“So what do you guys think?”
I had just finished a twenty-minute explanation of our new disciple-making strategy based on a training I had been to the week before our January Leaders’ Retreat. I remember sitting at the training, led by other staff in my organization at a national staff gathering, and feeling inspired to take this training home to my leaders. “This is perfect!” I thought. “And it’s already prepared with worksheets and everything!”
Yet, three minutes into my training, I could tell I was losing them. Blank stares. Shifting around in their seats. It didn’t help that it was mid-January and I hadn’t been able to locate the thermostat for the church basement we were meeting in and the temperature was sitting at a crisp 65 degrees. They might have been wide-awake for the meeting but they were not happy about it. Where had I gone wrong?
Maybe you’ve been there too. You hear a gifted speaker or read an inspiring book and think to yourself: “This content is so great! It must be exactly what we need back home in my ministry!” But, when you try to implement it with your leaders, it fails to inspire as you imagined in your mind. Why does some learning fail to transfer well back home?
I think the disconnect in our learning transfer is the same disconnect that sometimes happens between quarterbacks and receivers in football. When the ball is snapped, there are two simple truths a quarterback must remember when it comes to hitting a receiver:
- They need to know the current route the receiver is running.
- They need to pass the ball to where the receiver will be, not to where they currently are.
If a quarterback does not understand these two truths, they will not be able to complete a pass no matter how gifted they are at throwing a spiral down the field.
There are similar truths for us as leaders trying to “pass” knowledge, passion, and skills on to those that we lead. As the summer approaches, many of us will be pursuing intentional learning for ourselves in preparation for the next school year. As we do, it’s important that we remember these same two simple truths to ensure we aren’t met with blank stares and frustrated leaders come August.
Read the Routes: Where Are We Going? Where Are We Now?
Before we prepare for next year, we need to stop and “read the routes” we are currently running. Consider setting aside a day within the first two weeks after the school year ends to reflect back on the past year of ministry. These questions may help:
- What were some hopes I had coming into the year? How did God meet them (or not)?
- What did I see God do in the lives of leaders and seekers this year?
- What did I see God do in my own heart this year?
- What parts of our ministry seemed especially fruitful in the final quarter?
- As I imagine next year, what specific corners of campus do we long to see the Gospel transform?
Remember that the Lord has the long view of your campus, your leaders, and yourself as a minister. It’s likely that He has your ministry on a certain trajectory or route that He intends to see you continue running for your good and His glory. He may ask you to take an abrupt turn or two, but knowing the route you’re on will help you know when He is calling you to deviate instead of leaving you subject to the winds of a compelling conference speaker or well-publicized new book."Remember that the Lord has the long view of your campus, your leaders, and yourself as a minister." -@kaleuzzle #collegiatedisciplemaker Stop Overthrowing Your Leaders Click To Tweet
Hit Your Receiver: What Do They Need to Cross the Gap?
Once you understand your current route and ultimate goal, you can discern what you and your leaders need to get there. The question is: What is the next step between our current reality and our preferred reality? In football terms, the quarterback is looking for “open grass,” that place along the receiver’s route where he can throw the ball just enough ahead of where they currently are to not be intercepted, but not so far that they can’t possibly hope to get there in time.
To understand the “open grass” between current and preferred realities, here are some questions we can ask:
- What INFORMATION do we have about this goal? What do we need?
- What is our current TEMPERATURE around this goal? How could we INCREASE URGENCY here?
- What SKILLS do we have to meet this goal? What do we need?
The mistake I made that cold January afternoon was that I overshot my receivers. Had I thought through this rubric, I would have realized that, though I had a quality training planned, we had significant gaps that I wasn’t addressing. Our collective temperature around disciple-making was not high enough to match the skill I was trying to transfer, so I missed my mark. Worksheets were recycled and quickly forgotten, and things continued much as they had the previous semester.
Before we pursue intentional growth and development this summer, let’s pause to understand the route we’re currently running – how the Lord moved this year and where He seems to be sending us. Let’s guard our hearts and our leaders against the inclination to incorporate every new teaching and technique into our ministries. Instead, let’s hit our leaders right where they will be on the route with exactly what they need to be obedient to Jesus this fall.