Capturing Your Audience

A couple days ago I put a post up and realized that I take some things for granted when it comes to the art of communication. I never really knew communication was a thing until I got in college and took it in a class. I remember thinking there were communication skills that the class taught that I did by second nature.

When I got started speaking people told me to “tell my story” and I did. I told it in the only way I knew how. I did not realize that my story was actually captivating and caught the attention of the audiences I was speaking to. It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I realized there was a pattern that I followed naturally, that actually made me a fairly decent communicator.

Over the past 10 years of speaking to audiences of all kinds of backgrounds (young, old, different language barriers, church, schools, and conferences) I have learned to perfect a couple of my talks. Well, maybe not my full talks since it’s usually a different topic but I have for sure perfected my intro to any talk that I am invited to.

Having my introduction perfected is important as I get invited to different places as a guest speaker, and even in my own youth group, as I am the speaker most Fridays. I realize that I have all of the first 2 minutes to capture the audience’s attention, or else I will spend the rest of my time trying to get their attention rather than getting my point across.

I want to give you a few tips that’s worked for me when it comes to capturing your audience no matter what context you are in:

1. Do something unusual– You would be surprised at how many talks an average person listens to. Especially, for people that are in the church world or involved in listening to speeches of some sort. The truth is, most introductions are BORING. Yes, I said it, BORING! My question that I asked myself before I give a talk, what can I do right now that will captivate the audience? In some cases I go into a church service with a bottle of vodka in my hand, in others, I spit some bars (rhymes for the mature audience), either way, you will remember me based on the captivating intro that I give. You can do the same!

2. Do something creative– Sometimes you may feel like I do not have anything to do in the beginning. Well, there is always something you can do. Play a funny video, tell an interesting story, sing a song (if you can’t sing it might be that much better,) or do something artsy. You can always use and leverage creativity to your advantage. This generation is a SIGHT and SOUND generation and they will see and hear you much better when you are creative. Nobody wants to hear you just talk. You need ways to engage.

3. Do something meaningful– Whatever you decide to do, you must do something that will make an immediate impact. Whether you make them cry, laugh, ask questions, or repeat after you, you must do something that will set you up for the rest of your talk. When you impact and capture your audience in your intro, the rest of your talk will be smooth sailing.

When you come up with your idea for your intro, you are now responsible for mastering it! I have two things that I keep in my back pocket that I can do no matter what audience I am in front of. One is to teach the audience a dance that will get them to participate. The other is a spoken word piece that I learned from a friend that tells a glimpse of my story. Both can work with absolutely any audience. Knowing this, it is up to me to decide when I want to use it. Once you master an intro that works best for your personality style and message, you will be ready to deliver an amazing talk!

Remember, nobody cares what you’re saying until you earn their attention. That is YOUR responsibility, not theirs. – Jose

Who’s Next

Yesterday the world woke up to news that maybe did not surprise everyone but the news very much so caught the world by surprise. The late great evangelist known as Billy Graham passed away. As I started to scroll on my social media pages I was tremendously blessed to see so many people from different races, denominations, and even religions say great things about Billy Graham.

 

It was amazing to see one man leave such a legacy behind that has literally impacted millions of people. As people were expressing their joy and sadness for the loss of this amazing individual the wheels began to turn in my head and if you’ve been around me, then you would know I tend to process things differently. Below you can find some of my thoughts about yesterday’s surprise.

 

If you have worked with students in this generation then you have often times heard them say things like “yeah, but we are all human.” Usually referencing a leader who they are having a hard time following, honoring, or even admiring. Students tend to use this quote as a cop out to why they cannot trust a particular leader.

 

Me, being the person that I am, I thoroughly enjoy comments like I referenced above because my response usually shocks the students. They expect me as the Pastor to play into their conversation and talk them off the ledge. However, I normally play into their point and agree and affirm that they are right. We are all human. This means we should treat and honor ALL HUMANS. Though this is not a blog about honor, let’s take this thought an add in the story of Billy Graham.

 

As much as we love and look up to a man like Billy Graham, you do understand fully that HE IS HUMAN. Now don’t get me wrong, this is in NO way a shot at or attempt to be disrespectful to his life and legacy but it is the truth. He was just as human as you and I. But I want us to go a little further. He was just as human as the students you work with.

 

Often times when we see the end of a persons’ life and we start placing them on pedestals and we begin to act like they did not have a humble beginning. You do realize that Billy Graham did not make it into his first youth group membership because he was deemed “too worldly.”

 

Man, if I had a dime every time I looked at one of my student’s social media’s and thought “they are too worldly to begin to make a difference in this world.”

 

But that’s the point. They are worldly. And so was Billy Graham.

 

As a youth worker, when you’ve been working with the same students for a while, sometimes it can be difficult to see the potential in your students especially when you base their potential on how they have been acting since you’ve met them.

 

What I have to continue to remind myself, is that students need someone to come along side of them and speak to the potential that is on the inside of them no matter how they are acting on the outside. – Jose

 

I want to leave you with 5 thoughts that can help you fan the flame of potential in a student.

 

  1. Everybody is a Billy Graham until they are not a Billy Graham. – So often we think students could never be a Billy Graham. Says who? If we treat students like they are next up, then they might become the next great leader this world needs.
  2. Even Billy Graham was challenged to become who he was. – It wasn’t an easy journey but it came with people challenging the status quo in him. We must be committed to not let our students be average!
  3. You should never count students out too early. – You have a responsibility to discover the gold that’s in your students in the middle of a dirty mine.
  4. We are all just humans but never forget, every human is made in the image of God.
  5. Our job as youth leaders is to find the potential buried by all the rubble and to pull that out of students. Don’t let the rubble keep the gold hidden.

 

I often wonder who’s next. They could be, should be, and probably are in your group right now. Would you be the one to help your students discover their potential and become the next Billy Graham?

Moving Past the Walls Pt. 2

In the last blog, we were able to address some of the ways that you can move past walls in your life and journey as a leader. I think it is so important that we as leaders understand that walls are often times, not the end but the beginning of something new that God wants to do in your life.

 

“Walls typically are used more for our good than they are for our destruction. It is all a matter of perspective.” – Jose

 

One of the best things we can do as leaders when faced with walls is to first decide on how to respond to the walls. Yes, I am saying, you as the leader need to make a decision at the beginning of your journey that you will not stop because of walls. The enemy would want nothing more than the opportunity to use a wall to stop the momentum and the direction that God has your life going.

 

“The truth is, leaders are not afraid of walls, nor do they change their mind due to a wall. Real leaders see walls as opportunities.” – Jose

 

So here is the question, how do you respond to (the) walls? If you were to be brutally honest with yourself, what is your first reaction when you see or sense opposition? Do you retreat? Do you stop or desire to stop all together?

 

As a leader, you will have so many opportunities to look your wall experiences right in the face and decide what you will do next.

 

We see many leaders in the Bible face what looks like walls; if the walls were to stop them, I doubt we would read their story the same. Imagine if David shied away from Goliath. If Moses stopped because of the Red Sea. If Joshua stopped because they were “but grasshoppers in the land of giants.” If Jesus stopped because of the betrayal. If Paul stopped because of imprisonment.

 

The stories that I mentioned above are stories that are familiar not because the walls they faced but because of how these leaders responded to the wall.

 

Here is what I want you to understand about these walls:

 

  1. Walls have a purpose. Every wall in your life is assigned to you for a reason. It’s up to you to find out why and move and act accordingly.
  2. Walls can only stop you when you respond the wrong way. Your approach to walls will determine how long you will remain in that season.
  3. Walls cause you to rely on God of the breakthrough. No wall was broken down Biblically without a move or act of God. Maybe your current wall in ministry is because God is waiting for you to inquire of Him, so He can breakthrough on your behalf.

 

In business, it is said that when you hit a wall, you pivot, innovate, and find the best solution for your wall. Maybe it is going another direction or maybe there is a better way to do what you have been doing. In ministry when you hit a wall, pivot, find the purpose of the wall, and pray for God to give you wisdom and strategy to break through the wall.

 

“In every wall you face in urban youth ministry, there is a God inside of you that has all the answers you need.” – Jose

 

Would you allow the God of the breakthrough to give you all that you need so that you can be the leader you are called to be?

 

Remember… YOU. ARE. A. WALL. BREAKER.  

 

 

Moving Past The Walls (Part 1)

If you have been a part of leading a ministry or organization in any capacity you have for sure hit some walls along the way. I remember when I first got started leading in youth ministry. I was fresh out of college, full of vision and over 8 years of experience working with youth. The only problem with this was I had never been the main leader in charge. I always found myself playing a supporting role.

 

In leadership, you find that there are a few walls that you will run into along the journey. The question we should ponder is what do we do when we hit these walls? I would like to offer a few thoughts about how to break past the walls that try to keep you, the leader stagnant in the growth process of your organization.

 

Along my journey in the church and in the non-profit sector, over the past several years I have found that walls can come in into your leadership to begin to make you shallow and to make you get stuck in a place that you haven’t been. If walls can get you to lose focus and drive then they have done their job.

 

“If you allow the walls you hit to challenge you and grow you, rather then make you feel discouraged and ready to quit, then you have done a good job as a leader facing your walls.” – Jose

 

Here are three walls I have faced in leadership. Sidenote: I will explain the walls then I will give you the answer on how to move past each wall.

 

  1. The first wall I faced was the leadership wall. This was the wall where my leaders became stagnant and became more of a liability than an asset to our ministry and organization. This wall is a dangerous one because if leaders are stuck and stagnant then your students will be also. However, the opposite is true too! If leaders grow so will the people following.

 

  1. The second wall I faced was the money wall. The money wall was a big wall for me to overcome. Think about this… What do you do when you are working on a limited budget with little to no resources but you are still expected to create and build a program that students will be drawn too?

 

“Money is usually an issue when it comes to urban ministry but you do not have to allow money to keep you stuck or stagnant.” – Jose

 

  1. The third wall I faced was the growth wall. The growth wall is probably the most common one. This is the wall where your program hits a plateau in its numerical growth. It can honestly be one of the most frustrating walls that you are up against.

 

How do you break this wall in such a way that people are once again excited, proud and willing to invite new people to your program?

 

No matter what wall you are facing I have good news for you; The key to breaking through each one of these walls is found in deep relationships. Yes, that’s right! It is not found in money or resources. It is found in your ability to build deeper relationships in each of these walls. In fact, I think the goal of a wall is to cause you to regain focus on the depth of the relationships you have.

 

In business, they say when you hit a wall, you should pivot, innovate, then find a creative solution. I venture to say that it is exactly the same in ministry. When you find yourself against a wall, you should take a step back and ask yourself what can you do to go deeper relationally with those around you? If you study what the need of students are, I would imagine you won’t find the answer to be the best program or a lot of money. The answer to that question will be found in some type of real deep relationship. Each wall is just the same!

 

When you face the leadership wall remember this is a time to build deeper relationships with your leaders. You will find that some leaders should transition out and others need just a little extra attention. When you face the money wall, build deeper relationships with the people in the program so they do not need money to be fulfilled. Also, build deeper relationships with people who may be able to give into your program so that money won’t be an issue. When you face the wall with growth, scale back the program and focus your energy into relationships. When you get people to be on your side fully they will help you press past that wall.

 

Bottom line is this: If you find yourself facing any type of wall, pivot and ask yourself how can you go deeper relationally and watch the walls come tumbling down?

Lead With Your Brokenness

As a leader, it becomes almost too easy for us to pull rank, boast about our strengths or titles when it comes to our relationships with both volunteers and students. I can hear it in my head now, “I’m the leader, so you have to do what I say.” To be quite honest with you, there are definitely some moments throughout the course of my leadership that I have felt the need to pull rank in how I was communicating with students and volunteers.

 

I have found over time when it comes to working with youth rarely does the alpha role work in leading students. Do not get me wrong, I do think there are moments when you need it but more often than not, I have seen it backfire on the people who feel they can do it. What makes it worse is the volunteers that I lead begin to follow my example and lead this way.

 

This past summer I took a group of students and leaders to a weekend camp for a get away from the busyness of life and for a chance to have an encounter with God. The first day I noticed that some of the volunteers were playing the alpha role with the students.  As they took on this alpha posture, their body language and tone were, in essence, saying “sit down and shut up, I am the leader here.”

 

As you and I know, students do not like to be dominated nor feel like they are prey. The students began to respond back with the typical, ‘you ain’t my momma!’ response that only an urban youth can do correctly. I knew that as their leader and being on the same team we were going to have to deal with their leadership immediately. So rather than call for a big meeting and play the alpha role with my leaders, I decided that I would lead with my brokenness and show the leaders how to do the same.

 

After the message that night I asked my leaders to come to the front of the stage. Immediately they came up thinking I wanted them to pray and counsel the students that were coming up behind them. Not so. Instead, I explained very thoroughly that none of us are without issues. It is hypocritical of us to ask the students to come to the front and we aren’t willing to do the same. Immediately something shifted in the room.

 

For the first time maybe ever, the leaders went from being leaders to being the receivers. The students not only realized that the leaders needed just as much help as they do but their respect level actually went up for the leaders because of their ability to lead with their brokenness.

 

“People tend to respect you more when you are vulnerable about your own junk before trying to deal with theirs.” – Jose

 

Being vulnerable does not just work for students, but it has worked on several occasions as I lead volunteers. My ability to share my pain and brokenness gave me leverage to lead people further. Your pride will lead to you hiding your issues and this could be the very thing that keeps you from being a good leader.

 

Here are three quick ways to lead with your brokenness.:

 

  1. Kill your own ego – I cannot tell you how many leaders continue to have barriers between them, their volunteers and students simply because of their ego. If God resists the proud, people will too. (Side note: E.G.O. stands for Edging. God. Out. and when you edge God out, you automatically edge people out.)
  2. Expose your weakness – It should already be clear that you are a leader. What is not clear is that you are human just like those you are connected to. Nobody wants to follow a perfect leader because there is no way they can attain such perfection.
  3. You go first – You have to model this behavior before you ask anybody else to do the same. If you are willing to be broken and vulnerable it would be much easier to get students to open up about their brokenness and vulnerability. It is hypocritical to want others to open up without you doing so first.

 

I want to leave you with a challenge. I want you to evaluate your leadership style with these two questions: Are you the boss type leader? Do you have the alpha role syndrome? Are you the vocal leader? No matter what kind of leadership style you have, the way for you to be an effective leader is by leading with your brokenness. When you lead with yours, others will follow with theirs and then everyone can get the help that’s needed and get to the destination. People need your vulnerability!

I D.A.R.E. You to Believe

My leadership journey started as a young 23-year- old. I was thrown into a position of leading people who were old enough to be my parents. I remember during my introductory meeting being greeted with the “who do you think you are” eyes.

 

One of the first questions I was asked was not about vision or strategy; an older gentleman down front spoke up and asked, “What makes you think you can teach better than me?” What in the world!? Are you kidding me?! Who asks a question like that?! He wasn’t kidding either.

 

I would love to tell you that I had a brilliant retort expressed with such eloquence that it won the whole room over, people immediately respected my leadership, and were willing to follow me as I cast the vision and strategy for the dawning of a new age on how we would impact the lives of students in our community (insert epic super-hero music). But I didn’t. I sat there… eyes big, mouth wide opened, and speechless. In that moment, I began to doubt any ability I thought I had to lead.

 

Has there ever been a moment in your leadership where you felt helpless as you were being challenged? What did you do to move forward knowing you were called to be their leader?

 

My mentor who introduced me broke the silence. She spoke up on my behalf. She spoke of my ability to lead, encourage people, and how I bring energy and much-needed excitement to the ministry. As she spoke I found myself getting excited about the things that I brought to the table. Her words inspired me to BELIEVE that I could LEAD!

 

Who’s speaking into your life? Do you have a mentor? If not, what’s holding you back?

 

BELIEVE. As a leader, you need people around you to encourage you when you doubt yourself. So often, as leaders, we tend to get stuck in the area of self-doubt. Being stuck in self-doubt can cause you to look at a person, situation, or circumstance as if you have nothing to bring to the table.

My mentor believed in me, and in a time of doubt, (she) encouraged me to believe in myself. – Damean

 

Three quick thoughts on belief:

  • The right voice at the right time can shift your focus from what you lack to how you are gifted to effectively lead.
  • A proper belief positions you to overcome and lead when everyone and everything else around says you cannot.
  • Leaders lead with the energy of belief!

 

FAITH INSPIRES FOLLOW SHIP. During my years of Children’s Ministry my faith grew, my belief grew, and my ability to inspire others grew as well. In fact, the very man who asked that audacious question is now one of my biggest supporters. Crazy, right? My faith inspired his follow ship. As a leader, your ability to believe going through tough times will be an encouragement and inspiration to those who follow you.

 

The energy of belief spreads like wildfire, but it needs to be ignited in you first. People need you as a leader to believe. Believe that you can do it, believe that they can do it and believe that God can do it. But if we are honest there are times when we as leaders find it hard to do so. So here is a D.A.R.E to hold on to when you as the leader find it hard to believe.

 

D.A.R.E:

 

D = Determine to pursue God’s vision no matter what!

 

A = Avoid the, I can’t do it trap!

 

R = Replace your limiting belief with faith in God’s limitless ability!

 

E = Endure struggles and never give up!

 

Whether you are beginning your journey in leadership or you are a seasoned leader navigating through the mountains of criticism that comes your way, it is my desire to be for you what my mentor was for me: a voice to inspire you to believe that you can lead!

 

I D.A.R.E you to believe!

 

Written By: Damean Easter

 

Volunteer Commitment

As a youth Pastor and CEO of a Nonprofit, my reality is that I cannot do it on my own. I need people. It is going to take building healthy teams to help us accomplish the vision that we have for our ministry and organization. One of the questions I am often challenged with, is how much is too much to ask of a volunteer?

Lately, I have had this change in my thought process concerning this question. Probably for the last 4 years, I have hesitated to ask a whole lot of volunteers because I knew that I did not have the resources to pay them.

 

In order to get volunteers committed to going the distance with you in the ministry or organization you are leading, here are just a couple of points on what you could do to ensure their longevity of serving:

 

  1. Be more invested in the people than you are the work.

When you as the leader are far more invested in the work than you are serving the people, you create a disconnect between you and the volunteers. When you make the shift from being task focused to people focused, you will find that majority of the people who are serving with you are willing to go the distance not just for the organization but for you as a person as well. How invested are you in your volunteers?

This year I know that the task ahead of me will be a heavy task and there is no way that I will be able to accomplish it all without having a group of committed and dedicated volunteers helping to carry the load. I realize that I have to be a good steward of not just the vision that I have but the people that are around me as well.

“If you invest more in the people then they will invest more in the vision.” – Jose

   

     2. Communicate from the beginning the workload and expectation of their role.

Going into this year, I made it really clear to all of the volunteers on my team that this would be our most busy and productive year. I even shared with them what each week of expectations would look like and how to measure if you are being a great volunteer or not. As a younger leader, I used to shy away from this part because I did not want to scare the volunteers away. Then as I gained experienced, I learned that if they could be scared away then they should be.

Volunteers who last will be the ones that are committed to both, you as a person and the mission to which you are trying to accomplish. Volunteers that do not last will be the ones that are committed to only you as a person or involved in the mission so they can get something out of it for themselves.

Volunteers will be less effective if they do not respect the leader but love the work.

 

  1. Do not be afraid to ask for what you really need.

It would be unfortunate for you to be able to have the right team, be invested in their growth and not get the type of results that you are looking for simply because you did not really ask for what you needed.

If you are going to grow this year, you are going to have to ask more of your team.

In order to ask more of your team, you have to move past the fear of what they might say or think. If you’ll commit to asking big of your team I am sure that you will be utterly surprised at the response you get.

This year do not let your excuse be your volunteers. Believe in them. Invest in them. Ask of them. You will find that they are on your team for a reason, they understand there is a work to be done and a need for them to be there. Do not hold back. Go after all that you are supposed to this year!

New Year, New Team?

It is the beginning of the year and there are a lot of things changing all around us. People are making new commitments in their life and letting go of things that they feel they need to let go of. Where does that leave those who work with students?

Somehow people have adopted the idea that once a youth worker, always a youth worker. Though there is an aspect of that which is true for some; however, that will not be true for everybody.

So, the question is: how do we or should we handle transitions with volunteers in the youth organization sector? Whether you are a Nonprofit leader, Boys and Girls club Director or local church youth leader—we know that one constant battle you will have with volunteers. That is figuring out when, where and how do volunteers transition and how does that affect students who already have a hard time letting people go.

Our responsibility as a youth leader to urban youth particularly is to be the antidote to their inner issues. We know that none of us are the cure, but we can very much be the factor that helps to neutralize many of their internal dysfunctions by being the opposite of what they have seen consistently in their lives. In order to do this, as the youth leader, we must learn to master transitions in our organizations.

Urban youth often times deal heavily with rejection and abandonment, largely due to father issues and other relationship inconsistencies within their household. However, there is a way that we can transition people, that helps students embrace change and transition and prepare them for the next season without them being stuck and hurt over the fact someone left them.

Step One:

  • Ask volunteers to make a year-long commitment.This gives leaders, volunteers, and those they serve the ability to work beyond their comfort and endure certain frustrations, but ultimately this allows leaders to build trust and consistency with students. This also helps the volunteers to be able to commit beyond how they are feeling at the time. Eventually, you end up with a start and stop time for each volunteer so they do not become a lifelong professional volunteer (though, some of them will become this.)

Step Two:

  • Leaders must make sure to not make volunteers feel bad for transitioning, but rather celebrate their decision to either stay for another year or transition out. At the end of each year, we organizations should hold a meeting with all of our volunteers to where they celebrate what has been accomplished together the previous year and dream a little for the next year. Then, you can give the opportunity for volunteers to answer the question, “do you think your time is up?” This allows them to assess their life in that moment and to look for the next year and evaluate if they still have the same commitment to the organization and students as they did in the beginning—or if their season has changed.

Step Three:

  • Publicly celebrate your volunteers’ transition in front of the students.The work that most volunteers do is a very visible work. So, their celebration of this work should be visible as well. No organization or ministry wants to be known as the group who never let people go or never transitioned people properly. This also allows us to help students understand the importance of people who are beneficial in their lives for certain seasons. The truth is, some people will be life-long mentors and leaders. The reality is some leaders will be seasonal. However, it is up to us as youth leaders to create opportunities and systems for seasonal people to be just that and this allows for us leaders to teach the students to embrace the people in those seasons.

 

Helping students to master transition in their life, starting with volunteers is a sure way to help them make the necessary transitions when seasons, relationships and people change in life. During transitions, we celebrate those who are leaving for what they have contributed in the past season. This helps us show students that changes are not bad, but they are celebration worthy! Ultimately, we want to help students understand that transitions are a part of God’s plan and students should not take them personally.  You can start your new year by celebrating transitions and by encouraging your volunteers to make a one-year commitment to the organization or ministry.