Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Processing - Part 2

I am continuing to think about my time in Tirol and my observations of our interns there. In part 1, I talked about the role of expectations in ministry and our emotional processing of events. Head over there and check out that part, as well. In this part I want to discuss something that is rarely talked about in leadership today. This idea gets almost no air time at all. No one writes books about this, or gives lectures or conferences about it. But it is essential to the function of a team and is needed in every single leadership role. The idea I want to examine is following. What does it mean to follow a leader? How can we, as those under leadership, work with leaders to make them more effective and help them to equip us to accomplish our roles?

In part 2, I want to discuss something I saw very quickly about camp. Camp is a leadership incubator. There are so many different roles and responsibilities. Camps function different ways, but I can break down a bit of what I observed. Our interns were under three program staff that were running the main operations of the camp. These were people leading games and deciding where events would take place. They spent time with students as well, but their primary role was making sure the camp ran smoothly and safely. Our interns lead their own cabins in teams of two. They invested in their students and focused on ways to connect with them directly. It is, from what I gather, a pretty standard leadership structure.

At the airport sending 3 of the 4 back to the states.
Our interns were moving back and forth between the role of leader with their students and the role of follower of the program staff leading the whole camp. That dynamic in and of it self is not new; many find themselves in such a situation, moving back and forth between leader and follower. However, the role of "Follower" is not something that is often discussed in leadership books. In a leadership structure, it is crucial to be an effective follower.

One way we can be a good follower is to recognize how much power and influence the subordinate actually has, which is A LOT. Much of this isn't direct authority, but we can indirectly push a team towards success. As followers, we have the ability to speak truth into a situation and help a leader understand the most important facets of the problem as well as a solution that is viable. We may not see the big picture that a team leader sees, but we do have a very unique perspective based on the specific needs of our role. When we effectively communicate our needs or how a leader can best support us, we empower that leader to make the best possible decisions and improve our own productivity.

As you grow older, you realize how much you become your parents. One of my father's favorite phrases was simple but powerful. "Nate, think." Deep, I know, right?! But it is so deep. He usually explained it as, "think about what you are doing. Don't just do it. Think about the process. What needs to happen next? What are the tools required for that? How does that fit into what I am doing now? What can I do in this step of the process that will make my next step smoother? How does all this fit into the big picture?" And so on. The questions can continually roll. He wasn't meaning it critically; what he was trying to instill in me was a level of self-awareness. What am I doing? Is this the best way to do that? Apply previously acquired knowledge to the present situation.

This self awareness is so important in team work and in working with a leader. It applies beyond physical tasks to intangible ones, as well. Asking questions like, "What sort of personality is my leader? What are the strengths and weaknesses of that personality? How can I compliment or support that leader in areas where he or she is weak? What ways can I rely on  his or her strengths?" You can see where this is going. The great thing about all this was I saw my interns doing this! I saw them engaging in situations and offering up helpful responses that supported their leaders to do better.

I hope you are enjoying reading along as I process this summer with our interns. I learned a great deal from my time with them, and I am excited to see what God does through them.

Do you think the skill of following a leader is not talked about enough in the church? Throw your answer in the comments below. We'd love to start a great discussion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Our Vision for Church Planting

We are excited to share our vision for church planting with you this month! This video was produced by a talented WorldVenture media team that visited us last month. They helped us put together a piece that encapsulates our new church planting project and upcoming transition into this new type of ministry. We hope you enjoy it, and we welcome questions and comments!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Processing and Reflecting

a view up in the Alps
16th century castle ruin near the camp
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Reutte and go see our interns. Reutte is in Tirol, which is in the bone part of the "chicken wing" of Austria. It is also in the Alps. It was an trip filled with extreme beauty as I took the long bus ride through the small villages and town. It is also the kind of place where you take a picture, look down and realize that it just doesn't capture what you are seeing. 

As much as I did get to see a few things, my primary focus was not to ride through the mountains. My main focus while there was to check in with our interns on the second leg of their journey in Austria. The first half of their time here is encapsulated by this post here.

view from the ruins
So I set off to spend the weekend there and connect with our interns. It was a great time of encouragement and seeing the work that God is doing among the students at camp. I got to do both a large group debrief with all of our interns at once as well as one-on-one times to check in with each individual intern. Through all these conversations a few key themes rose to the top. As I have processed through these ideas, I realize how important they are, not just for short term camp ministry, but also as general life principles. In my next few posts, I hope to discuss some of these ideas and draw out some of these connections.

There is a climbing section
in the grocery store
As I talked to our interns, one topic that came up over and over again was expectations. The more time I spend in cross-cultural ministry, the more I see how our expectations of a situation shape how we experience it. In our missions training, we talked often about how difficulty can be compounded based on our expectations of a given situation. When we walk into a situation expecting it to be different, expecting it to be challenging, expecting a curve ball, we often are not surprised when things don't go smoothly. But if we expect things to flow smoothly, it hurts all the more when we have to adapt and change. In this way, it is like a rubber band around our waist. The farther apart our expectations and reality are, the more the "snap" hurts.

One of the major challenges to this is it is often a backwards looking thing. We don't often get to know or understand that our expectations for a situation are violated until after we feel the snap. *So often that emotional difficulty is a signal to us that our beliefs or expectations have been violated. But if we just focus on the the experiential side of it (what happened and how does that make us feel) - we can miss the chance to explore our beliefs and expectations. We miss the chance to see what is usually unconscious and learn more about ourselves.

This applied in so many ways to the interns. They were navigating cross-cultural relationships with campers, staffers, and even with co-counselors from different regions of the US. They had so many opportunities to evaluate their expectations of relationships and situations. Everyone that has worked at camp knows how intense it is working together closely with people from all different backgrounds. If we had given our interns a pad of paper and a pen before they left for camp, they probably would not have been able to list the expectations that they are now processing through. 

In my next few blog posts, I'll explore other factors and topics from our debrief time with the interns and how they shape cross-cultural experiences.
*I first heard this taught at a college group at Friendship Church in 2006 or so. I have tried to track down a book or teacher to attribute this to, but to no avail. If this sounds familiar, I'd love to know what book this comes from.