leading with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’

We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” – but there can sometimes be a lot of “I” in leadership! (And I mean more than just the little one that is the second last letter!)

Of course, leadership by definition is often an individual or solo task. It’s the act of being ‘out in front’; the front bird in the geese formation, the pointy end of the arrow, the cutting edge, the trailblazer, the pioneer – all of these aspects of leadership are true and right. But more often than not, we find that our leadership plays out in teams and groups. There’s limited value in being the trailblazer if no one is actually then walking on that trail – and if you’re flying out the front of the geese formation and there’s no one else in the geese formation? You know what that makes you? That’s right, a goose!

The purpose of leadership is to take others somewhere they wouldn’t otherwise go. It’s to see things that are not yet and paint a picture in the imagination of others to inspire them towards future possibilities. It’s to champion gifts, skills and capacity in people that they might otherwise not have known they possessed and to lead them into actions, thought and influence that they might otherwise not have explored or experienced.

Language matters.

How we speak as leaders shapes the culture of our teams and contexts.

Here are some things that can happen when we use “we” instead of “I“.

  • We draw people in to realising their part in a broader movement; a greater purpose. We reinforce a culture of collaboration and team work. We allow others to feel part of activity and outcomes that they may not have even had direct involvement in. It generates energy and excitement around the bigger picture and grander vision.
  • We indicate that we’ve included other voices in our thought processes and decision making. It may be our spouse, parent or friend (as opposed to someone within our organisation or team) but it demonstrates a willingness to listen to other opinions and allow accountability to external input to refine and shape our actions.
  • We demonstrate the humility to share successes (that might actually be wholly ours) with our team. The idea might have been ours, the hours of preparation might have been ours, dealing with the obstacles and opposition might have been ours, but the win is the team’s. We also communicate an expectation of humility in others.
  • We create a culture that handles failure in healthy ways. When we communicate a loss in the language of ‘we’, we show our teams that they can explore, innovate and experiment with confidence because we will all share in the loss. They don’t need to fear public correction or embarrassment. Review and recovery will be handled in a shared and sensitive way.
  • We keep a separation between policy, processes and decisions, and people and emotions. The language of ‘we’ draws on a corporate code; our agreed methods of working and interacting. It reminds others of the decisions we’ve made as an organisation that are guiding our choices rather than making it about personality.
  • We reduce the need for personal defensiveness – from ourselves and the team member. This is not me against you. No one is fighting for themselves in this conflict, process or project – we are on the same team.

It’s really important to note – this is not about deflecting personal responsibility when the responsibility is ours. It’s not an ‘out’ for taking ownership of decisions that are difficult for others to process or avoiding ownership of personal mistakes and shortfall. “I” is also necessary sometimes. But our tendency towards that language first can be unnecessarily distancing, hierarchical, and contrary to building healthy team culture.

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when is the right time to talk to your kids about sex?

It’s a question often wrestled with by parents and leaders, when is the right time to talk to kids about sex?

The answer is simple.

The right time to talk to your kids about sex is just before they hear it from someone or somewhere else.

That might not be the answer you were hoping for. In fact, that probably opens up more questions than anything. How can you know when they’re going to be exposed to content on television, scribbled on a bathroom wall, stumbled across on a computer or device, conspiratorially whispered about amongst friends at a sleep over, or joked about in a locker room? It seems impossible to predict, and therefore difficult to pre-empt, but it is undeniably the ‘best time’.

The power of first exposure.

Our brains are wired to attach knowledge about a subject to the person who first introduced it to us in an informative or useful way. So, whoever first exposes us to information is solidified, subconsciously, in our minds as the expert on that topic. We are far more likely to return to that source if we find ourselves needing more details or, if we get data from an alternate source, we are likely to come back to the original source to verify or test it.

What an incredible opportunity that presents as parents or people of influence in the lives of young people. If they are introduced to concepts of sexual biology, reproduction, arousal, intimacy, consent, masturbation, boundaries, gender, safety, identity and responsibility by you, they are more likely to see you as a source of useful information and understanding on these topics. How much more preferable is it that YOU be in this position of influence than a child’s school friends, bus pals or anything that might spew out of a television or smart phone?

This doesn’t completely address the question of timing, but I believe it ought to create a sense of urgency and boldness driven by the value of equipping our young people to adequately navigate their own sexuality, understanding and expression in a highly sexualised culture.

“I don’t want to talk to my children too early because I don’t want to introduce them to concepts before they need to be … and I don’t want to arouse their curiosity, which might lead them to further (potentially unhelpful) exploration.”

This is a hybrid of commonly expressed concerns by parents when wrestling with decisions around timing.

The myth of early exposure.

It goes without saying (which generally means it needs to be said!) that when we reference ‘early’ conversations (as in, prior to when they might otherwise be exposed) those need to happen in age appropriate and ongoing ways.

It’s not just ‘the talk’ it’s a lot of talks. It’s a continuing conversation. Any thoughts you have, as a parent or leader, of having one conversation that articulately (and in completely non-awkward ways) covers all of the necessary topics and concepts your child needs to successfully land them in sexually educated, adjusted and healthy adulthood need to be banquished! Sorry! 😉

In light of this, any topics you broach ought to be couched in language and cover information that is able to be helpfully processed and absorbed by the individual child. It will be different at every stage of development, but it will most likely be different from child to child. Their level of maturity, sensitivity, social awareness, personal experiences, personality and intellect will all impact what they need to know and what they are able to absorb.

Tips

  • You need to talk about everything in order to be able to talk about anything. Developing a relationship of open dialogue with your child (about Minecraft and puppies and football teams and complicated school/friendship dramas and …)  will grow their confidence that you are someone they can trust to handle conversations about particularly uncomfortable or uncertain topics.
  • Ask your child to ask questions – and then ask more questions. “What do YOU want to know? What do you understand and what more can we learn about together?” Respond to only the questions that are asked and check understanding as you go. “Does that make sense? Does that settle what you were thinking about?”
  • Capitalise on ‘teachable moments’. Interact with books they’re reading or things they see on television – “Why do you think she/he reacted like that?” If your child says or does something that indicates a wrong understanding (like the Gr 5 child wrestling with a peer in the playground I overheard exclaiming “stop it, or you’ll catch puberty!”) or an awareness or exposure to something – speak to it, ask about it, clarify it.
  • Act normal! Even if you don’t feel normal, ACT IT! It is counterproductive to try and explain the ‘naturalness’ of sexuality and intimacy while you stumble over words, don’t look anyone in the eye and scurry off as soon as there’s the slightest break in conversation. So …
  • Practice! Practice what you might say, what words you might use, how you might describe certain acts, attributes or attitudes. Read articles or listen to speakers who can help you develop your language – it will help your child as well as increasing your confidence.

The myth of aroused curiosity.

Curiosity only exists in a void. It’s true, right? You are only curious about what you don’t know. Speaking about pornography or masturbation isn’t a guarantee that your child is going to go off and explore that more for themselves. They are far more likely to if there’s a gap in their understanding. If they haven’t asked the questions that they still have or if they haven’t fully understood what you’ve explained.

Tips

  • Ask comprehension questions “Can you tell me in your own words what I just explained?”.
  • Encourage active listening “Nod at me if you are following but stop me if I’ve said something that was a bit weird or confusing.”
  • Plan a follow up chat. “That seems like enough for now. How about we check in later once you’ve had a chance to process that some more?”
  • Monitor your child. If they have been disturbed or discomforted by what they’ve heard you might notice that in their behaviour, body language or responses.

What do you think? What have you found helpful or unhelpful in your own experience? What further information or discussion do you require to help you keep this conversation going (or to start it!)?

3 ways to use social media (for good)

When it comes to social media, I think many of us have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. There are so many positive aspects about the connectivity it can generate, the relationships it can develop, maintain or strengthen and the exposure it can bring to many forms of information and inspiration. But there are also well documented aspects of social media that lead some to avoid it. Here are three redemptive uses of social media that I believe could make it one of our greatest assets in making the world a better place!!

1. Advocate & support

Social media provides a powerful platform to raise awareness, profile and funds for deserving people and causes.

Through social media, we are connected with needs and opportunities that might not otherwise come to our attention. From the comfort of our own couches we can donate to worthy causes, support individuals in their world changing efforts, sponsor research initiatives, support small business, petition governments and change agencies, and shine a spotlight on need and injustice. We can also share stories of courage, inspiration and hope.

The simple act of ‘liking’ a post increases its reach, ‘sharing’ or re-posting even moreso and our comments offer encouragement and support to the person or organisation – cheering them on to bigger and better accomplishments on behalf of those who need it most.

So whether it is the opportunity to support a friend’s child in the “Jump Rope for Heart” skipathon, or sign a Collective Shout petition to take steps to rid the world of sexual exploitation, or read a story that awakens our hearts to injustice, or sponsor a young person travelling overseas to understand more of the needs of the world, or donate goods to a prison or homeless ministry, or donate to aid men’s mental health, or like, share or comment on the activity of someone championing another worthy cause … or to utilise the platform to raise funds or awareness for those things God puts on your heart – do it!

A sure fire antidote for the draw of social media to be about self-indulgence, comparison, appearance management or complaining is to consider how we might use the platform to draw attention to what matters and use our voices on behalf of those without one.

2. Honour & encourage others

There are no shortage of places a person can turn to if they’re looking to be torn down. Even without trying we can find ourselves on the end of others’ (or even our own) criticism, judgement and exclusion. Social media offers a place to reverse that experience and to bring encouragement, affirmation and honour into one another’s lives.

Special occasions – birthdays, graduations, achievements, Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Days, anniversaries, new jobs, farewells (etc) – are a great opportunity to publicly honour people of significance in our lives. Those we admire, those we are proud of, those we desire to champion and celebrate. And even on no-special-occasion-at-all days! What a great opportunity social media presents to say a kind word or two – to or about another person. To pause just a little longer to find words to articulate what you appreciate about them or how they are positively influencing your life and the lives of those around them.

I love the chance to share a photo and a ‘shout out’ to someone who is giving their all and living their best life. How grateful are we for people around us who do that in a way we can aspire to and be encouraged by!? Why wouldn’t we take the opportunities to share that sense of gratitude with others and give their spirits a boost in the process?

But even more than that, we can honour and encourage just in the ways we react to other people’s sharing. I often hear people talk about social media being a place they find hard because, for them, it breeds jealousy and discontent. What mental and/or heart shift might we make to see or hear of another’s success or enjoyment and choose to celebrate them rather than give voice to the negative or self-focussed emotions that might otherwise threaten to come to the surface? What we speak out to others we speak into our own psyche also – the choice to affirm or celebrate can do as much for our own wellbeing as it does for the object of our comments.

3. Spread joy!

If you have a bad customer service experience at the shops or on the phone to your insurance company. If you have opinions on the ineptitude of …**insert people of greatest annoyance here** (other road users, politicians, attendants at McDonald’s drive thru windows, people who misuse apostrophes etc). If you have a grievance about, well, anything or anyone – you will no doubt find some cathartic relief in bashing out a well-worded (or otherwise) rant on social media and then find a degree of satisfaction in the responses of others. People are very ready to jump on board with their own stories or deep empathy for your plight.

I’m just not sure it really helps much in the long run. In some cases, it does nothing more than rally people towards judgement and bullying. In most cases, it achieves nothing positive.

Social media platforms are perfectly poised to be a mechanism to bring joy, hope, life-giving encouragement and edification. To bring laughter to someone’s day (I find a story of your own epic failure is a great way to get people laughing!!), to acknowledge difficulty and share burdens, to speak words of peace, promise and potential into another’s circumstances. To give a cyber high-five to people who are succeeding at being an adult (you know, doing all the things!) or a cyber hug to those living through difficult seasons.

It’s a good question to ask of what you post yourself – and also a posture to adopt in your responses to what other’s post – does this spread joy? Does this perpetuate positivity? Does this point people toward things that are beautiful and creative and life-giving and hope inspiring and people honouring and smile inducing and motivating? When you could respond in jealousy, will you choose celebration? When you could dismiss or minimise the needs and hurts of another, might you choose words of empathy and compassion? When you could highlight the negative, would you choose instead to emphasise the positive?

Thoughts for action :-

Do you use Social Media in these positive ways? How might you change your online engagement to utilise these platforms to advocate and support, honour and encourage and spread a little more joy?

Humility Check-up

How humble are you? Let’s say, on a scale of 1 – 10 … 1 being the extreme of arrogance and pride and 10 being Jesus Himself … where would you sit? It feels like a bit of a trick question really, doesn’t it? How does one adequately reflect on their humility levels … in all humility!?

Humility is the act of valuing the dignity of others more highly than your own. Beyond just ‘thinking of others before yourself’ it’s actually surrendering your dignity; your ‘image’ in the eyes of others. It’s laying yourself down for the sake of bringing dignity to those around you. In Philippians 2, Paul talks about us having the same “mindset” as Christ and goes on to describe Jesus’ humility … first, to come to earth as a man (even though He is God) and secondly, to submit Himself to death on a cross (the most humiliating of deaths).

It takes humility to admit a lack of humility … and it is also the nature of pride to blind us to the ways in which a lack of humility presents itself in our lives.

So, time for a humility check-up! Maybe some of these things will highlight the areas for us where humility is most lacking.

You might be lacking in humility if …

  1. You boast in yourself
    Proverbs 27:2 says “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth …” We all react negatively to someone blowing their own trumpet but a sign of pride at work in our lives is the need to self-promote. Do you find yourself boasting and bragging? Do you need to receive credit for the things you’ve done or said or the part you’ve played in another person’s success?
  2. You get defensive
    To a certain extent, defensiveness is just reactive boasting. We are defending an incorrect perception, justifying our own actions or acting to ensure we don’t appear wrong, weak or lacking in anyway. “I was not!” “It was her idea!” Defensiveness (which is different to working together to reach mutual understanding) is a form of appearance management that often comes out our mouths in sharp tones and biting remarks.
  3. You fight or get angry
    The substance of fighting is very nearly ‘always’ a sense of selfishness – beyond just defending ourselves we move to an aggressive desire to get our way, to be right. A lack of humility sees us convinced that those things are the most important – beyond caring for others. We very rarely fight on behalf of another person – we aren’t fighting for their dignity, we’re fighting for our own. Anger is a complete disregard for the heart of another person, it is to set your heart against them in hatred and aggression.
  4. You avoid confrontation
    On the flip side – avoiding confrontation can be just as much a reflection of a lack of humility as fighting. Instead of putting our own needs first and fighting FOR something we elevate the potential for our own discomfort, embarrassment, awkwardness or hurt over bringing resolve to interactions or relationships. When conflict is non-combative it is actually a healthy part of life and relationship. It’s in those moments of communication, compromise and negotiation that we bring about the best ideas and the strongest relational ties.
  5. You are impatient or intolerant
    STOP! I know what you’re thinking! “I wouldn’t be so impatient or intolerant if other people weren’t so annoying and intolerable!!” (Yes, I can read your minds – creepy isn’t it?) Impatience and intolerance are emotional reactions to things not happening like we would want or in the time frame we want. It is all about us. Humility requires that we care less about our own needs and our own plans in deference to care and concern for others.
  6. You make bad choices
    Humility breeds wisdom. Humility encourages us to seek wise counsel, to submit ourselves to another’s expertise or experience, to ask questions and admit that we don’t know it all or may not have all we need in and of ourselves to navigate life successfully. Humility sees us valuing the best decision over our need to look like we have it all sorted.
  7. You give in to insecurity
    There’s not a person on the planet who hasn’t had moments of feeling insecure, unsure, nervous, inadequate or embarrassed. It’s all part of the human experience!! But when we give in to insecurity in a situation, we have allowed the protection of our own dignity to override whatever the potential outcome might be. When we don’t go and speak to a new person at church or we don’t pray out loud in a group or we don’t offer to help in a team because we feel insecure, we are saying that the welcome of the new person, the ministry to others, the gift of serving other people is less important than our own dignity. Timidity and shyness are not synonyms for meekness and humility.
  8. You hold a grudge
    Our inability to forgive or to move on from offense can reflect a lack of humility. It is not to minimise the hurt or the wounding that we experience at the hands of others – either carelessly or intentionally – but we hang on to the idea that our wounding requires that someone else would pay, that they would be wounded also. Aside from the fact that often the objects of our grudges or un-forgiveness don’t even realise they are – we bind ourselves up in bitterness and offense which will only grow poisonous fruit in our own lives.
  9. You are a worrier (**mutters under breath*** “control freak”)
    Pride tells us that we need things to be how we need things to be and the only way to assure that is to do them ourselves. While we acknowledge that different people have varying capacity and skills to keep things in order and make them run smoothly, could it be that our need for control stems more from a lack of humility? Are we working to protect our dignity and serve ourselves rather than trusting others and trusting God?
  10. You are unteachable
    I don’t need to tell you how annoying those people are who seem to know everything about everything …always! Of course, I’m not talking about you – but I’m sure you know people like this! Or perhaps, just perhaps, you have an unteachable spirit yourself sometimes too. When we dismiss others as having nothing to teach us, when we are not open to input in our lives, when we mentally write people off for being too old, too young, too female, too something and don’t entertain the possibility that we could learn – we reflect a hardened heart and an unteachable spirit. Prov 12:1 says those who hate correction are stupid (yep, Bible word … “stupid”!!). A lack of humility can make us stupid.
  11. You are arrogant
    Arrogance is when a lack of humility seeps out of your pores! Those who are boastful, proud, haughty, self-righteous, never ever ever ever wrong (and even if they are wrong and they know they’re wrong they manage to twist and turn things around to make it look like they were not wrong!) are demonstrating a lack of humility that will inevitably be their undoing. We know people like that, right? But maybe, if someone ever intimates to you that you are appearing even the slightest bit arrogant, humility might cause you to self assess and make some corrections (rather than defend, fight, get angry, blame … etc).
  12. You have secrets
    What do you try and cover up? What are you desperately hoping no one ever finds out about you? What character trait, behaviour, addiction, relationship or action would you hate to have another person know about? When we are actively seeking to appearance-manage, to coordinate our own P.R. and Press we are protecting our dignity above even the truth! Humility doesn’t require public announcements in the local paper, but it also doesn’t allow for secrecy and cover ups.
  13. You are ungenerous
    Not just with your money or your things, but with your words and your time and your interest. Do you struggle to encourage others because you don’t want them to look better at something than you? Are you holding back on contributing to another person’s life – practically or relationally – because it will cost you too much, or because they will then have more than you? Humility requires sacrifice.

Father God, I want to grow to be more like Jesus – open the eyes and ears of my heart – reveal the areas of my life where I lack humility. Amen.

life is too short to hate your job


In July 2016 I clocked up 13 years in my job. I celebrated by spending the weekend with 9 young adults who are not only a sensational group of committed ministry leaders but also some of the finest individuals I know.

On Sunday, they stood on the stage at church and shared something of their passion for discipling youth and desire to grow in God. All of them have come up through our church’s youth ministry and are now wholly invested in the emerging generations.

They are a snapshot of why I love my job so much. They represent the fruit of the thirteen years I’ve been in this role. They (& others like them) benefit from and contribute to a culture that has been God-breathed – a way of doing ministry and community that I have given my whole self to. They are a gift to the Church that will keep on giving long after I’ve gone (either from the church or ‘gone gone’).

It’s hard to imagine a better way to have spent the last thirteen years. I certainly don’t regret having done so!!

We spend about a third of our waking life at work. That has to cause us to consider what we’re doing with such a significant portion of our lives.

Our work needs to be an endeavour worthy of such an investment. Either because our job role serves a vision or mission that positively impacts people and communities and sees other people empowered to do the same. OR because working there releases funds or time that allow us to fulfil a similar purpose. And if it’s neither of those – it should at least be fun!

Life is far too short to hate your job.

Life is too short to waste a third of it in meaningless employment or employment that inhibits you’re ability to engage your discretionary time more meaningfully.

Sure there are times when we’ve just got to take the job we can to pay the bills and feed the family. There are times when we take the job we can while looking for the job we want. But we need to prioritise work that matters or that resources us to engage in other things that matter.

At least we came!

Most Sundays at church I get to stand on the platform at some point and look out at all the brave souls who have made it to church that morning. I say ‘brave’ because I think sometimes (most times?) the well-dressed, sweet-smelling, generally-got-it-together people looking back at me are not really indicative of the true story of what it took to get them there!

For some reason, getting up on a Sunday morning – even an hour later than you probably do for work – can be the hardest task of your week. Kids that neversleep in decided to do it TODAY (or they wake at an hour that is un-godly … even on God’s day!!)! The ‘leisurely’ breakfast went feral when one of the children decided to be ‘helpful’ with a whole box of cereal. The weekly ‘you’re-not-wearing-a-basketball-uniform-to-church’ and the ‘no-you-can’t-wear-your-flowergirl-dress’ (or a combination of both) battles have been waged … with tears … from everyone! Husband/wife decided to drive “that” way instead of “your” way and then parked in the“wrong” place and did that “thing” they always do …etc etc … Continue reading

3 things generations pastors need from their senior pastor

So, you’ve hired (or inherited) a Children’s Pastor, or a Youth Coordinator or an Associate Pastor for Generations (or any version of a Generations staffer) – what do you do next? One of the most significant relationships that will shape ministry effectiveness and a truly generational culture in your faith community is the relationship between the Senior Pastor and key leaders in the Generational ministries.

1. Access

Leaders immersed in ministry to emerging generations (or who are ’emerging’ themselves) will place a very high value on relational connection. Your time, your encouragement, your wisdom and experience, your clear articulation of the church’s vision or direction and the provision of a sounding board for innovative thinking and problem solving will all happen best through growing relational connection.

The offer of an open door is a start – a genuine invitation to come to you whenever they might need to process something, gain approval or seek advice that is supported by the reception they receive when they do.

Better still, a regularly scheduled meeting time communicates a high value from you. It also provides the consistency of contact and interaction that is necessary for a relationship of trust, open dialogue and true understanding to be fostered. Personally, I would be wary of employing someone who was unwilling to meet regularly with me. Just as I would be equally cautious about working for someone who didn’t appear willing to invest the time and intentional development into me as a leader.

Action points: Make space in your schedule for a regular time with your Generations pastor/leader – it doesn’t have to be hours and it doesn’t have to be too frequent – it just needs to be regular and it needs to be locked in to your calendars as an event (saying ‘we should catch up some’ time really doesn’t count!). Invest time to know your staff personally.

2. Awareness (& accountability)

Generational ministry finds a great deal of its expression outside of regular work or office hours. Youth pastors are doing some of their most intense hours on a Friday (or other) night, Kids Ministry workers are often squirreled away in largely unseen rooms, Young Adult small groups and events happen in evenings or on weekends, team meetings are scheduled outside regular hours to accommodate the volunteers that serve on them and, on top of all that, many Generations leaders are only working part-time hours. Left unchecked, it is easy for Generations workers to operate off the grid for large amounts of time. This is, of course, entirely practical but it is also fodder for doubt or mistrust to form when there are too many times when other staff or members of the church community ask, “Where is Sarah or Josh?” and no one can answer.

This can also extend to the question of ‘what’ – “What are they doing in Kids Ministry?” “What are the Youth studying this term?” “What is the strategy for connecting with families?”. Again, the more times the answer is ‘I’m not sure’ the more disconnected and untethered those Generational ministries can appear. And in time, that appearance can translate to reality.

In the context of regular access and strong relational links, a Senior Leader can be abreast of enough information to feel confidently aware as well as being able to communicate that awareness and confidence to other staff and members of the church community. This also provides a level of accountability to Generations staff as they are required to account for the spend of their time. In this way, they can also be monitored for ‘over-working’ – something that is easily done if their unseen hours aren’t being considered in their work-life rhythm.

Action points: Create a visual or open-access system of sign in/sign out and a way of communicating when staff can be next expected in the office. This is useful for all staff – particularly in environments when many are working part time or irregular hours. (And speaking as a person who lives alone, I like the idea that my work place might notice if I’m not there and check on me at some point!! 🙂 )
Ask for copies of term plans for Generations ministries. Dates of events, themes of study or any other broad information about the activity of a ministry area will help you to ask informed questions when you are speaking with Generations staff.

3. Advocacy

Generations ministry leaders are on the front line of feedback and engagement. Parents love their kids and are often quite zealous in their desire to see programs and opportunities meet their individual needs and expectations. Many people have opinions about how these ministries should operate and will be quick to vocalise them to anyone they deem able to influence a ministry’s direction.

Your Generations Pastors need to know that you have their back. They need to be confident in your confidence in them. They need to be assured that complaints or criticisms are not being entertained by you without you seeking out the full information and without you doing anything to undermine their authority or currency amongst those they minister to.

Raging fan in public – honest critic in private.” This is the mantra of Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church staff culture. They covenant to always support one another publically – in the moment of leadership activity and/or to anyone who might take an opportunity to question or challenge. “I’m sure they have a good reason for that decision or action, let me find out what it is and get back to you.” Assuming the best of your leaders is the only way to nurture a trust-infused environment that allows innovation and personal development to take place. Through that lens of trust and belief, honest questions of critique or concern can be processed in healthy and helpful ways.

Action points: Resolve to always have your staff’s back as they lead and when others might come to you to ‘complain’. Affirm the Biblical practice of resolving conflict directly with the person involved rather than permitting a climate of back talking or conflict avoidance. Ensure your Generations leader knows they have your full support in all things and the guarantee of your honest review and feedback. Knowing that no news truly is good news will give them greater confidence to lead boldly. Speak plainly to your Generations pastors about areas of work and create a grace-filled way back after failure or misfire.

***

Of course, all of these actions and ideas won’t guarantee a successful ministry tenure for your Generations leader – but the absence of these things will make it all the more improbable! When a Generations Leader can rely on their Senior Pastor (or up-line) to be available to them, to be aware of their ministry movements and personal development trajectory, and to advocate for them they are best positioned to thrive in their role. And everyone wins when that happens. Senior leadership, the Generational culture of the church (and the many families and young people impacted for the Kingdom) and the Generations Pastor themselves.

married at first sight & back to school photos

One of my favourite times on the Facebook calendar is back to school week. My newsfeed is flooded with naaawwww-worthy photos of ‘firsts’. First days of school (massive backpacks on little legs and hiding under seemingly enormous sun hats; school dresses triple hemmed and ‘shorts’ that reach down to mid-calf), first days in a new year level or a new school. Last first days for those at the other end of their schooling. Some show the side by side photos of the changes made across the years – tracking the inevitable growth and accompanying differences. Moving from teary hugs and farewells at the classroom door to the increasing independence that sees a child walking or riding off on their own or with friends.

I love it! It marks a new season, acknowledges the passing of another year, signifies for the family yet another shift in life stage and rhythm and celebrates the success and potential of movement through education and other life markers. And it’s pretty stinkin’ adorable, too.

Running parallel with that this year, was the start of another season of Chanel 9’s super successful ‘reality’ show, Married at First Sight. “Successful” in terms of its ratings, not in regards to its success in bringing couples together who actually stay together. It’s a psychological and relational train wreck that produces fascinating television viewing and boosts the social profile of those who participate (surely that’s part of their purpose for being there, right?). But it also highlights underlying cultural and personal expectations that the narrative of a ‘normal’ or ‘fulfilling’ life is centred around finding your soul mate and living in marital bliss.

In the lead up to the show’s airing, one participant, Sarah, recorded a sound byte that played on repeat,

“I’m 38 years old and I have nothing to show for my life.”

As she looks at her life and she applies the known methods for measuring it, she finds herself with nothing to show for it. This comment (and the fears and feelings that framed it) represent her justification for applying for the show. She’s 38, she’s not married and has no children – time is a’wasting! It’s time to employ emergency measures!

At a cursory glance, this comment is dismissible as untrue. Without knowing anything much about her we could readily identify things she might have to ‘show’ for herself. Lives invested in, experiences she gathered, career and other successes she’s enjoyed. But I think we need to listen to what she’s saying. To lean in a little more and seek to understand more fully what her comment is echoing of a message society sends (in both subtle and more overt ways) of how a life should be measured and celebrated. And particularly how that translates for a Single and/or childless person.

For those who are married, each anniversary is an opportunity to reflect with gratitude and celebrate the achievement. High five, us! We made it through another year! Social media gives opportunity to publicly affirm one’s spouse and for the couple’s community to congratulate and encourage them.

For parents, milestone days – the birth of children, firsts of all kinds, ‘before & after’ pictures denoting achievements, changes and growth, performances and of course, birthdays, engagements and weddings – all bring opportunity to gather friends and family (in real life or online spaces) to again, celebrate, and encourage. To reflect on the journey till now; to dream and plan together for the future.

To use Sarah’s language, these are many of the things you have to “show” for the years you have lived, the transitions you’ve navigated and the impact you’ve made on the earth. These are the things publicly celebrated. They are acceptable, anticipated and even requested opportunities to share with others the rewards of the labours of time, money, energy, expertise and sacrifices of all kinds that bring about these moments.

So, if you are not married and don’t have children – how does your life’s journey get marked and acknowledged? In what moments are the community of a Single person called to gather to celebrate, publicly affirm and encourage, to invest advice and energy, to reflect growth and change, to honour success and draw others in?

Commonly, Singles report that attempts to share moments of celebration, difference or success are often perceived as self-absorbed or self-promoting (“why are you making such a big deal about your birthday?!“) or met with jealousy (“I wish I were Single so I could travel more!“).

The success stories told usually include friends, colleagues or family stepping in to facilitate those celebrations and affirmations. My friend Nancy is a champion at this! She enthusiastically and creatively celebrates the birthdays, new jobs, buying a home, graduations, return from holidays and moving days of her Single friends to ensure they’re well marked. And to draw his or her community into expressions of encouragement and celebration.

Think about the people in your world (specifically but not exclusively Singles and/or childless). How can we act to ensure they know what they ‘have to show’ for the life they’re living? What moments of reflection, celebration, affirmation and gathering can we be part of facilitating?

the power of the debrief


After living alone for several years a while back a friend moved in. The changes were immediate – both the super-fun and those more challenging as we navigated doing life together – but one of the more impactful ones was unanticipated.

Within a week of having a housemate I noticed a significant improvement in my mental health. I was sleeping better, I felt less ‘stressed’ and I was doing much better at switching off my work brain to enjoy my evenings more.

It was the power of the debrief.

Although we each led busy lives, there’d be some point after work where we’d get to chat about our days. Sometimes that was a quick touching base before one of us headed out to our evening commitments, other times it was more extended – her sitting at the kitchen bench chatting while I cooked us dinner. But in all of its forms it was powerful.

What happened today? Good stuff or bad? How’d that meeting go? What frustration did you experience? Did you accomplish much? Did you encounter any conflict? What’s on for tomorrow? What decisions are you facing? What options are you considering?

In the process of expressing those things out loud I found great release. It was like putting a metaphorical full-stop on that day, allowing me to set it aside to be picked back up the next. Freeing my mind to completely relax or to take on other thinking and processing related to my home or personal life.

It’s a consideration for us all but particularly for those who live alone. What steps do you make to give yourself a mental break? How do you get true separation or distance from work to let your brain process other things? How do you ‘switch off’ from one environment in order to be fully present in another?

SINGLES – how does this apply in your life? Do you have someone to debrief with? Is there a person at work that you can have a close-of-day chat with? Can you call someone on your way home? Is there a method of writing things down or symbolically marking your transition from one environment to another that you could practice?

EVERYONE – consider those in your family, work place or friendship group that might not have a default person to debrief with. Can you offer yourself to them to be a sounding board for decisions they’re facing, chat to them at close of day or invite them to call you on their way home?