Part 4: Best Practices
“I’m a student, not a guru.” I love that quote from Derek Sivers’ book Anything You Want. Even after selling CD Baby, the largest seller of independent music on the web, for hundreds of millions of dollars, Sivers encourages his readers to disagree with the points in his book and to then share their points of view with him. Sivers models the leaders are learners lifestyle. Part 4 is called “Best Practices,” but that’s only because “some really good ideas” isn’t nearly as marketable. So while I will share one strategy for developing a spiritual growth plan for students, understand it’s just that: one strategy.
- Do your homework.
- Pray for wisdom and clarity.
- Read what the Bible says about spiritual growth.
- Read what others say about spiritual growth.
Plan with the end in mind.
Part 3 in this series included a helpful definition of spiritual maturity, but it’s important to personalize yours. What does a spiritually mature student look like? Our ministry phrase “we want our graduates to not graduate from their faith” gives us a picture. We envision a college freshman, successfully navigating the temptations on campus while living with purpose and passion for Jesus. We considered what a student needs to know, feel, think, and do, and we described it in general terms under three broad categories of “knowing God,” “knowing themselves,” and “knowing their world.”
Put meat on those bones.
Planning with the end in mind gives you a skeleton. It produces statements like “our students will know the Bible,” and “our students will pursue purity.” Those are great! But what does it look like? What do you actually want students to know, do, and feel? How do you want them to act? These questions helped us fill out our skeleton.
Build a roadmap to get there.
Don’t stop! You’re close, but this next step is the second most important one to take. You know where you’re going, but how will you get there? My family will travel to Washington state to see family this summer, but we need to formulate a plan on how to get there. The same is true with discipleship. Telling a student you want him to love God more this year is a terrific goal, but what’s the plan? This step takes more time and plenty of scrap paper. It could be frustrating, but get it done. And if after a year you decide it’s not working the way you hoped, don’t worry, because that’s where the final step comes in.
This is the most important step to take. It’s a reminder that there’s no formula that guarantees success. Even if you’re doing well this year and next, don’t assume it will continue the following year. Be a student, not a guru.
Most believe in the importance of student ministry, but few have a plan to do it well. Don’t worry about building the perfect plan, just build one and rebuild or redesign as you go. Making disciples is hard work, but it’s a high calling.
Part 4: Best practices
I’m a big fan of transparency. When we pretend to be something we’re not, nobody wins. So with complete disclosure, there are no “Best Practices,” only strong suggestions based on experience. So what have I learned from my years in ministry and time parenting?
Get a Team
Parenting is a team sport. Don’t do it alone. It’s nice to have relatives who help, but when they’re not available—or you don’t want their availability—you need other loving, God-fearing adults who will function as relatives. There are a few families in my church that love my kids, and I thank God for them. My kids are developing strong relationships with men and women I trust, and I view them as teammates. Another teammate is a youth pastor and any additional youth workers your church might have. It’s important to note that a youth pastor is a teammate, but you are the coach. Don’t delegate your spiritual authority; instead, partner with the youth pastor and learn how you can work together to achieve the goal of spiritual maturity for your child and family.
Get a Plan
Develop a family mission statement.This is more than a document to frame and hang on a wall or file away under ‘M’ for mission (not miscellaneous). Its purpose is to remind you who you want to be and how you want to act. I made the mistake of trying to draft the perfect statement that I never got it done. Instead, I have 37 drafts on my computer…and finally gave up several years ago. Well, I’m going to try again, but this time, I’ll gather my family around the table so we can brainstorm together. Then have a family meeting once or twice a year to review it and assess how you’re doing.
Get in the Trenches
While I said there are no best practices, this comes pretty darn close. If you want to grow spiritually as a family, serve together. Seek as many shared ministry experiences as possible. Go on a missions trip together, locally and globally. Sponsor a child as a family, but have your kids contribute financially toward the cost. Teach a class together at church, visit the elderly…the list could go on and on.
Unlike gathering to review your family mission statement, this time is designed to make memories. Develop a family tradition of spiritual growth night. Circle a date on the calendar once a month and commit to doing something different each time. A handful of ideas:
- Discuss spiritual highlights and lowlights for the month.
- Make a video, recreating your favorite Bible story.
- Have a worship night, where each family member gets to play his/her favorite worship song or favorite song by a Christian artist. Family member then shares why that song is meaningful.
- Have a family member teach on his/her favorite Bible verse and share why it’s meaningful.
- Discuss top moments from church or other groups/classes from the previous month.
Get an Education
There are more print and media resources today than ever. Don’t try to read them all. Not only will it be impossible, but quite overwhelming. But do pick one or two books a year you can flip through to hear what other voices have to say.
Parents, we can do this. The One voice that really matters, God’s Spirit, has empowered us and equipped us. We just need to take a new step each day, as well as be willing to get up when we fall. We all know parenting is hard, but it’s both a blessing and a responsibility. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Praying with you.
Every great organization has great leadership… period. It’s going to be nearly impossible to become great if your leadership is sub-par.
Believe it or not, this relates to churches as well. Many times, in church work, we find ourselves in a tough spot; desperate for help, so we compromise in the area of leadership and we get ‘Volunteers’ to serve in our ministries instead of ‘Leaders.’
So the question is…
“What’s the difference between a volunteer and a leader?”
This is actually pretty simple: A Leader is a person of influence. Leadership = Influence!
Ask yourself this question:
“How do I influence the people that I’m in leadership over? How are they influenced by my leadership in these 3 areas?”
In their Decision Making
If you’re leading people well, you’re influencing them. And many times you aren’t even aware how you influence the people that you lead. Here are 5 ways a leader influences the people they’re serving.
- By position—If you’re in a position of leadership, you will naturally influence people.
- By character—People are watching you! They watch the way you carry yourself, how you make decisions, how you live… and you will influence people based off of your character…or lack thereof.
- By example—Imitation is the greatest form of flattery…it’s also the result of good leadership. If you lead well, the people following you will lead by your example.
- By experience—If you’re more experienced, the less experienced people will look to you for leadership. Use your experience and wisdom as a tool to benefit your organization and also influence your people.
- By relationships—The greatest way to influence a person is within the context of a relationship. If you want to lead someone…invest in them. If you want to motivate someone…get to know them. It’s a simple concept that will generate great results in your leadership.