How to take the best from what’s coming at you
‘Tis the season! No, not Christmas; we’ve survived that one. Well done! I’m talking about the season of New Ideas.
Fresh research papers are coming out fast and furiously. Leadership conferences are popping up like spring flowers. Innovative books are being released. The exciting water of new ideas is ready for us to sip, but it can often feel like we are trying to drink out of a fire hose. How can we keep up with all the information and inspiration coming at us and make it impactful and useful in our ministries?
Expose yourself to new ideas, knowing that you don’t have to implement all of them
There are some wonderful ministries out there and some fascinating research. All of it is beneficial for us to listen to and think about. I would encourage you to expose yourself to all sorts of new ideas. Read books that aren’t in your speciality. If you are a youth leader, read about children’s spirituality. If you specialise in toddler groups, attend a discipleship seminar. This cross-pollination of ideas can get you thinking in different directions and stretch your creativity and understanding significantly.
If we only seek out the information we think will be useful to us, we might miss out on the crucial idea that challenges our approaches and gives us unconventional solutions. All of it will increase our understanding of children and youth people’s faith, the world they live in and the various ways the Church can serve and support them on their journey with God. Engaging with the ideas without pressure to implement them at the end frees us up as practitioners to truly listen and engage in the moment. You might be surprised by what you learn.
Let God highlight what he wants to talk about
When I come out of a conference or finish reading a book or research report, I tend to have loads of scribbled notes. After a few days of a conference or after reading 50 pages of a research report, my notes can be chaotic, but I feel inspired and excited about the possibilities of what is next. I believe that so much of what I heard is essential to bring into my ministry.
Unfortunately, real life quickly rushes in and my ability to do something with all that new information lessens as time passes. I’m stuck trying to process all the tips and suggestions, the biblical teaching and the statistics of research amid the rush of life. I often lose my inspiration and feel slightly guilty that I haven’t implemented the changes that I was so passionate about only a few weeks or months ago.
I have learned that one of the most important things I can do when sitting down with a book, a piece of research, or my notes from a conference is to ask God one question:
“What are you pointing at for me right now?”
Sometimes it’s one statistic or section of a research report that seems to zing straight to your heart and mind. Sometimes it’s one seminar that challenges your way of thinking. Sometimes it’s a book chapter or biblical teaching that burrows its way into your thoughts and keeps popping up in your mind. It may just be one thing that you seem to wrestle with or makes you smile when you think about it.
Don’t be disappointed if it’s a small thing, or be overwhelmed if it’s a complete ministry change. The important thing is that God is highlighting something that he wants to discuss with you, to work on with you, to inspire you in or equip you for.
Lean into whatever God is highlighting. Write it down, wrestle with it, research it and let it guide your thoughts.
Don’t rush to implementation but ask: “Is that new information true for everybody? Where do I see this in my ministry? What is similar or different in our circumstances? What would change if I embraced that here? God, what is important about this that we get? What are we supposed to do with this?”
I have often read an entire book, but just one or two chapters have fully grabbed me and transformed how I ministered.
I have been to a conference and felt that every seminar and main talk was for me and led me on a beautiful journey, and I used all of it.
I have read a research paper, and one minor statistic led me to do a bunch of further math and convinced me of the need to write a book to fill the gap.
The question is not “How do I use everything I learned” but “What is God highlighting for me in this season, at this time, and how do I respond to it?”
When am I supposed to do something with this?
I’m a naturally very impatient person. Once I decide on changes I want to make, I want to implement them yesterday. All of the changes. All at once.
The wise question becomes “When?” not just “What?”
I find that there is the lure of the ‘easy wins’. We often hear about easy wins that can be quickly implemented to help you achieve your leadership goal. The problem with easy wins is that occasionally we can burn all our energy on implementing those and miss the strategically important change we are called to. Achieving easy wins may feel exciting, but they may also exhaust the people we lead as they try to adapt to the small changes. When we get to the one significant change, they may feel burnt out of change and just want some stability for a while.
We could do a thousand things quickly and easily in response to what God is highlighting. But once we know what God is highlighting, take the time to consider the right move and when. Stop worrying about the pressure to do things now, and give yourself the gift of strategically and peacefully planning a powerful next.
So go forth and embrace the season of New Ideas! Read research reports, go to conferences and grab every flyer, freebee and sample from all the stalls. Attend seminars you need and those that are off the wall. Read books and watch YouTube. Swim in the sea of new information.
But in the midst, have God sit next to you, point to what he wants to talk about with you and process it with him. Find the next step and take your time in choosing the right when. The season of New Ideas is a great season. Enjoy it!