Monday, August 16, 2021

Challenges in Developing Leaders, Part 2

Last week, we took nearly 200 students and pastors to our very own SICM, Texas Edition! It was a great experience, but we hope to be back to SICM in Bellingham, WA this coming May.

Lunch with a bunch of the campus ministers from various ministries who are reaching out to UT Dallas. This isn't even everyone! The Lord is truly answering our prayers to sent out workers for the harvest. The friendship, unity, and camaraderie in this group are evidence of the Spirit at work.

Last month, I started sharing reflections on some of the challenges in developing young leaders, specifically those that result from the way they see themselves. There are also challenges that stem from the way I see them. The first and most obvious challenge is that my view of someone isn't always accurate! I have my own subjective experience of people, which can be both a strength and a weakness. Sometimes I hold people back because I don't see their true potential. Other times, I push them into positions and opportunities they aren't ready for yet. 

Being older and in a position of power/leadership means people will naturally treat me somewhat differently, and that can hinder my ability to see how they interact with their peers/people they lead. That difference can cut both ways. Years ago, I remember a fellow pastor telling me that a key student leader didn't treat others the way he treated me. I (foolishly) shrugged it off, thinking I knew this kid better than others, but reality came back to bite me. He treated me well because I had something he wanted, but he wasn't kind or selfless toward those with nothing to offer him. On the flip side, I think of a young leader who was hard for me to relate to but was very effective with his peers. I had to be reminded that I didn't appoint him as a leader for me! 

There are people I naturally connect with and people who are harder to connect with, and that can color my perceptions of their leadership skills and potential. The temptation is to recognize and appreciate my own strengths in others and to miss or underappreciate their strengths in areas I'm not as good in. If I give into that, I won't be able to raise up a diverse leadership--I'll only see potential in people who are like me. I've recently found the Strengthsfinder assessment helpful in recognizing strengths in others that I wouldn't pick up on by myself.

Another temptation is to think people are more like me than they actually are. We tend to see other people's actions and assume similar motives to our own. In other words, I ask, "Why would I do that?" and then assume they are doing it for the same reason. This short-circuits true discovery and understanding. That dynamic can also play out in character areas. We tend to see our own strengths and flaws in others. People who are honest and forthright will be naturally trusting, assuming others are honest and forthright. People who are less forthcoming, guarded, or manipulative will assume others are being the same way. But these are often not good assumptions. Wisdom calls us to look deeper and perceive reality in all its complexity. 

There is great power in being humble enough to recognize and admit that our perceptions are limited and that we are always (necessarily) making assumptions that are more or less valid. All of this should drive those who want to invest in others to take an active interest in them, to keep our eyes and ears open for things that don't seem to fit our current views, and to be purposefully inquisitive.

It can be helpful to know our own tendencies so we know in which direction to adjust. Are you more likely to see people as better than they are or to be too critical? Knowing this about yourself can help you know whether you need to practice assuming the best about others or practice asking some extra questions.

Jesus changed the world by developing leaders. He saw something in these men and women that had been overlooked by others. While Martha was frustrated that Mary wasn't in the kitchen, Jesus saw that her heart for learning was just as strong as in any of his apostles. While the crowd saw Zacchaeus as an unlovable traitorous tax collector, Jesus saw someone who would go to embarrasing lengths to get to see Jesus. In fishermen, he saw the potential to be fishers of men. In the gerasene demoniac, he saw a missionary to Gentile cities. I could go on. Only God sees our true potential, but he invites us to join him in empowering a next generation of leaders. It's a challenging and complicated task, but God is at work in the middle of it, blessing and refining everyone involved. Don't get discouraged if you find these things challenging. Just keep learning and growing! 

Student Testimony

I got to start a friendship with Mick last year, and I'm so excited to have him return to UTD and lead core this fall!

Thank you for all you do for the kingdom and all the ways you invest in young people! 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. - Galatians 6:9

Developing Our Pastoral Team

We are back in August and ramping up for the school year! We have an amazing pastoral staff, and an outstanding group of student leaders. At...