As a leader we are always looking for solutions. It is discouraging though when too many issues need a solution or need our attention. It can be a challenge to know which holes to fix. As I mentioned in the previous post, Identifying the Big Rocks, I came to to the end of the year and into planning feeling this very thing. This is normal, but I felt perplexed by the same “holes” showing up again and again. What was the solution?
There was a time when one of my sons had a vintage t-shirt in elementary school that he loved to wear to bed. He loved the softness of it. Since it was a “real” vintage shirt, holes began to appear at the seams and he wanted them fixed. Repeatedly, I would take up my needle and thread and repair the next new hole. Eventually, the holes were in places that really couldn’t be fixed. This was his favorite t-shirt that he wore every night to bed for years. What was I to do?
Fix the Holes?
I imagine if I asked for five things off the top of your head that need attention in your personal life or in the life of your team you could rattle them off. Usually naming them is not the issue, but how to address them is.
We come to these problems often like holes that need to be “fixed.” We need more time, or resources to put into it. We need more ideas or planning. Maybe we need more people, or different people to “fix it.” If we just worked harder… maybe that is it!
Ignore the Holes?
Or, if overwhelmed, it could feel easier as a leader to do nothing. When we don’t have a solution or know what to do, we could just avoid them and pretend they are not there. The problem with holes is if we don’t fix them they tend to grow larger or resurface in new ways.
Growing up in the midwest we had some pretty terrible roads in our town. What I didn’t know was that the drastic changes in temperature in cold climates often affects the roads. Ice freezing and thawing caused even the smallest cracks to expand in size and become a rather big hole in a short period of time. The city would come around in the spring and patch holes. It didn’t look pretty but it did temporally help the holes from becoming larger.
The issues we face are similiar to this. A few years ago I got on our website and a banner was still up for our Fellowship Banquet. School was starting and the banquet had been in April! Then at some point we noticed that the name of a well advertised medication for men popped up in the middle of some text on the website. Right away we got rid of it. But then we noticed it had popped up in other places. Or had it just been there for who knows how long? We quickly realized we couldn’t ignore the fact that most of us on our team knew little about operating a website!
This season we sensed the solution was not necessarily in working harder to fix things or standing by and do nothing. We knew for now we needed to ask questions and ask for help. This is what lead to our first of our three Big Rocks in our plan for the year.
Big Rock #1: Prayer
This year we decided to give prayer a more dominate place in our own lives and in the life of our team.
Some of the things we said,
We do not know what to do, so let’s use a period of time to seek God and ask Him.
Let’s not seek our own agenda and try to fix things, but let’s ask God about male leadership, lack of commitment among students, the isolation we see our devices bring, expansion in sending, and ethnic diversity… to name a few.
Let’s ask and pray!
In order to make this a reality we needed a few concrete steps to take. We decided to:
1. Pray Regularly as a Team
We placed a time of prayer in our schedule as a team everyday of the week (instead of once a week), and three times being over the lunch hour on campus.
This was not necessarily easy for everyone. Often the lunch hour is prime time for appointments with students. Also, it is a challenge for anyone to add “one more thing” to a schedule.
Looking back over the last couple months, we have noticed this time to be an encouragement for our team. We have benefitted from the time to pause in the middle of our day. It feels like we are actually doing the best thing we could do with our time- coming together, seeking the Lord and asking Him for these things.
2. Ask Questions and Learn
When we feel stumped, the best thing we can do is to ask for help. It causes us to remember we don’t have all the answers and that there is One who really does lead us and guide us.
We prayed and asked God about the different areas we find perplexing. We handed things over to Him together and sought Him together, instead of expending more energy in trying to figure things out, comparing ourselves to others, or calling it quits!
We also are seeking to be learners of others, instead of just coming up with our own answers to fix things.
One book that was helpful for me was 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. This was beneficial for a better understanding of college students (and people in general), of the times we live in and of the challenges we face. We are a very connected but isolated people.
This book has actually shaped my prayers. As I read, I was reminded we try to fill holes in our own life that need to be filled with intimacy with God and with one another. I pray often now for students to really know God’s love for them and to be known by others— not just associated or connected with others.
3. Call Student Leaders to Prayer
Alongside set times of prayer, we are also desiring for it to be woven throughout our days and with our student leaders.
We gave our student leaders a book on prayer called, Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening. It was encouraging to hear the great discussion among students as two student leaders lead a time through the first chapters of this book. There was great enthusiasm and motivation to pray for the campus and the world!
I am not sure the status of all these “holes.” I know I feel a sense of the burden being lifted. Some of the holes don’t seem quite so big. Others are not mine to think about. Some are taking care of themselves.
My son’s favorite t-shirt found a new purpose. Fortunately, he pretty much outgrew it when it also became unwearable and needed to be retired. It ended up in a memory box I keep for each of my kids. Some holes can’t be fixed. Some just work themselves out. I imagine him later in life pulling out that t-shirt with memories tied to it. And he will share those with his kids.
As we pray, God seems to also work things out. Sometimes solutions become apparent. As we pray together He shapes us as a group. He leads us- sometimes immediately, but more often gradually. As we depend on Him, He is continually filling us and changing our hearts in the process. We even begin to see the holes in new ways. Sometimes this is the solution, and the answer to our prayers- we are changed and filled, not a hole being fixed.
Next time: Big Rock #2: Clarifying Discipleship