Thursday, September 30, 2021

Our Biggest Prayer Need Right Now

As we move back into a more normal school year, we are seeing more clearly some of the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. Students feel more overwhelmed than ever. I think it is partially due to more activities being added back as things open up, but their stress is amplified by the fact that online classes didn't really require them to keep a schedule last year. We are spending more time than ever teaching basic time management skills. Social anxiety, which was already on the rise, was magnified by months spent alone or with only a handful of others. This means our cores are full but attendance at our Friday Night Fellowship meetings has been mediocre. 

In addition, many of our new student leaders have never seen a normal year of FOCUS at UTD, so we are continually realizing the need to explain what we are doing and why they should take part and lead in those things. It's hard to know what they don't know because in most years that understanding is passed on through community rather than formal teaching.

While I think our team has done an amazing job answering those challenges (and more), there is no doubt that the missing year of campus life will have a ripple effect on student leadership development and on our overall mission for an indeterminant amount of time. As a result, I think our Number One Prayer Need is for wisdom and energy for our pastors as they reengage in the relationally intensive work of reaching out to and mentoring students into the kingdom of God. I can tell you this work is already off to a great start!

Thank you for praying for and resourcing this mission to the campus. It's a pivotal time and what you do matters!

Student Testimony

Fall Camp Photos

The guys who came to camp from one of the cores I oversee. Jackson (on the left) and Tony (2nd from the right) are the leaders. I get to meet up with these great guys weekly!

We did an outdoor worship in the round, reflecting on Eph 5:19 - "Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit."

I got to interview eight students from our community during the sessions, giving them the opportunity to share about key decisions they have made to follow Jesus and the challenges they've faced along the way.

Walk and talks are always a hit!

Playing with the big parachute. I can't believe how tiring it is!

Taylor (on the right) is my apprentice this year, and these are some of the guys from his core this year.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Challenges in Developing Leaders, Part 3

I've mentioned before that I sometimes use the Habitudes books by Dr. Tim Elmore to train young leaders. His habitudes are "images that form leadership habits and attitudes." One that I especially appreciate is Floods and Rivers. He writes, "Floods and rivers are both bodies of water. Floods damage. Rivers are useful in many ways. The difference? Focus."

We've all experienced the multiplication of noise and messaging in our lives. Many have written about smartphones and social media and the reality that most of us no longer simply sit and think anymore; we have no time to be bored! For people of all ages, streaming entertainment eats up not just time, but mental and emotional bandwidth. Students feel busier than they did a decade ago, but when we drill down to look at their schedules, we sometimes realize that Netflix, Youtube, and the like take up as much time as a half- or full-time job!

Beyond that, increased competition for college admissions and employment, alongside helicopter parents' fears of dangers both present and future, has filled young people's weeks with more and more scheduled activities, commitments, and expectations. They have to be involved in many extracurriculars, volunteer, perhaps work a job, do well in classes that assign quite a bit more work than when I went to school, and, somewhere in there, try to figure out faith and how to love and serve God. 

All of this is a huge challenge in trying to develop young leaders. Rivers are effective; floods aren't. But rivers only go certain places--there are many more places that they don't touch at all, at least directly. They have defined borders that focus their flow. You can build something on their banks because they are reliable. Developing young leaders today is less about filling their free time, and more about inviting them to participate in disciplines of subtraction--choosing what they won't do so that they have time and energy to focus on what's more important. Cutting things is almost always hard, sometimes painful. Sometimes they are things we enjoy. Sometimes it will disappoint parents or friends or teachers. But God has set our limits. As Job said, "A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed" (14:5). And he does not expect us to do more than we can do. He wants us to steward well the limited resources he has given us, and invites us to discern what is truly important. 

This isn't something we comprehend in the span of a sermon or class. It's not something that can be taught in a single year. But as we develop young leaders, we would do well to carefully invite them to consider their limits and focus their energies on important things, lest they look back someday and see a life flooded with much activity, but little fruit to show for it.

Student Testimony

Some Pictures from our August SICM

This was the dining hall where we both ate meals and had our teaching times.

It was a beautiful camp!

Our First FNF at UTD in a Year and a Half!

Back in JSOM 1.118. Just like old times!

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...