A Note From A 4-Year Old

   As I usually do as the supervisor of the children’s department of my church, I stood watch in the lobby as the building doors opened for the parents to drop off their children. I greeted as many kids and parents as I could in the span of about 10 minutes before a 4-year old girl’s voice called out to me. She handed me a note and said, “I wrote it myself. It’s for you.” 

I studied the note and saw how carefully she drew her pictures and write her newly acquired written language. I couldn’t decipher her preschool code, but I saw that she knew how to spell her name. As I focused on this text, this little person said, “I know how to spell my name.” The note was signed, “Ava.”

I kept the note as a reminder that I have influence over a young and impressionable person’s life. I read somewhere that said that even the most introverted of folks will influence about 10,000 people in their lifetime. I am asking myself the same question I am asking you, “What are you doing about it?”

The Need for Endurance

Endurance is becoming extinct in this must-have-it-now culture. Simply put, endurance is the ability to do something over a long period of time. It automatically includes challenges, difficulty, and pain. So many in this generation (and I am not excluding the older folk of this generation) want to avoid pain and difficulty as much as possible. Whatever you do in life, finish strong.

I found this picture of my son running at a track meet at the age of 5. I put him in track because his hyper-energy needed an outlet, and a co-worker convinced me to join his track club. This particular track team in Long Beach was huge and very competitive. There were many athletes who were competitive in their age division within their region and even at the state level. The 5-year olds just graduated from the “lollipop” races that got the parents to smile and cheer.

There are 2 things that are clear in my memories of that track season. First, my son’s uniform draped over him like a robe. Secondly, my son hated the starting gun. At the beginning of each 200 meter race, he would plug his ears with his fingers and most of the time would miss the actual sound of the gun. The coach would run up to my son and yell, “Run Christian!” In every one of those races for almost the entirety of the track season, he would end up 8th out of 8 places. Sometimes he would cross the finish line walking. One time, he ended the race walking and crying while I held his hand as we crossed the finish line together.

At one of the last events of the season, I remember hearing the parents of the his teammates encouraging him to run his very best and that all that mattered was that he finish his race. I wish I could tell you that I gave him a spirited speech, but I think the other parents were the true source of his inspiration.

Once again at the start of the race, my son plugged his ears. The gun went off. Christian stood there. The other 7 runners took off. The coach ran up my son and yelled, “Run Christian!” My son took off as if someone laced his Gatorade with turbo boost. Even though the pack had at least a 10 meter head start, Christian gained on them immediately.

With 100 meters to go the pack had thinned out. The elite 5-year old runners were well ahead of the pack to finish with medals, but in the back of the pack, my son had the 7th place runner within reach and caught him at the halfway point. The entire group of parents on our track club stood up cheering at the top of their lungs, “Run Christian!” The entire group of parents from the boy battling my son for 7th place cheered for their boy as loud as they could.

With 50 meters to go, the rest of the crowd did what they normally did for only the premier races with the top athletes. The crowd stood up to their feet and cheered wildly for the 2 little boys battling for the last place.

I saw my son barely one length ahead of the other boy as they neared the finish line as I screamed as loud as I could, “Run Christian!” I remembered jumping up and down on the bleachers looking up at the parents with tears running down their faces as I had tears run down mine. I realized that in this particular race, it wasn’t going to matter who finished 7th and 8th place. Their spirit and determination to win inspired a stadium of witnesses. They were both winners.

It’s time we need to finish strong in the face of difficulty and even pain. You may not finish in 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd, but finish and finish strong. I’m in the stands cheering you on, “Run!”

 

Genuine Leadership

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Genuine Leadership

 

It’s easy to be a leadership junkie and get caught up in all of the facets of leadership to grow your team and your ministry. How many books have you read about leadership? How many audio messages have you listened to? How many conferences have you attended? You can be totally equipped to lead the masses. However, if you lead children and lead the leaders who lead the children, then it is vital that your leadership should be genuine. Children need leaders who are genuinely imperfect and real to pattern their lives after. Your leaders deserve the same type of leadership.

 

Relational leadership is probably your style, and if it isn’t, it should be how you lead. Collaboration and teamwork must be at the top of your values list. If you want your people, young and old, to take this journey with you and accomplish the mission, you must be real with people. You work too closely to people frequently enough that most of them can discern where you are with them. Here’s your checklist to provide leadership that keeps you real and benefits the team you’re leading and the children you minister to.

 

  • Acknowledge your limitations.
  • Be accountable.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Stay visible.

 

Acknowledge your limitations.

This is not a knock on faith. Yes, you can do all things in Christ Jesus, but you know what you are not good at. Stop kidding yourself. Furthermore, don’t waste the majority of your time trying to improve on your weaknesses. Work with people who are strong in these areas. It requires that you share your authority to empower these people to make things happen in areas you cannot. What about me? Administration is my weakness. I’m not good at it. I even despise it most of the time. It’s not a cop out to be lazy. There are administrative duties that I cannot, should not, and will not entrust someone else to do for me. That’s when I ask for help. What’s your weak area? Have you partnered with someone who is gifted in the area you are not?

 

Be accountable

This is the least popular of points, and it is also the least practiced. You must have people in your life who can tell you like it is. These are the straight shooters. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who will nod their heads and agree with every single decision and direction you take? You must be accountable at least one other leader who can and will question your decisions and your attitudes towards these decisions.

 

Humble yourself.

You cannot be accountable without being humble. You are a leader because you have a measure of confidence and ambition to go along with your gift. Yet, you still need to humble yourself to stay grounded. Isn’t it better to humble yourself rather than allowing a person or a situation humble you? True humility says, “I don’t know it all: not even close.” Being humble means being flexible enough to be teachable. My favorite team sport is basketball. The best basketball players of all time only made 50% of their shots. Only Jesus can make them all.

 

Stay visible

Leading people is not easy. If it were, more people would lead. Stay visible. Be approachable. Be there for people. Be there for people as much as you can. This requires a lot of effort, but be close enough, frequently enough, so your team can see your faults as well as your strengths. Your team will see that you are a “real” person. The children will see that you are a “real” person.

 

Show your team and the children that you are much more than a leader who preaches, emails, FaceBooks, and Tweets leadership sayings. Anyone can quote or re-post a John Maxwell principle. Your leaders and your children are more than willing to join in the journey with you when they make that interpersonal connection with the “real” you. These connections promote unity and synergy. Moving forward with great momentum is an awesome thing. Keep it real and lead for real.