Main Article – November 2017

Truly Thankful

By: Bryan Sampson

Last year, for the first time in my life, I got to spend my Thanksgiving holiday with my dad’s side of the family. It was a nice transition from the normal routine that I was in. I am always intrigued by the different ways that people celebrate holidays. The one aspect that I found most interesting was the prayer before the meal. Everyone (in this case 15 people) was asked to give thanks for something. As could be expected, the most common thing that was mentioned was being with family and in second place the food. It almost seemed like no one could think of anything original to thank God for. Though family and food are great things to have, ones which we should be very thankful for, I do believe that they are far from the most important things for which we should be thankful.

Paul writes in Ephesians “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3 ESV). Through Christ we have received every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. This sounds absolutely amazing, and something we should be extremely thankful for, yet if my family is any indicator of what most people will be praying for this Thanksgiving, then I fear that we may be missing what we should truly be thankful for. So what are these spiritual blessings you might ask? There are too many to number here, it will probably take all of eternity to discover every way God has blessed us, but here are a few to ponder and resonate on:

  1. We have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be Holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph 1:4). All because of His love he chose to give us a gift and make us something we could never become on our own. He chose to forgive us of our sins! By His grace we are saved. Even when we were dead in our sins, he made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5). We are not just physically alive but spiritually alive because of His grace and mercy. There is no greater gift that He could give us. This is an immeasurable gift because Christ is immeasurable and until this becomes a reality in our lives, we can’t be truly thankful the way we should. Lets take a moment to ponder all that we have been forgiven for and our need for God’s grace and mercy and let this fill us with praise and thanksgiving.
  2. We have been adopted as children of God through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5). With the most common prayer at my families’ Thanksgiving, giving thanks for family, it should be surprising that no one thanked God for bringing them into His family. How much more thankful should we be for our Heavenly Father? How much more thankful should we be that we were estranged and orphans but God chose to adopt us?  We are now heirs of the kingdom of heaven and when we realize just what family we have been adopted in, all because of His good pleasure, grace and love, then we can begin to be truly thankful to our Father.
  3. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Eph 1:7). Not only have we been forgiven for our sins, but God has given us freedom from that which has enslaved us. I pray we all are experiencing this type of freedom in our live’s today and are still aware of the slavery that God had freed us from. Just imagine the joy and thankfulness that filled the hearts of the African American community in the South when they received the news that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Imagine how thankful they were that they were set FREE! We should be experiencing this same freedom, joy and thankfulness. It isn’t hard to reflect at what our lives could be without the freedom that we have in Christ. As Paul writes “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” (Gal 5:1). So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed (Jhn 8:36).

It is hard to be thankful for things that we aren’t experiencing isn’t it? Today let us take the time to meditate on these spiritual blessings and experience what God has done for us, so this Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate it properly, being truly thankful for that which truly matters.

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” – Psalm 95:2

 

Main Article – CARE

By: Dustin Nance

If you have read a leadership book in the last 20 years then you have read something about how you must care about those you lead for them to want to follow you. This is not a new concept. Brice Maddock says, “The only two things that matter when we stand before God is our relationship with Him and our relationships with others.” Basically, did we love God and love people enough to lead them to Him. Those are the two greatest commandments according to Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40.

We know this! We know because most likely we have experienced both leaders that show they care and leaders that don’t. Why aren’t we better at this as leaders? I would argue that for some it’s a shift from the mindset of thinking about “what is best for me?” to “what is best for the team?” or “what is best for John Doe in this situation?”. However, I believe for most of us we just get too BUSY!!!! The truth is we let ourselves get so busy and stressed out with tasks, that we miss the most important opportunities to show those around us we care every day. In a world that is focused on “what is best for me?”, we as Christian leaders must put others before ourselves. We must show people that we care more about them than what they can do.

I think of my daughter Ellie; she is a tough girl. She has had to grow up around my son, Asher, but the other day they were dancing around the living room and Asher accidentally ran her over. She jumped up, ran into my arms and started crying. I know she’s not dying, her arms are not broken and really she’s not physically hurting that much at all. She just wants to know that Daddy cares that she got ran over. I found myself with a choice to make, tell her she’s fine and send her on her way, or wrap my arms around her, tell her I’m sorry she got hurt and that I love her. I chose to take the time and show her I care.

Unfortunately, I don’t always make the right choice in this situation. When staff comes to me saying a situation is hard, I feel a responsibility to tell them to grow up and get it done, change the situation or make it easier for them. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes all I need to do is acknowledge that it is hard, let them know I think they can do it and encourage them to keep pushing. Basically, I need to show them I care about them, not just that they get the task done.

Don’t get me wrong; I stand with Jon Gordon on this, “I believe in tough love, but love must come first. If your team knows that you care about them, they will allow you to push and challenge them to be their best.” You may have the authority to give tough love, but if you haven’t spent the time showing someone you care, they will not see it as love at all.

This is an important point for us to understand as leaders! It’s always a faster turnaround time with my daughter Ellie when I show her I care. Usually, she jumps right back up and goes at it again, but If I don’t, she walks around crying looking for someone else to show her they care. Not only does it take longer, but she will stop coming to me if I do that too many times. I want Ellie to come to me for the rest of her life, just as I want my staff too. It’s not coddling them to encourage someone and acknowledge a situation is hard and that you’re behind them and believe they can do it.

Take the time today to show your team you care!

 

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

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