CONNECTION

Connecting with others has always been difficult for me. Even as a kid, I only had a handful of close friends. I have never been someone that had to have tons of people around me to call friends. I loved people and wanted to be in relationship with them, but I just didn’t “need” very many deep connections. Even in College I was content with my 5 or 6 close friends and made no effort with anyone passed that.

I remember so clearly a defining moment in my life when God taught me the importance of connecting with others. It was in the summer of 2007, my wife and I had just stepped into full time ministry with Teen Challenge. We had just moved, started going to a new church and joined a cell group with 3 other couples. The guys were all out going and ready to be vulnerable, I was resistant at first but soon they drew me out of my shell.

Now to the defining moment…

Janel and I were going through some difficult circumstances and I had become very angry with God, our situation, and began to get bitter at life in general. I went to that cell group reluctantly one evening not wanting to open up or be vulnerable, I was fine…just fine. The guys saw through that front and pushed me to open up. It ended with them pushing Janel out of the way to surround me while I ugly cried…tears, snot and all. They hugged me, cried with me, prayed for me and encouraged me. God broke through some walls in my life that had been there for as long as I could remember.

The Bible is full of examples on the importance of connecting with others. In Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said, Love God & Love People, in Matthew 18:20 He said He is with us when two or three gather in His name, in John 15:12-15 we see Christ telling us to love each other enough to be willing to lay down our lives for each other, in Hebrews 10:24-25 the writer encourages us to meet together and spur each other towards love, in Ephesians 4:2-3 Paul tells us to live in unity and the list goes on and on.

We as Christians are a part of the body of Christ and therefore we must live in connection with one another, but it is that much more true for Christians who work together on a daily basis. In Teen Challenge SE Region, over the past 2 years, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “it’s all about the we not the me”. This is absolutely counter culture to the world we live in. Jon Gordon says it like this, “The message they (we) receive from the world is that it’s all about the individual, not the team. It’s about me, not we.”

We know the importance of connecting with one another, but often times we are not intentional in our efforts to connect with each other. We assume it will happen over time or we intend to do it, but never get around to it. Meaningful connections don’t happen by accident. You must be intentional as you are trying to build connectivity as a team and in your walk with Christ.

Ask yourself some key questions today:

  • Are you intentionally building connection with those around you?
  • How can you improve those connections?
  • What are some distractions you can put boundaries on?

 

Article written by: Dustin Nance, Divisional Leader of Training

Source: You Win in the Locker Room, by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith

COMMUNICATION – The Foundation of Strong Relationships

If you’ve worked at Teen Challenge long enough, we’ve all been there. You have a church rally, banquet, work crew, or something else of importance about to happen. Where is the van we are taking? It’s out on the town somewhere and no one signed it out. Where is the crew leader or student for this job? They were assigned somewhere else for the day and no one was notified. Who is supposed to be on duty right now? Where are they? No matter what the case, it’s a flat out communication breakdown.

Fires happen and chaos can come at any time, and adapting to the mayhem of each day can be a feat of its own, but many of these things can be prevented or improved. What’s the magic ingredient? You got it—communication.  But even much deeper than a practical, day-to-day communication, we must be in tune to the spiritual and mental well-being of those around us, especially those we lead.

Jon Gordon writes, “Communication is the foundation for every great relationship. Communication builds trust. Trust creates commitment. Commitment fosters teamwork, and teamwork drives results. Without great communication you don’t have the trust to build a strong relationship, and without relationships you can’t have a strong team.”

So there we have it, to have a strong team and great results, we must have relationships based upon trust and commitment, good communication being the means on how we achieve this.  I want to challenge all of us: Do you communicate well with your team or to your students? Do you truly know what the “pulse” is on your campus at any given time? Are we seeing more lives being transformed due to a strong team because of communication? I believe as a Region we will see more people impacted for Christ through our programs as our staff, interns and other leaders continue to raise the bar on communication and relationships.

 

Article written by: Dan Williams

Source: You Win in the Locker Room First, author Jon Gordon

CONSISTENCY

When I think of consistency, the words discipline and choice come to mind. For some this may not be the most natural correlation, but in leadership it is essential. It’s easy to be consistent when you are good at something, enjoy the task at hand, or when things are going smoothly. However, it can be a different story when you are being challenged to grow or when change is happening around you. Author Jon Gordon, in his book titled, You Win in the Locker Room First talks about the fact that being consistent isn’t easy, it takes effort.

Consistency ultimately comes down to making a choice…we have to decide daily to be disciplined and determine what we want our influence to look like. Some of the greatest leaders in history are memorable simply because of the fact that they have a deep desire to consistently be excellent in all areas. This attitude comes from a life-long journey of discipline. We can’t expect this trait to be developed overnight. The more consistent we are in our personal lives and in leadership, the more of an impact we have in building relationships. We have to choose to “walk into the locker room” and cultivate relationships based on unwavering attitudes, efforts, and actions. Consistency ultimately leads to trust. This act of discipline ultimately allows us to make more of an impact for the Kingdom.

Author John C. Maxwell, in his book titled The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth writes, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency everyday lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” It starts with the small things. Challenge yourself to reflect inwardly on the areas your life that could use more discipline.  Be honest and ask yourself, “In what areas of my life do I see inconsistencies?” This isn’t a challenge towards perfectionism, or to compare yourself with the greatest leaders or all time. It’s simply a challenge to look at the challenge in front of you and choose attack it with an attitude that moves towards excellence.

Article written by: Holly Williams

CONTAGIOUS ATTITUDE

We could all probably muster up images of any number of movies where people are in bio-hazard suits to protect them from something contagious. We also probably can all think of someone we’ve been around where we wished we had better protection from the negative energy that had an effect on us. Or maybe it’s been ourselves that displayed a poor attitude to others. Either way, a leader’s attitude has a substantial impact on everyone around them.

Peter Stark stated, “One of the greatest gifts a leader can bring to a team is self-awareness and an understanding of their attitude and the impact it plays on relationships, the performance of their team, and everyone around them.” In the Southeast Region, we believe that having a Contagious Attitude means being people of optimism and belief—positive through every situation and full of confidence that we will succeed. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

As we look at our mission to Put Hope Within Reach, the only way we will accomplish this is by attacking every obstacle with optimism and belief. If you really think about it, it’s impossible to have belief and not optimism, or to have optimism and not belief. They go hand in hand. What would it look like on our campuses if every obstacle were approached with the attitude of, “We can do this!” instead of “There’s no way this is possible!” What would it look like on our campuses if complaining was obsolete? What would it look like if camaraderie and teamwork created a momentum that nothing could stop? Our president Dr. Nance has stated, “Momentum allows you to make a few mistakes, because your momentum allows you to only observe the mistake for a short time and then it’s behind you. Without momentum you get to see your mistake for a long time and it takes too much of your time and attention. Momentum is the greatest friend a leader has.”

I believe that we can have such a positive culture in Teen Challenge, that it would be impossible for anyone to come in contact with us and not know they experienced something different. Let’s let our positive attitudes impact everyone around us!

Article written by: Dan Williams

CULTURE – Fight For It!

We have been experiencing change as an organization. As a leadership team we have been looking down the road and planning for the future, but before any of that could happen we knew that we had to adjust our culture as a region. It is time to align!

We have identified that we will have these values as an organization:

-Courageous Leadership

-Contagious Attitude

-Continuous Improvement

In the book, You Win in the Locker Room First, author Mike Smith makes it clear that culture is important and worth fighting for. He writes about coming into the Falcons Organization, ready to focus in on the culture from top to bottom. He spent time with every group of employee’s from the players, owner and senior staff all the way to the food service people and custodians. He said, “I’ve always believed that culture is defined and created from the top down, but it comes to life from the bottom up.”

I have always been a big believer that we all own the responsibility for the culture around us. I have charged many students and staff through the years to be “culture changers” or “to bring a good culture with them” wherever they go. Basically, we all own the responsibility of our culture at every level of leadership.

In a recent meeting, Brice Maddock, explained that our culture is defined by what we create, but also what we allow. I believe this is a charge to fight for our organizational culture. He went on to say, “We must commit ourselves to build a great culture – we must build it, live it, value it, reinforce it, and fight for it.

We get to be a part of an amazing move of God that is literally saving lives and restoring them. What we do on a daily basis has an eternal value. Own the culture around you, do your part to live out the 3 C’s and we will see God do amazing things through us all!

Article Written by: Dustin Nance

Source – You Win in the Locker Room First, by Jon Gordon and Mike Smith – Chapter 1

Culture of Blessing

In our last article, Dustin Nance re-hashed the dynamics of conflict in the Teen Challenge context from our ELP Summit, challenging us in what can be our natural or first response to strong behavioral issues with our students. Many times, he explained, our students with strong behavioral outbursts have much more going on beneath the surface, and these outbursts need to be met in those moments with compassion and gentleness, not aggression and immediate correction.

To continue to expound on this ever-relevant issue in our field, we continue this month with more of what John Maxwell teaches on this topic. He calls it “Pass the Blessing, Please!” Oftentimes, he urges, people deal with difficulties beneath the surface because they are hungry for “the blessing.”

In Old Testament times, patriarchs of our faith would express “the blessing” in many different forms. Maxwell states that these occur by:

  1. Meaningful touch: Patriarchs laid their hands on their shoulder or embraced them.
  2. Affirming Words: Patriarchs spoke words of encouragement to them.
  3. The Expression of High Value: Patriarchs shared the value they added to others.
  4. The Description of a Special Future: Patriarchs used word pictures to share their potential.
  5. Genuine Commitment: Patriarchs committed themselves to see it come to pass.  

As we can see, there are many ways to express “the blessing” to our students, or to anyone to whom the Lord has granted us of having influence upon.

I recall, as an ELC student, sometimes during our group devotions, one of our staff started the devotion by encouraging outwardly the person sitting next to him, verbally and publicly sharing of that person’s worth and specific value they added to our campus. After he was finished, he asked that person to continue to do the same around the room. It was incredible to say the least to watch what unfolded, and many times as one person would look to the next person they were going to encourage, oftentimes tears would come before words. What was happening? People were connecting with the value of those they were serving alongside. What would happen if we did this everyday, naturally? I would think. What would our campuses look like if this was the norm, and not the exception?

Of course, this helped cultivate an organic culture of encouragement and helped our campus greatly, and spawned individuals to gain clarity of their beneath the surface issues, helping the roots of behavioral challenges and unresolved conflict, which improved issues on the surface.  

Of course, there are many ways, as Maxwell states, to “Pass the blessing” I would encourage you to learn even more the students and leaders you work with on your campus, quick to accept the responsibility to bless them often in the ways they are hungry for. As they say, we are in “The people business” and our highest honor is that we get to work with people, every one of them with dignity, value and worth.  Our tasks and to-do lists are not more important than the people we serve and lead. They themselves are the primary objective, not our tasks, no matter how big they may seem. Every person receives affirmation and blessing in different ways, but where genuine desire to bless them is present, God is near to help us and lead us by His Spirit as we do so.

Written by: Dan Williams dan-and-holly

Root and Fruit of Behavior

Last time I wrote about the importance of conflict resolution and how confrontation is going to happen. It’s a good thing if we’re intentional about it and treat people with love. The next step as a leader is to recognize that often times we are confronting a symptom to the real issue…an issue stemming from deep wounds of the heart.

I referenced a story at the ELP Summit & Staff Day, remember that man in Teen Challenge that was eating dinner after a long day of work and study reading his mail? The one that burst into a fit of rage upon opening a letter from his wife. Curse words, tables and chairs being tossed around angrily…picture that…it’s at that point as a leader we make a choice on how to best handle that person. Do you match their level of aggression and demand respect? Or do you ask yourself the important questions like; was the food just that bad? Did their football team lose? There is an obvious behavioral issue here, but what’s really going on? The important question to ask yourself is, what is going on inside that person and what does he need from me at this moment – confrontation or love?

He just received life altering news and doesn’t need confrontation, he needs your understanding and love. You can teach him how to respond to hard things and confront him on his behavior, but in that moment he needs to know nothing but that the Father loves him and sees his pain.

John Maxwell uses this diagram to show there are surface habits and behaviors that give us a window into the heart of the real issues at play. He argues that ultimately, it all stems from an issue with self-worth. If you believe you have no value, you will naturally find unhealthy ways to compensate for it.

I heard another story recently of a staff member who went to his leader and wanted to release a student that continued to have behavioral issues. The staff was very upset that the student would call himself a Christian and still cause the problems he was. The leader responded with a simple thought, “That’s why he’s here!” You see, we as leaders and stewards of this great call to give hope to hurting people, cannot be surprised when students don’t react as they should, or outbursts happen. It may demand more effort for us at that moment, but how you respond in those moments as a leader will speak to that student for years to come. Did you respond with love and understanding? Did you confront with love? Or did you throw a discipline at him and kick him out?

Don’t get me wrong, I am for boundaries and use them to guide and direct people towards a disciplined life before God on a regular basis. However, I would like to challenge us as leaders to always be mindful that discipline is only beneficial if it’s pointing people back to Christ. If not, we are training people to act right, not be right. That’s behavioral change and it only lasts for a short season. We want to be people that speak to the root of the issue and guide people towards healing and a life in Christ.

This week, identify that person who is a consistent source of conflict and diagnose the need. Do they need to be confronted? Or do they need to be loved on? As leaders we must rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment and wisdom to see these times as opportunities to guide someone towards Christ whether through healthy confrontation or blessing them.

Article by: Dustin Nance – Divisional Leader, Training and Hope Outreach – TCSE

Conflict Resolution

Whenever I think of conflict resolution I go back to my many hours of management training…watching “The Office”! There’s an episode where the manager, Michael Scott, takes the HR Manual and decides to resolve a major conflict in the office. Oscar and Angelia are in conflict over a poster that Angelia has up. It’s a picture of babies playing in a jazz band. Oscar finds it offensive and believes it should be taken down, however Angelia loves it and wants to see it every day. Michael steps in, being the great manager that he is, and decides to resolve this in one of the 6 models presented in the HR Manual. He chooses the Win, Win Win model, this is the one where all parties win including the moderator. He saves the day by making Oscar wear a t-shirt with the image on it so he doesn’t have to see it and Angelia can see it all day!

Conflict Resolution

While I would not suggest this as a model or resolution to issues like this in your area of influence, I would suggest taking on conflict resolution and confrontation with his intentionality in this episode. Generally speaking, people do not enjoy conflict or confrontation, however it is a necessary part of leadership.

While preparing for the Summit/Staff Days I have been reading through John Maxwell’s EQUIP teaching on “Leading When Times are Tough”. One of the topics challenges us on the fact that confrontation is biblical and gives multiple examples found in scripture. (II Corinthians 10:4-5; I Thessalonians 5:14; II Timothy 4:2-4; Colossians 1:28; Titus 1:13)

He states “your goal is to see them transformed by the power of God…not condemnation, but restoration”. Those we lead need to know that we love them, but need to know that we love truth more than anything!

I have taken a few of Maxwell’s Steps Toward Effective Confrontation and condensed them for you:

  1. Pray through your own anger and initiate the contact.
  • Don’t let emotion lead you. Wait until you’re objective, but deal with the issue             before they become too big.
  •  Don’t wait for them, scripture beckons you t make things right whether you are          the offender or the offended person.
  1. Explain what you have seen and/or heard and how you understand it.
  • Bring up the issue, and explain you don’t understand what’s happened.
  • The meeting may be more of a clarification than a confrontation. Give them the         benefit of the doubt and allow them to explain themselves.
  • It’s important to not attribute motives in this step, make this meeting a “fact                 finding meeting” initially.
  1. Listen and allow them to respond.
  • You must stop and allow them to respond. They may present a new perspective      that will help you both.
  • They may also throw up on you, listen anyway.
  1. Establish forgiveness and repentance, if necessary.
  • Connect the issue you are correcting with who they are in Christ. Don’t conclude       the meeting until forgiveness is extended and issues are clear and resolved.
  1. Pray and affirm you appreciation as you close your time together.
  •  Always close these times with prayer. Give them hope, and remind them od their     place in God’s heart and yours; help them never to question that they are loved.

Another good example of how to walk through confrontation is found in Ken Blanchard’s “The New One Minute Manager”. He calls it a One Minute Re-Direct and it breaks down like this:

  1. Re-Direct people as soon as possible.
  2. Confirm the facts first, and review the mistake together—be specific.
  3. Express how you feel about the mistake and it’s impact on results.
  4. Pause – be quiet for a moment to allow people time to feel concerned about what they’ve done.
  5. Remember to let them know that they’re better than their mistakes, and that you think well of them as a person.
  6. Remind them that you have confidence and trust in them, and support their success.
  7. Realize that when the Re-Direct is over, it’s over.

For me, one of the most powerful points of both of these methods for confrontation is the fact finding meeting. I am a leader that naturally assumes people’s motives and this step has helped me slow down and explain how I see the situation and ask what actually happened. Sometimes I have been right and me slowing down allowed the person to see their wrong doing and repent. Other times I have been wrong and it was a good thing I did not come into the meeting swinging and making accusations.

Confrontation is going to happen in any healthy organization and it certainly happens in Teen Challenge. I challenge you as leaders to be as intentional as possible when approaching these conversations. You have the opportunity to correct and build people up as an important part of the body of Christ or tear people down and leave them in your wake.

Article by: Dustin Nance, DL of Training & Hope Outreach

Prayer, Evangelism & The Holy Spirit

This month was a time of thankfulness for our country and for those that helped establish it; we will always be grateful for our Founding Fathers and for the role that they played in making our country great.

Another great founder that we are all so thankful for is David Wilkerson. According to Merriam Webster, a founder is an originator of an institution or movement. I am grateful that God chose a man like Wilkerson to be the originator of Teen Challenge. It was God’s idea but He placed it in Wilkerson’s head and, thankfully, he was obedient to the call- the crazy, impractical, startling and even bewildering call. This was a call that could have very well led to death but God went before Wilkerson and gave him great favor…you know the rest of the story.

I am challenged today to heed to the foundational ideas that Wilkerson had when the ministry of Teen Challenge began. Wilkerson was walking in purity before God; he listened to God and obeyed and he depended on three things:

Evangelism. This is where Wilkerson started- sharing the Good News of the Gospel. He believed it was the only message that could make a difference in the lives of the gang members he was ministering to.

Prayer. It was the thing that Wilkerson depended on to hear God’s voice and to receive Praying Wilkersonthe strength he needed for obedience. It was also the only way that addicts and gang members were going to receive deliverance. There was no other way.

The Holy Spirit. Without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the ministry that God called Wilkerson to would have been fruitless. Wilkerson needed the Holy Spirit to go before him, to work in the lives of the hurting and to permanently change the hearts of those he was ministering to.

After almost 60 years, nothing has changed. In order to have any degree of success in what we do, we need to continue to give the powerful Gospel message, we need to be people of prayer for strength, guidance and power and we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of men and women.

David Wilkerson was a great man but he would have been the first to admit that he was imperfect. He would point us directly to the One who is perfect- the one who gives us all that we need to do all that He calls us to do. As we share the Good News, bathe all that we do in prayer and depend on the Holy Spirit, God will continue to make this ministry fruitful for His glory!

The Best is Yet to Come, in Christ,

Brice Maddock, COO, Teen Challenge Southeast

Freedom!

Over the past several weeks, I have been contemplating “freedom.” With Memorial Day, we remembered those who died in military service for our freedom.  As I walked on the streets of Cuba, this month, I couldn’t help but think of the lack of freedom in the lives of the good people that lived there.  When we watch the news and hear about the oppressed around the world, a voice rises up in us and calls out to the captives, “Fight!  Fight for your freedom!”  It is a longing in every one of us, in every aspect of life- to always be free.

It is interesting that the opposite of free is exactly what it is- costly.  Every time an individual enjoys the luxury of freedom, the mind must go back. There was a cost somewhere; a payment made, along the way, to purchase that freedom- a transaction that would catapult into the future lives of others- affecting them on a daily basis.  Someone, at some point, paid for each freedom that is possessed.

We see that in our own country.  The cost of freedom has been high.  The Memorial Foundation reports that, “Since 1776, over one million Americans have secured the blessing of liberty through their lives.”  They also point out that 42 million Americans have served their country in time of war.  Freedom is costly.

Webster defines freedom as a noun:  “The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.”  In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace is fighting for the freedom of his country, Scotland.  At the end of the movie, he has been captured by England and is being tortured to death.  Legend says that in the last agonizing moments of his life, he, ironically, cries out, “Freedom!!!” for all to hear.  He is shackled and imprisoned but his heart is free because he has lived honorably.  As a result of his sacrifice, his countrymen are inspired and fight to eventually take their country back from England’s “enslavement” of them.

Take a moment to watch this scene: Braveheart – FREEDOM – Y#3299DC

In our contemplation of freedom, there is One that trumps them all- the ultimate and final freedom.  The eternal freedom that Christ gave to us through dying on the cross,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

God recognized that no matter how hard we were to fight for physical freedom, we would never truly experience spiritual freedom from sin without His sacrifice.  Even in the days of Christ, the throngs were so focused on freedom from Rome that they didn’t see the One, before their very eyes, that could grant them freedom from every kingdom and dominion.

Christ recognized that physical freedom was temporary but spiritual freedom was eternal.  We need to remember that too as we share the Good News of the Gospel- the news that brings freedom to every facet of a person’s life, despite the physical strongholds they may find themselves in- whether it is a communist country, a prison cell, a wall street desk or a down town park bench- each one of us is invited to receive and experience the ultimate freedom that only Christ can give.

Jesus declared the war to be over when He said from the cross, It is finished.

Freedom is now at hand,

Brice Maddock, COO Teen Challenge Southeast