With so much energy spent investing in our students and volunteers, we often forget to invest in ourselves as youth ministry leaders. And with limited resources—and even more limited time—figuring out which leadership skills to focus on developing can be even more challenging. This week we’re joined by Joel Manby to talk about some of the most important leadership skills you need to develop as a ministry leader and what it looks like to take steps to become the leader your youth ministry needs.


  • Introduction to Joel Manby (0:33)
  • 5:59: “A lot of times we go into student ministry because we want to lead students, but we end up leading their parents or volunteers instead. That’s a very different muscle to flex!” –Elloa Davis
  • How do you lead parents or volunteers, specifically when you have to be firm? (7:03)
  • 7:4: “Reinforce a positive three times more than a negative.” –Joel Manby
  • Let’s talk about the seven principles from Joel’s book and which ones we should lean into first. (8:42)
  • How do you lead through risk and change? (12:52)
  • 14:33: “When change is happening, clarity and delegation are really important.” –Joel Manby
  • Let’s talk about delegation. (15:46)
  • What tools have you used in difficult conversations? (20:43)
  • What other skills do we need to be developing as ministry leaders? (25:24)
  • 26:29: “Am I loving the people who are in front of me as a leader in this church?” –Joel Manby
  • How do you balance the tension between acknowledging the truth and showing enthusiasm? (34:02)
  • 35:15: “You’ll lose so much credibility if you’re always positive, but your positives aren’t specific or true.” –Joel Manby
  • What are some practical ways to develop our skills in the midst of day-to-day ministry? (38:50)
  • 41:31: “Sometimes it’s as simple as finding someone a little further down the road and asking if they’ll talk with you.” –Crystal Chiang
  • 42:23: “You’re not alone. Leadership is hard. It’s a blessing, but it’s hard.” –Joel Manby 
  • Final thoughts or advice to close. (46:54)

Episode Transcript

– Hey what’s up everybody, thanks for hanging out with us on today’s episode of Rethinking Youth Ministry. My name is Brett and I am super excited to be joined by three and my friends, Elloa,

– Hi.

– And Crystal

– Hey there.

– And Joel.

– Hey.

– And Joel this your first time on the podcast.

– I am so excited.

– Congratulations.

– Thank you.

– Joel just took a video as proof to his kids that he’s on a podcast.

– That’s right.

– And send it to them. So Joel we’re super excited.

– I’m very excited.

– It is your first time on this podcast, so tell us a little bit about yourself.

– All right well, I am probably the oldest person in Orange. I’m about 60 years old now, but I have been on the board of Orange since, you know, for 25 years. I really helped start it–

– From the beginning.

– Really from the beginning. I’ve been chairman for all these years, and just want to complement everyone with this organization. I think it is the best strategy in the world. I’m seeing a lot, and just love being involved with the ministry.

– Very cool.

– Awesome.

– And as far as personally, I grew up in Michigan, you know. We used to have a football team, but not so much anymore. But I loved it there. My claim to fame growing up in sports was in high school I guarded Magic Johnson in a high school basketball game.

– Are you serious?

– Yes.

– How’d you do?

– I held him

– No kidding.

– To 42 points.

– So that’s my sportsman, that’s why I went into business.

– Stuart Hall who’s been on this podcast before, won his claim to fame. He played high school basketball against Charles Barkley.

– Wow.

– Whoa.

– I think that’s really interesting.

– Did he hold him to 40 some points?

– He probably got dominated.

– I bet I have that on him.

– We need to see Joel and Stewart face off.

– Play each other in basketball. And I’m only like 70% sure that Stewart actually told that story now that I say it out loud, but we’ll pretend like–

– Later was really funny is later I saw Magic, we were signing at this autograph thing, and he goes “Oh yeah, yeah, I remember you.” I said “You’re not going to remember me. “You were behind me all the time. “You were going to the bucket.” But anyway then

– That’s so cool.

– As far as I think why I’m here is I’ve been a leader, a business leader my whole life. Been CEO of four different companies since I was 35. Saab, an Amazon start up called GreenLight.com. We used to sell cars on Amazon back in the day, and then Herschand Family Entertainment, which is Dolly Parton and was a partner with Dolly Parton. She’s incredible. And then Sea World which was a real, I had jet black hair before I went to Sea World. And that lasted about three years, but just so excited now to be retired and being able to focus on what I really want. And my real passion is I always felt I should be in the marketplace, but always wanted to figure out how to do that in a way that would be pleasing to Jesus and how you led. And to lead with love, and so that’s really how I spent my career.

– Very cool.

– So all of that’s great, but there is one other claim to fame.

– Oh yeah, what’s that?

– That you were on one of the

– I’m nervous.

– First episodes of Undercover Boss.

– Oh, that’s right.

– Oh yeah, that’s right!

– Yes.

– Yeah, that’s really going back. 2000 yeah, so for those of you who don’t know, Undercover Boss was CBS’s big hit program back actually when American Idol was number one. And basically the CEO goes under cover, and we meet with our employees, and just is a lot of fun and a lot of great things came out of that. But it’s on Netflix if anybody ever wants to see it.

– So my husband went back with me last week, and we watch that episode and then I had to chase Joel down in the hallway going “Hey, I need to know what happened to that one guy.”

– The one who got the scholarship?

– Yes!

– Yeah. I remember that part.

– What did happen to that guy?

– It’s just one thing on that. It’s one of the principles that came out of that. It’s really an Andy Stanley principle is “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.’ And anytime we’re leaders in anything, if we have a heart, we can be really overwhelmed by all the pain and suffering that’s out there. Especially be a lot of employees or a lot of volunteers or a lot of church members. And so it’s really important to pick one or two, and really stick with them and I did that. I still keep in touch with Albert, who was the kid who went to college, and Richard who we washed streets with. So yeah, it’s a good principle to keep in touch with those folks.

– That’s so awesome and another thing that Joel has done is Joel wrote a book called “Love Works” and it talks about these seven, what is it, the “Seven” what principles?

– “Timeless Principles.”

– “Timeless.”

– I really like that “for Effective Leadership.” We’re going to dive into that in a little bit, because what we’re going to be talking about during our time is leadership skills every youth ministry leader needs to develop. So I know that one of the tensions that I felt in student ministry is I felt the called to go into ministry at pretty young age. I was like 15 years old. And, you know, started doing student ministry pretty early and for most people who feel called to some sort of ministry in the student world, it’s normally because you feel called to work with students. But what happens is we find ourselves in the situations where we’re leading ministries, and we’re not leading students as much as we’re leading adults who are leading students. And we find ourselves leading a ministry, which is very different from what we originally went into, so I know for me a lot of times there was always this tension of “Well what am I supposed to be doing? “Because I thought I was getting into this “to do this over here but in order to do this effectively “I’ve got to develop all of these additional skills “that maybe I just wasn’t prepared for, “or maybe nobody prepared me to really “begin to understand and develop “that I need to figure out how to do well, “so that I can do what I feel like God has called me to do.”

– That’s great. I agree with that completely, especially with volunteers right? Because with a volunteer staff which most of the leaders have I would think in this church world is you’ve got to treat them well, or they’re not going to stay, and that’s all great leadership.

– Yeah, and to piggyback off that a lot of times you go into student ministry because you like students. You want to lead students, and that’s a very different muscle than leading adults or leading their parents. ‘Cause at 15 you’re leading these students who are kind of like your peers, maybe a few years younger, and their parents like twice your age, so how do you pivot from leading them to also leading the parents or leading the ministry leaders.

– I’m so glad you brought that up, because

– I’m so glad that said that.

– That was a real struggle for me when came out of the public school classroom. I was used to leading teenagers, and I was trained to lead teenagers, and there is just some sort of almost silent agreement that most of the time they have to do what you say.

– Yeah.

– And adults as it turns out don’t have to do what you say.

– Or respect you as even an authority at all. They don’t have to.

– And with students you sometimes leverage your tone of voice, or your authoritarian position to get where you need to go. Sometimes that happens. It’s not the best way to lead, but sometimes that happens. But with adults I feel like tone is even more critical, and so Joel how do you lead people through your tone in a way that’s honoring, but also says I still need you to go in this direction?

– That’s a great question. It makes me think about, I’ll try to refer back to what I wrote about it in the book. One of the words of love, because the whole principle of the book is basically Jesus taught us to love. It’s the greatest commandment, and if you want to lead in anything you really should do it in a way that’s honoring to Jesus and love God and love others. One of the words is kindness, and I think it gets misinterpreted a lot. We have to be kind which means you’re reinforcing, and I like to say try to be reinforcing and positive three times more than your negative, because you’ve got to fill emotional bank accounts. Especially with volunteers. I shouldn’t say especially but anyone you’re leading. But at the same time–

– But volunteers don’t get a paycheck so they don’t–

– They don’t get a paycheck.

– They’re not as bought in.

– And so right, you got to be very positive with them and kind of think on your mind three to one ratio three to one ratio, but when you have to be firm, it doesn’t have to be a firm voice, it just has to be firm and being very specific on what was disappointing. Like you know you you can’t be late every time, or I need you to do this I need you that. Whether it’s praise or admonishment I think it’s important, a, to do it privately. Never do it in front of other people and that’s a big mistake that all leaders make is we all remember when we were admonished publicly, and that’s not a good thing. But also to keep a firm voice, be specific, but then put them right back into the game again. You know, “I want you here next week “and hopefully we can learn from this.” So that’s how I was handled difficult situations.

– That makes sense, yeah.

– That’s great so I actually want to come jump in to those seven principles that you talked about. So you already mentioned be kind. And I just want to read through these, and then Joel maybe get your opinion on, we’ve already talked about some of the difference between maybe leading in the marketplace is that one of the benefits that you have? Is that you’re paying people to do what you’re asking them to do. So there’s a little bit of a motivator there. If you don’t do this I might not get paid anymore

– And there’s a built-in hierarchy as well.

– To do this. That’s true, and then the ministry it’s just sometimes it’s a little bit more difficult, it’s a little messier and you’ve got to concentrate a lot more on some other aspects in order to help them like you said. They’re not as bought in if they’re not getting paid, so what do I have to do more of in the ministry world to get them to be bought in. So maybe there’s a couple of these do you want to jump in a little bit more and say “Hey all of these are true “I think no matter what, “but maybe somebody’s we lean into “a little bit more in ministry world.” So there’s the idea of “Being patient, “demonstrating self-control in difficult situations, “being kind,” which we talked about. “Showing encouragement and enthusiasm, “being trusting, placing confidence and those around you, “being unselfish, thinking of yourself less, be truthful, “defining reality corporately and individually, “being forgiving, releasing the grip of the grudge, “and then being dedicated, “sticking to your values in all circumstances.” So if someone’s looking at all these and thinking about “Okay, what skills in leadership do I need to develop first.” Which of these would you maybe lean into a little bit more for the ministry world.

– Well, I’ll give my opinion, but I’d love the know the expert’s who have done it everyday too. I’d go back to kindness, because it’s so important. I think that three to one ratio’s important. But we were talking before the podcast. Started, I think the simple things like handwritten notes to your volunteers is so powerful. And Elloa we were talking about that right Elloa? We talked about,

– Yeah I

– Go ahead,

– I have

– You tell the story.

– A parent in my last group would send me handwritten note like every month, or a text at least, about something specific that I had done with her daughter, or some specific behavior that her daughter had kind of come home and exhibited, and not been as much of a 13 year old as she normally was. And for me, you know, in those days where like, and this was a year ago, and so I had a tiny baby and a first grader, and just life was crazy, but that really filled my tank, and kept me going, and kept me pouring out into the other kids as well, and not just this leader’s, or this parent’s specific daughter.

– I hope all your listeners heard that story, because it’s so powerful. If you look at what keeps employees, what keeps them engaged, encouragement and getting some positive feedback is right at the top of the list. All the research says that. And it’s free. All it takes is time, but it take us being unselfish enough to pour into somebody else.

– It takes awareness too.

– It takes awareness of knowing people.

– I think that’s a better word than unselfish.

– Yeah maybe. It takes awareness of what people are contributing to your team, to your ministry. What they’re sacrificing and what they’re giving up. If you say “Hey I saw that.” You know, everyone wants to known and seen and heard. And you’re just kind of depositing little nuggets into that love bucket.

– Yeah, at my last church we always used to use the phrase “That trust is the currency of leadership.” Which I’m sure didn’t originate with anybody on our staff, but that idea “That trust is the currency of leadership.” And what better ways to build trust with people than being kind to them, than being unselfish, than lifting them up, than encouraging them. That just adds to that trust bank that you have between your leaders, so that when you do come you do have to maybe get a little firm with them. You’ve got the trust and the relationship to be able to do that.

– Yeah the equity builds up.

– When you stand up in front of everybody and say “Hey, we’ve got to make some “pretty big changes and it’s not always going to be easy.” Hopefully you’ve got the trust build up to be able to do that because of being kind, you know, being unselfish, being intentional on a regular basis.

– I’m glad you brought up change, because I think–

– Something we all love

– It’s something we all love. I’m in a leadership program right now. I’m trying to learn how to be a better leader, and we just did a change management class. And it just seems like that’s just part of all leadership. But there’s also risk involved in change. Like there’s a chance that what I’m trying is not going to work. And Joel I would love for you to speak to how do you lead through risk, and how do you lead through change, and how do you invite people on a journey when you don’t know how that journey’s going to end up?

– That’s a great question too. The first thing I think is great communication, and that’s very hard to do, because we’re all so busy. But trying to set a real vision of where you’re headed. And so everybody’s clear on where the vision is. And then you can kind of work through the mess. And we’re actually in the middle of that even here, kind of reorganizing and there’s a lot of messiness in that. And so I think the more you can come together and communicate and carve out a clear vision of where we’re headed, what the ideal state is. Then it’s easier to work through the difficulties. But the other thing is just I think the more we can be clear in delegation, which if I had to pick another word. And you talked about trustworthiness. Part of being trusting is delegating, and being really clear to what you’re expecting them to do. And I think in small ministries or small businesses where we’re very entrepreneurial, and there’s a lot of change going on, it’s really easy for us, as leaders, to take too much control, and we don’t delegate. We don’t give up decisions, and there’s nothing that destroys trust faster than to give somebody responsibility and then kind of yank it back.

– Yeah.

– And so I think as leaders in change we should really try, once we say “Go ahead, you own that small group on Sunday.” Let it go and then deal with the encouragement or the admonishment afterwards, but don’t pull that responsibility away. So when change is happening, clarity in delegation is really important.

– I think one of the–

– Does that help?

– That helps a lot. I don’t mean to make this my own person coaching session like Joel, that’s really helpful.

– Crystal came in with a totally different list of questions.

– These are like Crystal’s personal list that she’s writing down for years.

– I wish she would’ve sent these last night.

– I was just going to say I think that one of the keys to a healthy volunteer ministry is the bought in factor. Especially it gives me, from a personal perspective. When I feel bought in to what our church is doing, and to the vision. When I know like where we’re going and what the goal is, what the win is. But I’m also relationally built in with the church staff, and with the parents that I’m leading, and the kids that I’m leading. All of that creates the, like, that is the I guess currency, the, you know, bucket that I’m pulling from when I have to sacrifice those, you know, crazy moments in my family’s life, you know, in order to lead these kids.

– That’s a great point, because we’re talking about trustworthiness as a word. I was talking about trying to be a trustworthy leader, but you’re being that you got to make sure that they’re trustworthy and you kind of respect that, and you honor that in how you treat them. So I think it goes both way, that trust factor goes both ways.

– I want to jump back to what you were talking about with delegation, because I think for a long time in my ministry I didn’t delegate, I just dropped bombs. Which means that I did everything on my own, until it got to a point where somebody called me on it, or I realized I couldn’t do it on my own. And so then I threw it to someone else. And it was just a “Okay, you do it.” And then eventually they got to a place where they couldn’t do it, or they couldn’t do it effectively, because I never equipped them and helped them understand how to do it. And so I ended up usually taking it back, either myself or somebody gives it back to me, because it’s not being done. That’s not good leadership across the board, and I think that for us when I hear this idea of delegation that so often for me for a long time it was what should I give somebody else to do so that I don’t have to do it anymore. But in a lot of ways delegation takes a lot of time, and a lot energy, and a lot of effort for us to really, we’re talking about developing leaders, when we’re talking about delegating. We’re talking about making sure that they’re someone who is the right fit for what we’re asking them to do. We’ve helped them develop the right skills. They’ve been resourced to do those things. But I think so often for me when I heard of delegating like “Oh yeah, I should pass this off to somebody else.” And then I just kind of throw it to them, and then I’m shocked when they don’t know what they’re supposed to do.

– I think when we hear the word delegation we think, ’cause you just said pass it made me think “Pass the buck.” like that often times what kind of comes to mind when you talk about delegation. But when we’re talking about the compliment thing I think, or seeing people and saying “Hey, you’re good at this.” I would argue that there’s no better compliment than just say “Hey, you’re good at organizing. “I’m terrible at organizing. “Our student closet is full of random props “and whoopee cushions. “Can you sort those, can you organize that.” And to have someone come in and do that, and that not only says “Hey, I saw this in you.” And that “I know that you’re good at this.” But it gives them that bought in factor to delegate to them. And it takes something off your plate personally.

– Those are excellent points. And about delegation that’s actually, I read about that a lot. That is a very common misperception. That we should delegate things that we don’t want to do. Actually we should delegate our favorite things, in a way, to make sure what we’re delegating are things that other people want to do. That’s part of being unselfish, like you want them to love coming to work or to church and to do the small group. And, yes, it does take time. There’s something called situation leadership. There’s four different ways to lead, and it goes from completely hand holding to completely handing off. And that’s a good thing anybody to Google or read about, because it does kind of walk through what you’re saying, is it takes time, but if you don’t invest that time, you’ll never be able to let go of it. And we have to to grow in any church, any organization.

– And we used to talk about that. You watch me do something. Then let’s do something together, and then I’ll watch you do something. So it’s kind of along those same lines.

– It is. That’s very crisply said. Those are situational leadership principles.

– And so for me, when I’m thinking about, you know, what are some leadership skills that I knew I needed to develop. Delegation was absolutely. Being able to know what to delegate. Kind of like you’re saying. Delegation’s not just “Okay I don’t want to do these things.” But do I know the people around me well enough to know what gives them life. And then how do I give them opportunities to be able to live that out in the life of our ministry.

– And I think one of the worst things you can do to destroy trust is to delegate something that you just don’t want to do. Like let’s say there’s a tough parent, and as the leader you want one of your small group leaders to deal with that tough parent. Maybe that’s a bad example. But, you know, I should be dealing with say with a bad budget issue, not delegating to somebody else to handle it, and I think that’s a really important thing, delegating as a leader. I thought you asked for other words. Do you mind if transition, because I’d love your guys’ thought on this. I think one of the hardest things as a leader to do, is to have difficult conversations with a volunteer, with a parent, with an employee. At least it is for me. I mean I’m Enneagram, we’re all different. So some people it seems it’s really easy for them to do it. For me it wasn’t. And one tool that I was given as a young leader that’s very helpful is when you got to have that difficult conversation to have three words written down on a piece of paper. Well it’s not three words, three statements. Same as, more of, less of. And so you just sit down with them and say “I want you to do the same as this because it’s fantastic. “I want you to do more of this, “because we just need more of your talent here. “But I want you to do less of this.” That way it’s very, very specific. It’s very simple. But they leave with a sheet of paper, and an understanding of where they did great and where they didn’t. And again, always in private. But we have to do that with anyone, or they’re not going to develop. And I just think it’s very simple easy principle. I wonder what you guys have learned in having those difficult conversations, and are there any other tools that you’ve used? Besides what I just said.

– I think for me, I’m an Enneagram nine, and so I hate confrontation. And so for me where I always want it to start at a place where we both agreed on something. And so I always, you know, if we’re talking about, you know, ministry specifically, and so if I’m sitting down with a small group leader, or a parent that’s upset, or senior leadership maybe, in the church who’s not happy with something that happened. I always wanted to start the conversation by us being on the same page about what we believe about their student maybe, or about what we want to happen in the ministry, or something along those lines. So that hey, whatever we talk about here, we both agree on a heart level of what we’re attempting to do, what we’re trying to do. And maybe we’re going to disagree, or we’re both going to recognize a way that didn’t happen well, and we need to redirect. But we all agree on that this is what we’re trying to do.

– I think that naturally if you start with what we need more of. That’s the positive, and usually you agree on what’s going well. So I think we’re actually saying it in two different ways, but the principle is always start with what’s working, what you agree on, and you get to what’s not working, and what you don’t agree on. And then I think that’s a great other way to say it.

– And I think thinking about what the other person, you know, thinking about how they might receive what you’re about to say. Like we all kind of think through our own lens of like, you know, I’m an Enneagram nine or I’m a Sanguine temperament or whatever the case may be. Whatever your personality test that you prefer, de jeur. But we always think it through our own lens, but the key is to also think through that other persons lens, and like how might this land with them, you know, what are they going through at the moment? What are their weaknesses or what are their insecurities that, you know, whatever you’re trying to talk to them about might land in the wrong way. And I know that for those of you who are leading 200 volunteers, it’s hard to know what each of their insecurities are, and how that might land with them. But you do have other people around you who also know them, so for those kinds of situations that are like the bigger issues, bigger confrontational issues that you have to deal with. I think that’s key. Like you have the resources around you to figure out what that other person is going through, what lens they’re going to view what you’re saying through.

– And you don’t always have to guess at those things. I know I personally hate confrontation more than almost anything else. I hate it, and so I asked someone here in our organization who was really good at it “How do you manage that?” And I think I may have even said this here on the podcast before, that she responded with the OIC method,

– Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

– Which was tell the person

– You talked about this

– What you observed.

– It was great.

– Thank you. Tell the person what you observe, like their behavior, and how you interpret it. “I interpret that to mean you don’t like me very much.” Or “I interpret that to mean “you don’t like your job very much.” And then ask can they clarify. “Is that really what you meant?” Because most of the time I’m not very good at interpreting what someone else means. So it’s been helpful for me to say–

– So it’s the letter right?

– OI and C the letter.

– OI and C.

– Observe.

– Observe, interpret, and clarify.

– [Joel] Yeah, that’s good too.

– So Joel I observe that you yelled at me, which did not really happen and has never happened.

– Just before we recorded. Well, actually I did want to meet with you after this podcast.

– In private.

– Less of, more of the same.

– Interpret that to mean I need to start the job search soon. Can you clarify.

– Wow, that got deep real quick.

– Yeah really.

– Thought we were talking about volunteering.

– That’s a great tip.

– It was very helpful for me.

– Yep, that’s cool.

– All right, so I’ve heard so far we’ve talked about this idea of kindness matter. Of lifting up people that are around us. The importance of delegation. And how we delegate people. Another skill we just talked about is conflict resolution. How do we learn to have those crucial conversations in a healthy way, and in a way where everybody leaves hopefully on the same page. Understanding what the conversation, ’cause that’s the worst right? You don’t want a conflict, but you have to have a conflict. You deal with the conflict, you felt like the conflict was dealt with, but then the conflict wasn’t dealt with.

– Right the other person thinks you said something else.

– You both walk away feeling like you heard completely different things, so being able to handle it with as much clarity as possible. And a side note, if you’re listening and hear kind of some humming, we’re recording at a different place today, so there are some leaf blowers outside, and we’re next to a salon. So there might be some really interesting, if you’re not watching on YouTube, you should pop it up on YouTube, because it is a gorgeous background, but you might hear some–

– The most diligent leaf blowers we’ve ever had.

– They are really good at what they do. Okay, so moving back. These skills that we need to be developing as ministry leaders. Any other thoughts, any other ideas some of those skills should be?

– Well we’ve talked about kindness, and trusting was part of the delegation factor, and then truthfulness was we had two different ways to deal with truthfulness. I also think, it sounds cliche, but being dedicated to these principles in all circumstances is really important because all churches, all organizations go through difficult times. Budget cuts, or downsize, you know, the church gets smaller. And I think that’s when leaders really have to step up and try to do it in a consistent fashion. And then follow, in my definition, my ethos, these words of love, because that’s when the rubber really hits the road. And in the end of the day, you know, Jesus asks us to love, and even if it’s with our volunteers more than our parents, I just think it’s so critical to that’s in the end of the day what he asks us to do. And it’s not about how many kids are showing up every Sunday. It’s about am I loving the people who are in front of me as a leader in this church? And I think it’s really hard for us. Our metrics get messed up is what I’m getting to is that I think we all measure the wrong things sometimes. Does that person feel loved? And I think the other point I would make though is it’s very easy to interpret all of this as being soft. As long as I’m nice and good and that’s what Jesus was. Well Jesus–

– Kind is different from nice.

– Kind is very different from nice. Kindness is not being nice all the time. Kindness is being enthusiastic but it’s also holding people accountable. And you read the Jesus of the Bible. He lost his temper quite a few times, especially at the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and he held people accountable. And leadership isn’t soft all the time. It is very, very difficult, but it’s also an incredible calling, and, you know, for those who they want to be in it for the ministry. I also think loving people is a calling, and it develops a great leader, so that’s the only other thing I would add.

– I want to push back and y’all’s thoughts on something. And maybe you kind of hear this in church world or not, ’cause really this idea of leadership in church world has really exploded in the last, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years, is that, I mean I wasn’t alive 30 years ago, I was alive 30 years ago.

– Yes you were.

– Sorry.

– I was not in ministry.

– You were not a cognoscente leader.

– I was not leading people 30 years ago at the age of six years old. But I don’t think church leadership was talked about in the same ways that it is now. And I hear these tensions sometimes between this idea of church leadership, and no, we’re not called to lead churches. We’re called to pastor people, all these different. And sometimes there’s this tension that exists between are we to pastor congregations, or are we to lead churches. Are we to love people, or are we to lead people. And sometimes it almost pits them as a one or the other. But what I love about what you’re talking about is we’re just talking semantics. Is that what we’re talking about is what does it look like for us to love God, to love other people, and be responsible for what he’s called us to influence, to impact, to lead, whatever kind of language that we want. Speak more to that tension, because I feel like it’s something as church leadership continues to grow and be something we talk about, there is good, but there is some risk with that. Because if we get so focused on the leadership side, we can lose some of the love pieces we’re talking about.

– Can I just comment first first and you guys chime in. First of all I think it is semantics and it’s definition. And I go into this a lot more in the book, but concisely we think of love incorrectly in America and in the English language, because there’s only one word for it, and it tends to be connected towards romanticism in Hollywood movies. The love that Jesus spoke of agape love. It was written in Greek, and we don’t know what he in Aramaic, but Greek there’s four different words, and agape which is what Jesus was interpreted as saying by the writers in the New Testament, is a verb version of love, and it’s an action. I define it from what Paul said “Oh love is.” So once you really understand what love is, those are leadership principles. They’re not easy. It’s not easy to be trusting, or to be encouraging, or to be forgiving for God. That’s a hard one, I mean that’s the hard one. So I do think it’s semantics partially, but I also think because people think that, I got to be careful. I hope people don’t misinterpret this. I think sometimes as a church body, we focus so much on The Great Commission of converting people to Christianity that we forget about The Great Commandment, which is loving other people. If we just love those kids showing up with agape love, and love our parents, we’ll show them Christ, and we got to let God take care of the salvation part. And that’s just my, that’s Joel’s opinion. That’s not Orange’s opinion, but that’s where I see some of the tension. And the last thing, and then I’ll shut up, is you’ll hear a lot of people say “Well we’re a nonprofit, “so those business principles don’t apply.” But, I mean, we still are called to be efficient and effective and use our talents the best way possible. And so I think that can be a cop out sometimes.

– In some ways I wonder if this is a good problem for the church to have. Because I think there was a time where we would say there’s one pastor and that pastor’s job is to pastor everyone. And over the recent decades specifically, I mean, youth ministry is only as old as maybe the ’50s or ’60s. We’ve realized that if I have 200 teenagers, and I am to pastor them well, it can’t just be me. I have to develop other people, which means that I might be pastoring 10 leaders who then each have 20 students, which is still too much by the way. But if I really love them, if I’m really leading them well, then I’m going to start creating some layers of leadership, which in that way creates what some would call a hierarchy, which is very similar to the business world. And all the sudden church world it doesn’t look that different. And I don’t know that that’s a bad thing. I think that maybe means we’re growing in the right direction, and it’s now time to apply some of those principles from the business world to leadership in the church world. Just ’cause we’re pastoring people maybe more effectively than we used to.

– Yeah, ’cause I think if we’re pastoring people more effectively we are creating more buy-in. We are creating more relational equity among the church body in it of itself. You know to have 10 students with one leader, and that one leader is pastoring them, even thought that leader is not on staff at the church. Then you have the youth pastor who has the 200 kids. That youth pastor’s not going to be effective with the 200 kids, but that one leader, if that youth pastor is pouring into that volunteer, then that volunteer is pouring into those 10 kids, then you have a lot more relational equity.

– Yeah, effectiveness.

– And I think so much of the pushback when it comes to the leadership world is kind of like you were saying a little bit ago, is that we get our metrics wrong. What we measure success by often is off. And so then that pushes some people away from that whole thing, and saying “Listen, my ministry is not based on how many people show up “or how many more people show up next year “than showed up this year. “God didn’t just call me to get “as many people in this room as possible.” And there is some truth to that. But there is also some truth to us being responsible for what God did give us to do. So I think maybe for those of us that find ourselves maybe too far in one camp or another. Churches, it’s all leadership, or no, it’s not leadership, it’s this over here. Almost to me it’s helpful to go back to what we were talking about earlier in the conflict resolution piece of what do we all have in common. I bet if we just narrow it down and say “Well what are we trying to do in the first place?” Most of us would probably agree that we’re just trying to help influence people for Jesus. That we’re just trying to help change lives, and change families, and change communities. And that whether we call it leadership, whether we call it this or that, there’s probably a middle ground that we can all find.

– Right, you mentioned truthfulness and while this is all great, I want to go back to coaching me personally so.

– Shoot.

– When it comes to truthfulness one of things I’ve admired about watching you lead in our organization, and we’re working together really for the first time face to face, is that I’ve noticed that you somehow manage to be very optimistic and very enthusiastic, and still acknowledge when something’s broken. And I think as a leader I found myself in few situations in the church where you lose credibility if you don’t acknowledge what’s true. But you also can’t give in to being that person who’s complaining with. So how do you balance that, and what’s the right amount of truth to acknowledge, and the right amount of enthusiasm to show?

– First of all, I appreciate the compliment. I really am glad you asked that question. First of all, remember what we talked about earlier. I think it’s really important to be positive three to one percent of the time. Three to one ratio. Otherwise you’re going to be seen as just too negative, and not reflecting and honestly reflecting what’s positive. But also you can lose so much credibility if you don’t recognize what’s broken, or you’re positive about something that’s not really positive. In the book I talk about it as being honestly truthful, or honestly positive, and honestly kind. Because you’ll lose so much credibility if you’re always positive and your positives aren’t specific and they aren’t true. Or if you compliment somebody that the rest of your organization thinks “What in the heck is doing? “That person doesn’t do anything.” So it’s really important to be honest, and I try to do it. And I know like even today in management team meeting, I ask a question. I didn’t even realize I was walking into a minefield, when Tom was talking about the websites and “Why are we doing that website?” And I realize I was stepping on a bunch of toes, and yet I also saw people nodding their heads, it’s like “It’s about time somebody asked that question.” I mean I could sense that in the room. So it’s just critically important that we all see that. And the last point I’d make is always don’t make it personal. Always try to talk to the issue not the person, and never attack a person. And I hope that’s helpful, but I appreciate the fact that you noticed it.

– And that has been this week’s episode of Coaching Crystal. Thank you so much for joining us. we’ll be back next time Crystal’s on the podcast.

– When Crystal talks about how to get a free coaching session.

– No, I think that’s so good, because I think that’s the tension that I always felt. It even is a personal thing sometimes, where I’m probably the reason that something might not be working well as a leader. And so how do I get to a place where I can talk about this openly and say “Okay, here’s something that I’ve been owning “that I know that we’re not doing well “or getting the most out of.” And there’s just a place of truthfulness that we have to get to personally with ourselves, where we have to be comfortable as a leader to say “I don’t think I’m delivering with this. “I don’t know what the answer is. “Can you guys help me think through what this looks like.”

– And that’s such a key point. You gain a lot of credibility when you do that in front of other people. And our CEO, I mean Reggie Joiner, our founder, he’s very good at that. He’s very good

– He does that a lot.

– At admitting if he’s a weakness in this area, and there are not a lot of leaders out there that do that as well as Reggie does, and it’s one of his great gifts. So I think it does gain credibility to do that.

– Well I think for me it’s a fear thing. If I open up and I admit that I’m not doing well with this, or I’m confused where we’re going here, then do I lose, if I’m not sure, how can they be sure in me as a leader who’s getting us to go in a certain direction.

– You only lose credibility if you don’t end up fixing it, right? Or if you can’t fix it, delegate it, or get help, you know, from an outside whatever whatever, but I don’t think we ever lose credibility unless we just keep going back to the same well, and then don’t fix your problem.

– That’s great.

– Does that make sense?

– Yeah. I think it speaks to humility too. As you were talking I was thinking about, you know, wondering about those issues where someone else sees something that is wrong and needs to be fixed. But sometimes we don’t see those things ourselves. Sometimes, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know on the other side of yourself. And so to be the kind of person just in everyday life where you have a humility about you, and an openness, and sort of a willingness to engage with anybody no matter where they fit in your ministry, so that someone can come to you and say “Hey, this isn’t working.” Or, you know, “I feel like you should fix this.” Or, you know, et cetera, et cetera. And just being open on honest to feedback.

– Yep.

– That’s, you know, a life principle I feel like.

– Absolutely.

– Well most leadership principles are life principles too.

– So we could probably talk for four or five hours about all sorts of different leadership principles, and how we need to understand those and develop those pieces. I think one of the challenges is Sunday’s coming, Wednesday’s coming, Winter retreats are coming, Spring retreats are coming. There’s always something else for a lot of that are listening, “I work a full-time job, and I’m just trying to figure out “how to lead this student ministry, you know, “in a couple hours every single week.” So in the midst of the day to day life and busyness of ministry, what are some practical ways that you guys could say “This is how we can actually develop these skills “in the midst of all of this.”

– I think just in the day to day, you know, all of us are doing life, you know, like you said we’re leading full-time lives, full-time jobs, and so to pick something from this podcast, or from what you’re reading, or, you know, from somebody who Tweeted something that was, you know, sort of life changing. Pick something that you can work on, you know, for however long, two or three weeks. Pick little nuggets, because it makes it palatable, it makes it digestible, it makes it doable, and less overwhelming to think “I’m going to read Joel’s book, “and apply all these seven principles all at one time.” You’re not going to, you’re going to fail, like you just are. We’re all human, and so I feel like if you pick something that you can work on for a couple weeks at a time. And people will notice, you know, if you’re working on something intentionally. You know from a day to day perspective.

– Do you have any thoughts?

– So when I was 22 I started teaching, and leading a classroom of students who had no choice. But with adults in my world I was struggling. And one of the things that I was learning was that the most efficient email is not always the kindest email. The quickest way to say something is not always. And I assumed that everybody else could hear the tone behind my emails. They could not. And pretty quickly developed a reputation with some of our staff for just being a total jerk. And there was an older wiser French teacher across the hall from me. He was probably in his late 50s, early 60s, I was 22. And he came across the hall one day and he said “Come here Pumpkin.” And over the course of the next year he would walk with me through the campus during our planning periods and just teach me stuff. And one of things he taught me was about going in and saying hi to our administrative staff, and talking to the lunch ladies, and rephrasing an email, and there were all these little life lessons that came along the way just because we were walking and talking. And so I know sometimes we suggest things like leadership coaching or counseling and all of that’s great, but sometimes I think you just find somebody who’s further down the road than you and say “Will you walk and talk with me a little bit?”

– I think mentoring, getting a mentor is a great, great idea. And honestly, I mean certainly not a commercial, but I think having a company like in Orange that provides strategically what the youth pastor needs to get their job done. Then they can focus more on the leadership aspects, versus spending all their time developing curriculum or developing programming, which I think most people who go into ministry I would imagine they think that’s what they’re suppose to be doing, versus, you know, get the programming, now I can focus on being a leader. Whether it’s mentoring or focusing on one idea like Elloa said, this is simple but just listen to podcasts, read. There’s so many good leadership books out there. And the wonder and blessing of books and podcasts is it teaches you that you’re not alone. Leadership is hard, it’s a blessing, but it’s hard. But there’s also always tension in it, but I think some of us as human species we think we’re going to eliminate tension. And we’re not. It’s just there. We have to manage it, and we manage by just humbly addressing each issue, but God never gives us more in any one day than we can handle. And we just have to let our energy flow on that issue, and the next day you just keep moving forward. So I hope that helps.

– That’s great. My wife’s a dental hygienist, and so for her in order for her to keep her license she has to do continuing ed on a regular basis. She has to have so many hours how ever often. That doesn’t really exist in ministry world. Depending on you denomination, tradition, different things like that, it probably doesn’t exist, and so it is completely dependent on you know, your staff culture or your individual motivation. The whole idea of leaders are learners, and so where not going to have, in a lot of different settings, someone else keeping us accountable for our own leadership development, and we have to decide if we’re going to invest the time into helping us to be the kind of leader that we can be. I love what you said, Joel, about finding resources that are available for us to use to free us up to do what only we can do. And I don’t really care if that’s Orange. There are a million resources out there, and you spending your energy to curate resources, and then contextualizing it to your community, instead of creating things from scratch for your community, is going to free up so much of your time as a leader, to be able to grow as a leader, and invest in things that you can’t if you feel like you’re supposed to be the one that’s creating everything from scratch. So yes, we have to be learners in every sense of the word, but we also have to work smarter not harder with what we’re trying to accomplish. And I think sometimes we just have to give ourselves a little bit of grace. So I went into full-time ministry at 21. For better or worse that’s just, somebody hired me. and thanks Jeff. But there were things that there was just no way that I was going to be able to know, understand, and be able to live out as a leader at the age of 21, trying to lead 55 year olds leading these students. And so sometimes we just have to have a little bit of grace for ourselves, and say like “Okay, blew it. “I can get better at this though.” And to be able to move past those things, and use those as launching pads to grow in our ministry, rather than them becoming excuses internally of why we’re not good at what we’re supposed to be doing.

– One of the words that I talk about is forgiveness, and over the years I have found forgiving myself is the hardest thing. My own personal mistakes, my leadership mistakes, and so you’re point about just give yourself a break sometimes. If you’re honest with yourself, you apologize to others you’ve offended, and then forgive yourself and move on. ‘Cause we all blow it. I mean, I think that’s one thing, I’ve talked to a lot of young leaders. You look at my resume and be “Well, gee, you’ve been CEO “since you’re 35 in four different companies, “and boy you’re so.” I’ve blown it so many times, personally and professionally. And you just learn and you get better every single day. You just keep trying. So everybody fails, everybody makes mistakes, but if we learn from them hopefully they happen less and less, but still I think your words are very wise.

– And if we go back to The Greatest Commandment that so much of your book is based on. Love God and love others as you love yourself, and we look at these principles. Be patient, be kind, be trusting. Things like being truthful and forgiving and dedicated. Like we have to apply those ourselves too if we’re going to end up being the leaders that God is calling us to be. So how quick are we to try and be forgiving, and kind, and patient. Hopefully to people we’re leading, but how hard is that to be those things to us too, but we’re not going to reach our potential for influencing others, for having an impact, for leading them, if we’re not able to have those same principles applied to ourselves.

– And being truthful to ourselves and our own faults, our own mistakes, is not an easy thing. I mean, forgiving ourselves, being truthful to ourselves it takes years of practice.

– So these kinds of conversations are usually really overwhelming with me, because I usually leave feeling more bummed out about all the different leadership skills that I know I need to work on, rather than having patience with myself, and all of those kind of things. So as we wrap up though, any final thoughts, any last pieces of kind of leadership advice, or wisdom, or thoughts that we didn’t get the chance to talk about today that you would want to make sure that student leaders hear?

– So you mentioned leading ourselves well right? And being responsible for our own continuing education. And I think as a leader sometimes I assume those I’m leading don’t want that, when in reality they do. And my assumption is they have already got so much on their plate, and I’m already asking them so much that additional training just feels like too much. One more meeting feels like too much. And I think sometimes we may be underestimating what the volunteers in our church would love. And even these seven leadership principles from Joel’s book would be a phenomenal thing to talk with volunteers about who might benefit professionally but also in our ministry.

– Absolutely.

– One of the things to piggyback off that I feel like lately, just maybe in some of the circles that I’ve been kind of talking to people in, I feel like there’s this tension of like you want to keep your volunteers. So you don’t want to put too much on their plate. You don’t want to ask them to do too much. But in order to create that relational buy in, and that relational change, you do have to kind of call them to something more, because if they invest more of themselves in it, they’re going to be more likely to stay, versus “Oh I don’t have time for this leadership training.” Or “I don’t have time for this.” If you’re calling them to something higher, and they’re working on themselves, like they have more of a buy in.

– Absolutely.

– That’s a great thought.

– And sometimes we just need to get innovative about how we do that with out leaders. As you’re right maybe only 30, 35% of your leaders are going to show up if you try to do some sort of a training. So maybe just don’t host a training. What’s another way outside of the box that you can make sure you get that?

– It depends on how much effort you’re putting into that training, but if 30% show up, that 30% are being called to something higher. That 30% are going to get something out of it, hopefully, and have something to take home and work on, and increase their leadership ability with their few.

– That’s good.

– I think the one thing I would add that I’ve learned over the hard years, is also pay attention to your own personal health, spiritual health, mental health, pay attention to the signs. Every major mistake I’ve made in my life it’s I got unhealthy in way, shape, or form. It’s either stop my quiet times, was involved something, you know, subduing pain, whether it’s drug or alcohol, or anger, or whatever people do. Just pay attention to that, ’cause as a leader you can’t be a great leader if you’re unhealthy. And I think in the ministry world we sometimes use excuse of “Well, we’re saving souls, we’re out there, “we’re helping people, we’re helping people.” And then we get unhealthy and Satan’s looking for that, and so I would just encourage people not only to learn to be a good leader, but pay attention to your own health and well being. And you can’t be a tired frustrated leader and be a great leader.

– Well that’s the whole of idea of leading out of the overflow. Is that we’re not going to be able to lead well if our cup is empty, but so often we almost wear it as a badge of honor that like “Oh, I’m unempty because “I’m running nonstop all the time.”

– That’s not a badge, yeah.

– But that’s definitely not something we should be trying to lift up.

– It doesn’t end well. It might work when you’re yeah, but it doesn’t end well.

– So I’m going to end on, my final thought’s going to be a really practical thing. Is that we need to create healthy systems in our ministries in order for us to lead the way we need to lead. I know that so often if there was ever an audible that needed to be called in ministry, then I was the one who had to handle it, because we didn’t have systems in place on how to handle things. And so if anything ever really happened out of the ordinary, nobody really knew how to handle it, and so I was always the one. So I wasn’t developing other people to be able to do those things. I wasn’t kind of raising the bar for them to have those responsibilities. And then I was stuck spending so much of my time that could’ve been doing other things just trying to put out fires or doing some other pieces, so the better that we can build and create healthy systems in our ministries that, going back to delegating, delegate other people on how to handle those situations. I just think that we become better leaders, and that we kind of raise the bar at the same time with everybody else. Joel, thanks for hanging out with us. Was it as bad as you thought it was going to be?

– No, it’s very fun. I also thought our personal coaching session was fantastic.

– That was great. So helpful.

– Oh I love it.

– You’ll send Crystal the bill separately, right?

– No, I hope it was helpful in some way. And I just want to thank all your listeners for what they do. It’s just an amazing, amazing thing to just teach kids about Jesus, and teach kids, and young students, and older students, about love, and that’s fantastic.

– Absolutely, and so thank you guys so much for hanging out with us during this time. We hope that it is helpful, and we are so grateful that we get to, you know, in some ways we like to almost think as if you are a silent person at this table that just never spoke up during the conversation. But the reason that we record these conversations is because we know ministry can be a lonely thing. And so we have these conversations with you in mind, and really hope that they’re helpful, that they’re challenging and also practical in some ways. That you do have some things that you can walk away with from what we’ve talked about that can help where you are right now. So thanks not only for listening, but, like Joel said, thank you for what you’re doing in the lives of families, and churches, and communities all over the place. So guys, thank you so much for hanging out, for chatting once again, and thanks again for listening. Have a great day.

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