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Posts tagged ‘Life-long learning’

A Needed Perspective Adjustment

079On New Year’s Eve I talk on the phone with a long time mentor and friend, Neil Atkinson. When I was in high school, Neil was my Young Life leader and was instrumental in my becoming a Christian. After college, Neil prepared Denise and I to become Young Life leaders. Later when Neil left Grand Rapids to become a regional director for Young Life in Kansas City, he and I continued to stay connected.

Throughout my life, in every context my relationship with Neil took, he’s always said something that I’ve needed to hear, often when it’s been unlooked-for, as it was on New Year’s Eve.

As we were sharing with each other how 2012 had gone, Neil mentioned that he turned 70 and I responded by telling him I turned 50. As we marveled at how old we’ve become I told Neil that turning 50 was harder than I expected because I felt that I had crossed the half-way point in my productive life.

That’s when he delivered one of his unexpected perspective adjustments that I needed.

Neil said

“Let me tell you something that’s absolutely true, the next 10 years of your life will be your very best. You see you’ve come to a place where you possess the highest combination of both energy and wisdom that you’ll ever have. The next 10 years will be your most productive yet.”

So, though it may be true that I’m over half-way through my life, I realized, to great joy, that I may not have yet reached the half-way point in my potential contribution to this world and to Christ’s Kingdom. So once again Neil, thank you.

The One New Year’s Resolution that can Change Your Life

Joshua Tree PerserveranceI make this New Year’s resolution suggestion every year, to whoever will listen. I make it because I believe that it’s the one small commitment that can change the course of a person’s life.

And what is that New Year’s resolution? To read the entire Bible – every book, chapter, and verse.

Now before you dismiss my suggestion, think about this for a moment, if the Bible is God’s Word, His actual words, the true message of the God who created the entire universe, created our earth, and created you and me, doesn’t it make sense that we should want to read His words and make them a part of our life?

And one more thought to consider before dismissing my suggestion – if we believe that God loves us, cares about us and wants to have a relationship with us, then it’s not surprising that He has something to say to us about this love.

So if you’re now convinced that making this resolution is something you want to do, below are a few things I’m making available to help you make your resolution a reality.

  1. Down load to your e-reader, free, my Reading the Bible Through in a Year devotionals by clicking here.
  2. Subscribe to my Read the Bible in a Year blog by clicking here. Each day of 2013 you’ll receive an email of the daily reading schedule and thoughts to help you get the most out of that reading.
  3. Follow me on Twitter (by clicking here) and receive a “tweet” with a link to each of my Bible reading posts.
  4. Simply go to my Read the Bible in a Year blog.

Now may 2013 be a year of great positive transformation in your life through the power of His Word.

Creating Memorable Learning Experiences – Part 1

064Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been involved with educational opportunities both as a participant and as an educator, including giving a seminar at the Christian Camping and Conference Association (3CA) national conference. As I prepared for this seminar I often referred to four very simple things I learned back when I did corporate training, four factors that help participants remember what they’ve learned.

  1. Participant Centered – This is the foundational factor. The participants are always more important than content. Without their motivation to learn it doesn’t matter how good the material is. So it’s a must that the both the content and the delivery be built around what works best for the participants.
  2. Hearing – People remember more when they hear it spoken, whether it’s through another participant, the teacher, a video. It’s essential that participants hear the most important content.
  3. Seeing – Memory goes up significantly if participants can also see the content. This is why training so often uses such tools as PowerPoint and Keynote. When people both hear and see the key content, the likelihood of retention jumps up.
  4. Doing – But the one factor that can make training unforgettable is assuring participants can do something with the content they’re learning. It can be as simple as providing handouts with blanks to be filled in off the visual presentation, to creating actual exercises that show and teach the key content to be learned. The more participants do the more they’ll remember.

By assuring these four factors are a part of any training experience will make it better, more interesting and, most importantly, more memorable.

This is part one of two posts about making the most out of training and education.

The SpringHill Fraternity

Ben Johson of Camp Berea in New Hampshire and Steve Pate of Tall Timber Ranch in the state of Washington, both SpringHill Staff Alumni

Ben Johson of Camp Berea in New Hampshire and Steve Pate of Tall Timber Ranch in the state of Washington, both SpringHill Staff Alumni

I’m on a plane flying back from the Christian Camp and Conference Association’s (3CA) national conference in San Diego, CA basking in the afterglow of the people I spent time with and the things I learned.

I’ve concluded that among the many great parts of this conference, which included spending time with peers who, over the years, have become close friends as well as listening to inspiring and challenging speakers, that the most encouraging part of the conference was talking with SpringHill staff alumni who are now serving other camps.

These alumni include people now working at camps in New England, the Pacific Northwest, in the heart of the California Redwoods, and even in Spain. Each of these camping professionals spent a part of their early professional years at SpringHill.

And, almost to a person, these professionals told me how much they learned and grew while at SpringHill. As a result they’ve been able to take what they’ve learned and positively impact the camps they’re currently serving.

Now you need to know there’s nothing much more rewarding for me than knowing that SpringHill has played a part in the personal and professional development of our past staff. Especially when it’s enabled them to make a bigger contribution to the organizations (especially camps) they’re currently serving.

And even more rewarding is knowing that this handful of past staff I talked with this week represents a fraternity of literally 1000’s of Springhill alumni who are now making positive contributions in companies, schools, churches, mission agencies, ministries, and families all over the world, and by doing so making an eternal difference in the lives of thousands upon ten thousands of people.

Working in the “Fog of War”

We live in a less than perfect world, and in this world we have less than perfect eyesight. This reality creates frustration for people looking for certainty, clarity, and predictability. Now most of us desire certainty, clarity and predictability because it makes life less complex, decision-making easier, and judgment sounder. But we rarely have this luxury. More often than not, we live and work in the “fog of war.”

The trick then is to be both willing and able to effectively deal with complexity and ambiguity. As a matter of fact, I’ve become convinced that the ability to work effectively in the “fog of war” is a necessary quality leaders must possess today. The increasing speed of change at every level, from the family to society, from communities to nations, has nearly eliminated certainty, clarity, and predictability from our lives, and within organizations.

And SpringHill hasn’t been immune to this rapidly changing world, thus our staff recognizes the need to carry forth our mission in this “fog of war”. We call this ability simply “Resourcefulness”. Resourcefulness is being able to effectively work in complex and fast changing realities with less than perfect information. It’s the ability to lead others through the ambiguity, uncertainty, and chaos that so often marks the world in which we work.

And finally, and most importantly, it’s the ability to successfully carry forth our mission of communicating a timeless and changeless message to people that live in these rapidly changing days, and doing so without compromising this message or the God whose given it to us to share.

This is part 13 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Being Better Everyday than we were Yesterday

There’s a hard reality we need to accept, and it’s simply this – if something isn’t growing then it’s dying.  There’s really no standing still. And by growing I mean getting better, progressing, moving forward, and by dying I mean things are slipping backwards in their usefulness or effectiveness.  I know this to be true for myself, I’m either getting in better shape physically, emotionally and spiritually or I’m slowly in decline.  I might ignore this reality but I can’t escape it.

But what’s true for us as individuals is also true for organizations, whether it’s a company, an educational institution, a local church, or a nation.  Organizations are either moving forward or moving backward.  And leadership is the key to which direction an organization will go.

That’s why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies needed by people who work for SpringHill is what we call “Continuous Improvement”.  Now understand I’m not a big fan of buzz words especially when they’re code words for something else. But I like “Continuous Improvement” because it’s a phrase that says exactly what it means.

And it’s why we use this phrase to describe the personal quality someone needs to display, both in their personal life and in their work, to have long-term success at SpringHill.  You see SpringHill wants to be an effective and an enduring organization, which means every day, SpringHill, needs to be better than it was yesterday. And for this to be a reality SpringHill’s staff also needs to, every day, be better than we were yesterday.

This is part 11 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Wisdom Applied

The test of our wisdom is found in the decisions we make. It’s displayed in the quality, timeliness, and the process in which we go through to make decisions. So it’s all three of these aspects of decisions – quality, timeliness, and process – that reflect the wisdom we have, or don’t have.

Wisdom requires knowledge, experience, judgment, and analytical ability, combined with a strong sense of right and wrong. And the measure of all these things, the proof that we have wisdom comes through in the decisions we make. Decisions are the tangible, measurable expression of our wisdom. Its wisdom applied.

It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies someone needs to possess if they’re to have long-term success at SpringHill is quality and timely Decision Making.

At SpringHill this competency is absolutely critical because of the freedom we provide our staff to do their jobs and the sense of stewardship we expect them to practice. It’s because we believe that the best people to make decisions are the ones closet to the “action”, not those sitting far behind the “frontlines”. We believe this to be true because those at the “front line” have the best perspective and expertise.

Thus when an organization keeps decision-making closest to the “front lines” it requires staff who can display wisdom through their Decision Making. And, if done right, this kind of Decision Making ends up being the best because it’s almost always faster and higher quality.

And the added benefit of entrusting decision-making to staff on the “front lines” is that they continue to grow in their wisdom and in their ability to make decisions, helping the entire organization continually become better and more effective in fulfilling its mission (it’s all part of Personal Learning I covered in the last post).

This is part 4 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

Always a Student – The Essential Need to Learn

When you learn, you grow and change, and when you grow and change, it’s almost always a result of learning. There’s an undeniable relationship between these concepts. So if a person or an organization wants to grow, whether it’s in a career, a relationship, or in their impact on people and the world, it almost always requires ongoing learning. Because the reality is growth and change will stall or burn out if not fueled by learning.

This is why one of SpringHill’s core values is to be a learning and mission-driven organization. Without learning we would not experience the necessary change required to grow in our influence, outreach and effectiveness in fulfilling our mission and achieving our long-term goals. As we often remind each other “if we’re not learning we’re dying.”

It’s also why one of the qualities and competencies a person needs to have long-term success at SpringHill is what we call “Personal Learning”. It’s that personal and professional curiosity and inquisitiveness which leads to continuous improvement in one’s self and in the organization.

Personal Learning is evident in people who read, listen to others, ask lots of questions, and seeks out other people and organizations to “go to school on”. It’s also evident in people who take mistakes, defeats, and crises and see them as opportunities to learn , grow, and change. Struggles are an ally to people who love to learn.

One of the tell-tale signs a person (and organization) embraces Personal Learning is that they’re humble. You see Personal Learning requires people who accept and acknowledge to others, and to themselves, that they don’t have it “all figured out” and never will.

So, as you can see, Personal Learning is an absolutely essential part of SpringHill, which also means it is an absolutely essential quality of our staff, board and volunteers, especially if, together, we’re to make an enduring impact on our world.

This is part 3 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.

High School Sports – Part 2 Are We building Programs or People?

Its mind-boggling what varsity sports have become at many high schools. Because of my work I talk to parents all across the country about their kids. They’ve shared with me what it takes to make a high school varsity team. And frankly I’m amazed and, at some levels, appalled at what high school coaches often ask of students and their parents.

For example, one young woman I know was clearly told that if she wanted a chance to play on the varsity soccer team she had to begin playing soccer year around, meaning she couldn’t play any other sports. Ok, I understand commitment to your sport but the issue in this case was the young woman was in 6th grade. Yes, 6th grade. How could any high school coach or school tell or strongly suggest athletes begin to specialize in a sport in 6th grade? How can 6th graders make such a choice between sports?

When you’re in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade you should be playing lots of sports, experimenting, learning what you like, and what you may be gifted at. When I was in 6th grade my favorite sport was the one that was in season. There’s no way I could have picked between baseball, basketball, tennis and football, all of which I played recreationally and loved during their proper season.

Worse yet, what if the student picks the wrong sport when they’re in 6th grade, invest years in “the one sport” and then they stop growing or discovery there’s 10 goalies in the program? It means a student who loves sports, sacrificed and worked hard may not play at the varsity level.

Ironically, many professional sports teams look for college athletes who’ve played multiple sports in high school because they’re usually better athletes. Research has also shown that multiple sport athletes develop better physically and are less likely to be injured. Encouraging multi-sport athletes sounds like a sound philosophy for a high school varsity coach to adopt if they want to build a program around better and stronger athletes.

Now hear me when I say this, I don’t believe every athlete has to be a multi-sport athlete at the varsity level. But I do believe it’s healthier (and saner) for elementary and middle school athletes to be so. And to encourage anything less is a disservice to the athlete and most likely to the program as well.

The question we parents and schools need to face is – will this generation of kids look back on their athletic experiences and ask us “why did sports have to be so serious at 6th grade? It took the joy out of being a kid.”

More to College than the Classroom

My wife Denise and I just dropped off our daughter, Christina, at college. She attends Butler University and had to be back early because she’ll be a Resident Assistant this year and was starting her training.

Also our son MD will be a junior at Calvin College. He ran for and was elected Vice President of the Student Senate and is at school completing his summer job as well as beginning his “Student Senate” work.

We’re excited about the growth and learning opportunities these experiences will provide our two college students. We appreciate these opportunities because both Denise and I benefited from similar experiences while college students. And the truth is (I maybe committing educational heresy to say this) I learned and grew more as a person through my extra-curricular involvement than I ever did in the classroom

But it’s also why we should be worried about the continuing rise in the price of a college education. Sky rocketing costs have caused both individuals and schools to make drastic changes in how they approach and deliver a college education and the campus experience. Such things as on-line classes, reduction in funding for “student life” programs, more students living at home or in cheap apartments, have all robbed many young adults of these precious opportunities (such as being an RA) to learn the “life lessons” that can only be had outside the classroom.

And for many of these lessons, the college campus is the best environment to learn them. Where else in the world can you try new things, make mistakes with limited down side, and discover one’s passion and giftedness while being supported by an institution whose mission is to educate you?

If education and learning is our real goal (and not just stream lining earning a diploma) then we need to figure out how to make the full college experience available to as many of our citizens as possible. Diplomas and true learning are two different things and we can’t afford, in the long run, to see them as the same. If we do, both our kids and our country will suffer.

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