do ministry. I usually see our tools having a single purpose for which they were designed.

Recently, my wife, Chris, was on a coaching call. Rachel graduated three years ago and is seeking to live missionally in her workplace and neighborhood. Rachel leads a study of middle school Christian girls. But their behavior doesn’t always match their profession. Rachel knew they needed to understand the filling the Holy Spirit, but struggled to bring the message home to them.

Now, Chris is very creative. She is great at seeing possibilities where none appear to exist. (Oh, and BTW, I am not trying to earn brownie points here! Just telling it like it is.) Chris suggested taking the Soularium cards and asking the questions we would ask in an evangelistic setting. “What cards best illustrate your life now?” “Why?” “Which cards do you wish would illustrate your life?” “Why?” And from that discussion launch into what God would do with lives completely yielded to Him so that He could work unhindered in them, or what we would commonly say as being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Chris told me about her conversation, she said she knew most of us look at Soularium as an evangelism tool primarily. But sometimes we can be limiting and not see a tools’ versatility. What might God do outside the box?

Perhaps you have discovered a creative way to use one of our tools and have seen God use it. I’d love to hear about it.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

Summer Survival.

One of the many priorities we have in campus ministry at this time of year is preparing students for the summer.

“Let’s face it. Summers can pose a major challenge to our faith and obedience to Christ.

So begins the first article in the Summer Survival Guide.

Summers can be:

  • a very spiritually isolating time because you are away from the environment and friends that have helped you grow spiritually this past school year.
  • or a great experience as you see your faith tested and increased and take some key steps on your own (1 Peter 1:17)

What makes the difference? The decisions you and your students make now can put them in a position of advantage and strength going into the summer. “As a Christian, we can embrace challenges the summer brings because we recognize the opportunity to trust God in new ways and see our faith grow in ways that we would have never seen otherwise.”

The Summer Survival Guide provides perspective and resources to help make the difference. The introductory article of the survival kit tells about three essentials with practical helps and further resources:

  • self-discipline
  • the right fellowship
  • daily time with God and His Word

Personal growth happens when there is the right combination of personal desire and conducive environment. Both are needed. Many of our students will be going back into less than ideal environments. Let’s do the best job we can to prepare all of our students to grow in Christ this summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

The First Two Weeks in the Fall.

Years ago, Eric Swanson wrote the article, “The First Two Weeks on Campus.” We still do much of what he talked about in getting ministry started in the fall. How those first two weeks go, makes a difference in the rest of the year. That’s why it is so important to be thinking now about fall ministry start-up essentials.

Read on for my distilled version of Eric’s thinking, a few thoughts of my own.

Time with key leaders

  • Ask student leaders to return before freshmen arrive on campus. It’s essential to do this before so as to maximize relationship building time with freshmen.
  • Cast vision for the year. You may need to re-align and provide motivation.
  • Involve them in dreaming about and planning for the year.
  • Walk through the key events of the first few weeks.
  • Delegate responsibilities for those events.

Visibility

  • Visibility communicates that what we are involved in is significant.
  • Goal: That everyone on campus knows we exist.
  • Being attractive to students: Having fun, building relationships, involved in meaningful efforts.
  • Flyers and handouts.
    • What we hand out or post lends credibility to the more critical personal invitation.
    • Does the publicity represent us well?
    • Do students see us as the kind of people they want to be involved with?
  • Tabling
    • Surveys, sign-ups, providing information about first meeting, socials, retreat.
    • Food!
  • Socials
    • First day of school picnic, pizza party, ice cream social, etc.
    • This is your first opportunity to make a body-mode impression.

Gathering

  • Principle: If you have a non-believer focus—believers will come; if you have a believer focus, non-believers won’t come.
  • Believers may be a great source of manpower. But you are looking to survey large numbers of students to find those most interested as early as you can.
  • Again, the first two weeks are most important all year.
  • Atmosphere: Students don’t feel pressured yet. They have lots of hope for what the year holds in store for them. They are seeking friendships and a place to belong. This window of opportunity will close quickly.

Conserving fruit

  • Set a deadline to follow up contacts. Contacts become cold in two weeks and dead in three.
  • Look for ways to have lots of person-to-person contact.
  • Start large open connection groups quickly. By starting too late, we lose people.
  • We can start discipleship groups later.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Train your students what to do on a first appointment
  • What about returning students?
  • Plan well your first meeting of the year.
  • Plan your first outreach.
  • Plan a movement launch.

Minister to your team

  • Since you as a team are working hard these two weeks, look for ways to affirm that work, celebrate the progress, and refresh.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Becoming not ashamed of the Gospel.

One of the many priorities we have in campus ministry at this time of year is preparing students for the summer.

A good part of that preparation is helping them gain confidence in their faith and to be able to communicate it to  family and friends back home when they are away from their Christian friends.

Chris West, Student LINC Coach, led a devotion in staff meeting recently. He told us he had two verses, Romans 1:16,17, and three questions. Here are the questions and a summary of our discussion.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel,…” Romans 1:16a NIV.

1. Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel?

  • We do not understand its power.
  • The gospel is not popular.
  • Some see the gospel message is as narrow, “cultural-imperialism,”  (my beliefs, culture, and traditions are better than yours), intolerant, even hateful and “phobic”.
  • For some Christians, the message of grace is too easy and they want to add to it.
  • The Gospel clearly says that no one is good enough to earn God’s favor. This is an affront to human pride and independence.
  • Some Christians have acted shamefully.
  • We’re digging out of a hole. ie: we are starting the gospel conversation with people who already have significant beefs about Christianity.

2. What does it look like to be ashamed of the gospel?

  • Responses included: being timid, silent, fearful, powerless, private, guarded, weak. No surprises here.

(It is important to acknowledge both the normal human responses as well as the cultural climate in our society in which this discussion takes place.)

3. Helping our disciples gain confidence so as not to be ashamed of the gospel.

  • Encourage them to spend time with God in His Word.
  • Boldness grows out of strong conviction.
  • Recognize the Holy Spirit as the source of power and boldness for witnessing.
  • Connect with other believers who are not ashamed of the gospel.
  • Recognize that we are invited by God to join with Him in what He’s already doing.
  • He will reach people with or without us.
  • The mention of an atheist comedian, Penn Jillette, chiding Christians for not sharing their faith.
  • Sometimes we simply need to overcome inertia, and move intentionally toward conversations.

There was lots more discussion. But Chelsea Hengeveld, Destino Distance Coach, mentioned how she asks her student leaders to use the wondering questions as a way to start spiritual conversations. She asks them to “wonder with someone.” They could say, “We’ve never talked about this (spiritual things) before, but I wonder…”

The underlying assumption is that someone who has confidence in their faith will have a better likelihood of growing in their faith, rather than walking away from it over the summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Key Volunteer Challenge

This is about being a spiritual multiplier.

This is something I could share with just about every Christian I meet and be excited about it.

This is easy.

You bring the principles of Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Timothy 2:2 together and ask your friend to screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-12-24-12-pmmake a difference on his or her campus or community. And all you need is a sheet of paper and a Bible.

Let me encourage you to watch this four minute Key Volunteer Challenge video and consider who you might share this vision.

If you happen to talk with someone who accepts the challene, you can coach them yourself from a distance, or you could send them to Want to Start a Ministry. It will take 5 to 10 minutes for them to read through these brief pages. There is a way to contact us on each page.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

December checklist.

If you’re like me, you have a ton going on right now. I’m writing this in an airport on Saturday, in between two four day-long meetings. I’m watching my own to-do list grow.

Recruiting is still in full swing for the Winter conference. You might be thinking about Christmas outreaches and how to end the semester well. You know you need to think about the spring semester, Spring Break opportunities and you’re encouraging your students to ask parents over break about going on a summer mission. Oh, and you probably are working on your end-of-the-year ask, doing Christmas cards, and some shopping and parties…Gotta do the parties!

If you are trying to remember all you have to do, maybe this checklist will help.

Winter Conference.

  • Keep encouraging people to attend.
  • Help with fund raising.
  • Arrange rides.
  • Exchange email and cell phone numbers.
  • Finalize plans.

Summer Mission Opportunities.

End the semester well.

  • Christmas party. Invite International Students. It’s a great way for them to learn about this holiday.
  • Take the time to praise God for what He has done this semester.
  • Gather movement indicators and enter them.

Review plans for the Spring semester.

  • Try to reserve the same room you met in this fall for consistency.
  • Reserve a place and the time during the first week of classes to do a campus wide survey.
  • Print off posters and flyers to advertise your weekly meetings.
  • Consider an evangelistic event each month.
  • Replace leaders graduating with new ones.

Prepare students to have a regular devotionals and prayer times during the break.  

That last one is really important. You will want to prepare your students for the break and their time home. The advent season can be a very worshipful and celebratory time and a great way to have gospel conversations with friends and family as we focus on the Christ’s coming on our behalf. But it can also be a time of letdown for many students if they go home to the rush-rush or less than favorable family situations. For all of us, the time spent in the Word is vital.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips