The gifts are unwrapped and decorations are being put away. The radio station that was once playing Christmas music all day, every day, is back to the soft rock playlist. Holiday dinners are over and lights on homes are slowly disappearing. Just like that, we find ourselves in a New Year.
The new year welcomes the tradition of setting new goals and identifying new priorities for the upcoming months. Many of us sit down and contemplate resolutions to improve and be better in a number of areas. Some of these resolutions are likely the same as those that have been committed to before; others may be different.
Consider your resolutions for a moment and what they say about you and what you are prioritizing in your life right now. Based on that reflection you can determine what your personal mantra is for the year. Not sure where to start? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I exist? What purpose do I fulfill, and what difference do I want to make in the world? This is a question we at Spring Hill ask ourselves frequently and feel that is just as applicable as individuals. For us, searching for these answers has led to the recognition and dedication to our purpose – or mission statement. So, our answer to these questions is ultimately, “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”
- What’s most important to me? What am I most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for?
At SpringHill we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, how we accomplish it, and why it is important to us.
Ponder these questions for yourself and how they align with the resolutions you hope to accomplish. Try identifying what your core values are and as a result, discover your mission statement or personal mantra for 2019. When you do, your goals will be a manifestation of these values – helping you be intentional and specific about how you approach those resolutions and experiences.
For our organization, our goals and objectives span the entire year but are most actionable during the summer months. At the end of those months, after a summer of executing against those goals, there’s a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You too can experience this satisfaction with yourself next year as you take stock of how you achieved objectives that supported your personal mission statement. What does God have in store for you this year?
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
When you read this scripture, do you happen to sing it to yourself? This, along with many other prophetic verses from Isaiah are beautifully sung to music written by Handel each Christmas season to celebrate the birth, life, atonement, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This music along with so many others capture the reverence, joy and love that stirs within us as we reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.
It’s a magical time of year that inspires kindness, service, gratitude and love. It’s also a time of year that can cause stress, anxiety and loneliness when we focus too much on the secular traditions of the season. The solution to this is to remember the “reason of the season” – the birth of Jesus Christ and what that event meant for mankind.
To help keep our priorities, focus, and intentions aligned with the real meaning of Christmas, let me suggest three ideas to integrate within your celebrations this year:
- Turn to Scripture – Take the time to read the account of Jesus’ birth in the gospel of Luke as well as his life and ministry in the other gospels. Remind yourself of these accounts and discuss them with your family. Many enjoy reenacting the nativity with their friends and families to make the events of that evening more realistic to little ones. Talk about why His life was important, the principles He taught, and the miracles He performed.
- Reflect on Your Relationship with Jesus – When we contemplate our blessings and our personal relationship with Christ, it will automatically make the holiday more meaningful as we make it about our gratitude for Him and not solely about the gifts under the Christmas tree. One way my wife, Denise, and I helped our children remember who to be focused on is by reminding them that it is Jesus’ birthday that we celebrate, with a birthday cake and all. It helped them remember what Christmas was all about and to celebrate Him with as much enthusiasm as crafting a wish list for Santa.
- Do It Unto the Least of These – In Matthew we are taught the importance and significance of service toward one another. In Matthew 25:40, Christ teaches, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” When we take the time to serve and love one another, we are, in essence, serving and loving God. Take the opportunity to serve – even in small ways; you will discover God’s love for you and for those you serve.
Let us approach this Christmas season with purpose and joy. Let us truly exclaim “Joy to the World!” and “Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!” as we sing beloved Christmas hymns and songs throughout the holiday. Let us be inspired to apply His gospel in our lives each and every day!
Wow, what a summer we had this year. With fall in full swing and new extracurriculars having inevitably taken over, each of us is feeling the pull of competing obligations and priorities. Have we already forgotten what happened at SpringHill?
I hope not – I sure haven’t. From the middle of May, until the final SpringHill Experience is finished in the middle of August, I feel as though I’m shouldering a great weight: the responsibility for the lives of all these people. But at the same time, I’ve also just lived four months off the inspiration and energy that comes from working with such an amazing, embracing, talented, committed, and diverse SpringHill community: professional staff who worked hard the prior eight months to have us ready for summer and then served tirelessly almost every day, all day, for four straight months.
Last year, when our summer ended, we said goodbye to nearly 27,000 children and teens and 950 young adult leaders in over 130 SpringHill locations throughout nine states. Yes, at SpringHill, we pack 80 percent of our direct missional work into four months.
Like anything that is hard work and requires much of us, it’s both fulfilling and difficult to have it come to an end…temporarily. As happens when finishing a long race, or accomplishing a significant goal, or coming off an adrenaline high, finishing a SpringHill summer means coming off the mountain. It means adapting to a new season of planning and steady work, looking ahead to what’s next.
So, what is next? Where do we all – campers, leaders, etc. – go from here?
As we tell kids at SpringHill, you can’t stay on the mountain forever; you have to go back home. For us too, SpringHill summers don’t last forever. We have to go back home (or to the office) and begin hosting retreats and getting ready for another summer. There’s new work to be done, places to go, people to meet.
My hope is that we will all reflect on the life-changing experiences that occurred this past summer – those that happened to us personally and those that we witnessed. I hope that we can reflect on two separate groups of questions that have been asked of SpringHill as an organization, but could be asked of ourselves as individuals having had the SpringHill experience:
- Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is, typically, expressed in a purpose or mission statement. At SpringHill, we answer this question with our mission: “To glorify God by creating life-impacting experiences where young people can come to know Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.”
- What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? At SpringHill, we answer this question with an acronym we have for our core values: ARCH, which stands for adventurous faith, relationally focused, contagious joy, and holy discontent. These core values define the kind of organization we are, as well as how we work with each other and all our stakeholder groups: kids, families, allies, donors, and staff.
Now that it’s Fall, I hope we can each reflect on why we exist and what is most important to us with new perspectives and inspiration. I hope those quiet – and not so quiet – moments of personal faith-building help answer those questions with clarity that carry all of us through the rest of this year and onto another amazing SpringHill summer.
If you’re interested in creating similar experiences for your youth group or faith group, check out one of my workshops.
We are now reflecting on this past life-changing summer with kids of all ages throughout our SpringHill camp programs! Many people wonder what makes SpringHill so special, so effective. There are several reasons I could share to answer that question, but undoubtedly one universal explanation amongst all our campers is the sense of adventure that they experience during their time at SpringHill. Ultimately, these moments connect them to God in a different and significant way.
Some of the biggest spiritual lessons happen while engaged in some of our high-adventure activities. One of the stories that comes to mind is of a middle-school girl describing her experience at SpringHill. She had been a regular for years, and I just sort of casually asked her one day what it was that kept her coming back to SpringHill.
Very seriously, she said, “Every time I come to SpringHill, I encounter God. I have an experience with God and my faith grows.”
And so I pressed her: “What exactly is it that happens every time?”
“You know,” she said, “it just happens when we’re doing camp stuff.”
I smiled as she elaborated. “Like this last summer, I was on our zipline and I had been struggling … should I really trust Jesus? I mean, really trust Him with my life? And then we go on the zipline and the leaders talk about how, for us to go down the zipline, we have to trust the cable that goes across the lake, trust the harness that we’re in. We have to trust the pulleys that will go down the cable. We have to put our trust in them. If we don’t do that and we don’t take the step off the platform, we’ll never get to the end. We’ll never get across the lake. But it requires this trust.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
“The leaders said…it’s the same with Jesus. We need to trust Him. We need to be able to step out with Him and know that He has us, holding onto us so that we won’t fall. So I stepped off the platform, went down, and got to the end of the zipline, and I realized, yeah, this is what I need to do with Jesus. I need to trust Him just like I trusted the cable and the harness and everything else that comes down the zipline.”
That’s SpringHill, in that young girl, in that moment. This experience describes how kids find God more intimately when they stretch themselves, have fun, and find a sense of adventure. Those are experiences that aren’t readily available throughout the rest of the year. As a result, these experiences and memories create something altogether new and exciting, activities that transform into an extremely impactful, spiritual moment.
Learn more about the SpringHill experience by visiting www.springhillexperience.com
I was recently asked to provide 3-5 “Things You Should Know” on the topic of “Leadership: Vision, Mission, Values & Strategic Planning” for our industry’s trade magazine. Below is what I provided. Let me know if you have something to add.
Leadership and strategic thinking isn’t about having all the answers, it’s, at the core, asking the right questions and then leading a team or organization to discover the best answers. And these answers are critical because it’s around them that a leader builds unity, community, focus and ultimately success.
The following six groups of questions are the most foundational and strategic questions a leader can ask and then help their team or organization answer:
- Why do we exist? What purpose do we fulfill, what difference do we make in the world? If we ceased to exist, what hole would be left? The answer to these questions is typically expressed in a purpose or mission statement.
- What’s most important to us? What are we most deeply passionate about and willing to sacrifice and suffer for? The answer to these questions is stated as an organization’s core values.
- What do we believe to be true? What is it about the world we’re most sure of? What’s true even though we may not like it? The answer to these questions is typically written in a statement of faith or a confession.
- What do we want to become? When we look into the future who and what kind of team or organization do we want to be? What are the kinds of things we’d want others to say about us? Answering these questions will lead to creating a shared vision of your future.
- What do we want to accomplish? 5, 10, 20 years from now, when we look back, how will we know we’ve been successful? What will be the key indicator that we faithfully fulfilled our mission and vision? A Big Hairy Audacious God Goal (BHAGG) answers these questions.
- What makes us distinct? What are the defining characteristics that make us stand out from other similar organizations? How do those outside our organization or team describe the work we do or service we provide? When you answer these questions you’ve articulated your brand promise (in organizations with a Christian mission – it’s often called a philosophy of ministry).
So a leader’s first task is to ask these foundational questions then second, lead their teams to discovering the answers. When these first two tasks are accomplished the leader’s job isn’t finished. The final, unending task of the leader is to teach, remind, highlight, reinforce, and be the biggest communicator and cheerleader of these answers to every stakeholder of the organization. This is the primary task of the leader and one that needs to happen every day, all the time; it’s what makes a leader a leader, and one that makes organizations great.
Recently I was at an automotive service business run by a past SpringHill camper. When I picked up my car I asked this SpringHill alum for a tour of his business. You see I was not only interested in learning about his business but more importantly I wanted to get a glimpse into the life of one of our past campers.
After the tour we stood in the middle of his shop floor and talked about his life as a young entrepreneur. Our conversation drifted to SpringHill and reminiscing about those summers when his parents would drop he and his brothers off at camp. As we shared those memories together I could see his eyes lighting up. That’s when he said –
“It’s funny you’re here and we’re talking about camp because I was just recently thinking about my camp experiences. It’s become clear to me just how important they were in my development as a person. I was a shy, quiet kid. But at camp I gained confidence to interact with others and build positive relationships.”
Hearing him say this while sitting in the middle of his impressive business, brought to life the reality I’ve built my vocation on – that summer camp is an incredibly spiritual, emotional, and social building experience. Camp is one of those milestone moments where people’s live’s takes a quantum step forward.
And this is why SpringHill is so committed to creating life-transforming summer camp experiences. We see no other short-term experience in the world that provides young people such a life-long payback than attending summer camp. If there were, trust me, SpringHill would offer it in a New York minute. But there just isn’t. There’s no other experience that provides the breath and depth of personal, long-term growth than summer camp.
Which means there is no better short-term investment with such a life-long payback that a person can make for the child they love then sending them to camp this summer.
Leaders tend to use one of four ways to move people in a desired direction. Each approach works in the short-term, especially when movement is urgently needed. Which way a leader chooses often depends on the people and circumstances involved. But one way is ultimately the best, one that moves people farther and faster than the others. But before we talk about that way, let’s take a look at the other three.
The first way is Pushing Leadership. The reality is sometimes people need a simple push to move forward (think of a mother bird pushing her young out of the nest to learn to fly). In many situations this is the best approach – a gentle push and big things happen. But too often leaders are simply pushy people. Pushy leaders will wear out their team, especially if their team already knows how to fly. When this happens those being pushed simply comply, hide or leave.
The second way many leaders lead is by dragging their followers along. Dragging Leadership is when the leader runs so far ahead that the rest of the team is always killing themselves to stay up. It looks much like a dog race with the leader as the rabbit and the team are the dogs running hard to catch it. It’s an excellent leadership style for dog races but it burns people out quickly. Yes, leaders should set the pace and lead by example but they need to be careful not to confuse running with leading.
The third way is what I call Carrying Leadership. Carrying leadership occurs when a leader steps in and rescues their team by taking on their jobs and responsibilities. As with the first two ways, there are times when leaders need to step in and help their people through a difficult patch. But it turns destructive when leaders create leadership co-dependency by always assuring their team avoids difficulty or pain and thus never learns to deal with problems, issues and rough patches.
Finally, the most effective (and the most difficult) leadership is Inspiring Leadership. Inspiring Leadership requires relationship, clarity, communication, a meaningful cause, an opportunity to succeed, an end to the game, and understanding of role. Inspiring leadership is helping others make their best contribution and, when they do, receive all the credit. In Inspiring Leadership is where the team is center stage and the leader is back stage or in the sound booth assuring the team’s success.
So which way do you lead? Are you a pushing, dragging or carrying leader? If so, take this as a gentle push to become an Inspiring Leader, one who leads others to become all that God’s created them to be so they can do all that God’s planned for them to do. This is the kind of leadership we all crave and the type of leadership that can change our world.
I’m not big on job titles. To me they’re an organizational necessary evil. But sometimes getting a job title or classification right is important because they often communicate very powerful messages.
Since SpringHill’s first summer in 1969, the people we hired to work with kids and assist in running summer camp were simply called summer staff. It’s a practical title since these people joined our staff team and worked for the summer. But the issue is, like so many titles in the world, it doesn’t do justice to the actual work these people do. It doesn’t come close to communicating the critical roles, responsibilities and impact these people have on the lives of literally 10,000’s of young people every summer.
These important team members provide the moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day leadership required to provide campers with safe, exciting, memorable and life transforming experiences. Every person on our summer team leads. They may lead a group of campers or lead their peers or lead exciting activities and thoughtful programs, but every one of them leads. And every one of them also leads in the most powerful way a person can lead – through their example, by living in a way that when young people see them, they see Christ.
As you can see this job has significantly more responsibility than the title summer staff implies. The people who have these jobs are more than just staff, they are leaders, all 1200 of them.
So, in light of this reality, during summer staff training (in the future to be called leader training) I announced that we would no longer refer to them as summer staff, but instead, from this point forward they would be known as summer leaders. It’s a title that is worthy of the work these committed people do.
Over the years, it seems, the holiday season has become the shopping season with Black Friday and Cyber Monday matching Thanksgiving for our attention. But recently there has been a movement to bring our collective attention back to the holidays and more importantly to the spirit of season – thanksgiving, celebration and especially giving.
Following the shopping feast that is Thanksgiving weekend, Tuesday has officially become Giving Tuesday. It’s a day set aside for people around the world to give back, to contribute to those people and not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve others and better the world. Giving Tuesday builds on and expands the Christmas tradition of giving gifts to friends and family by encouraging us to give gifts which benefit people we may not know.
Now if you’re convinced that Giving Tuesday represents the right focus of our holiday season let me encourage you to donate to your favorite not-for-profit or ministry. If you’re not sure where you should give let me give you two places your gift will benefit kids. First, is the ministry I work for – SpringHill (click here) and the second, the Christian Camp and Conference Association’s Corner of the Fields camper scholarship fund (click here). By supporting organizations that work with kids you’re helping to build their future and the future of our world.
So please consider expanding the Thanksgiving weekend one more day beyond Cyber Monday and make Giving Tuesday a new tradition in your family.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is the fifth of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The opposite of this habit is simply not listening to others. And not listening to others is the third of seven behaviors that often causes a person to lose their job at organizations like SpringHill.
Not listening to others, like the other 6 behaviors that lead to people losing their jobs, is rooted in arrogance or its sister self-righteousness. Because when a person believes they know more than anyone else they conclude there’s nothing to learn from others.
Now not listening to others usually takes on one of two different forms.
The first is when a person does all the talking (because if you know everything there is to know then you assume everyone else will want to hear what you have to say). Doing all the talking and assuming that others want to know what you think is the epitome of self-centeredness and the opposite of being other-focused.
The second form of not listening is simply not asking questions or taking the initiative to seek out what others know or have to say. Real listening, listening that actively seeks to understand another person requires asking good and meaningful questions. Asking questions also keeps us humble and from slipping out of reality and into self-delusion.
Think about it, have you ever had a conversation or a relationship with someone where they did all the talking or never asked your thoughts or sought to get to know you? For me the message is the other person doesn’t believe I have anything of value to contribute. Or even worst, I begin to wonder if I have any value personally in their eyes. Either way, not listening to others slowly but surely erodes a relationship, and wearing out a relationship will always lead to wearing out one’s welcome in an organization.43.928283-85.286682