There is a relationship between time spent and impact had. Just like you can’t get closer to your spouse by spending less time with him or her, you can’t change the fact that the more time you spend with a student or friend, the more impact you’ll have on one another. But this truth often leaves many (myself included) feeling guilty because there’s not enough time to meet with all the people you wish you could.
So, while there are no short cuts, there are a few ways to make sure the time you do spend with students, staff, or family is leveraged for maximum impact. Here are four ways.
1. HAVE A TEACHABLE MOMENT RADAR INSTALLED IN YOUR BRAIN.
I think Kaiser and Best Buy should team up on this idea—I know I would buy one. The truth is that some of the most influential moments you might have with a student will likely be unplanned. I know we all spend so much time preparing life-changing talks and Bible studies, but in the end, it’s the random moments where they are truly broken and ready to listen that produce the greatest fruit. Watch for them and when they come, seize them. It is in those moments that we can join God in what He’s doing in a student’s life instead of trying to lead a student somewhere we might want have planned for them instead.
2. TURN OF THE CELL PHONE.
I have had to learn this the hard way and I still get stupid with this every now and again. But I’m learning that technology can be a great tool and an even greater distraction. When you pick up your phone or even check it in silent mode to see if it’s a needed call in the middle of a meeting, you communicate that there are other things more important than this time together. Unless you are awaiting a call to head to the hospital for the birth of a child, there’s virtually no good reason to have to be interruptible all the time. Turn it off and check your messages when you’re not investing time in students.
3. STOP MULTI-TASKING.
If you’ve only got 45 minutes to be with a student, then be ALL there for 45 minutes. See #2 above and then find out about his or her life. Ask the student how he or she is doing–really. Let the student know that this is his or her time. There may be other demands on your life, but this time is dedicated to the student alone. The return on your time will go way up if you do.
4. ENGAGE YOUR EYES AND YOUR EARS.I pretty much have learned this whole list the hard way. I’m guilty of missing all of them, but # 4 is probably the worst for me. I have a tendency to get so absorbed in what I’m doing or so distracted by #3 above that I don’t give great eye contact or I get easily distracted by my A.D.D. I find that students, volunteers, and even my family feel so much more valuable when they know I’m truly listening. Give them eye contact. Be an active listener and ask clarification questions. Take notes. Do whatever it takes to get lost in the conversation so that you can truly listen to both them and God too.
Okay. Now that I’ve re-read what I’ve written again, I’m going to go repent for my failures and recommit myself to doing these four things to maximize my moments with students, staff, and family too. I’ll pray the same for you.