Summer is almost here. (For some it is here, for some of use we are literally limping through the end of school. Seriously, will it ever end? That is a post for another day though I think.) Yes, this space after school is usually filled with camp and trips. However, what I love most about summer-time and my students is they relax. What I mean is the pressure feels off for a little while with merely a focus on vacation, sports camp and perhaps an occasional job. There is just something about the lack of school that goes a long way. I have this idea for the summer to teach “leadership lessons” in a practical sense. There is always a small group of students we want to cultivate. We mentor, use curriculum and may even attend a leadership type conference with our students. However, I think what we often fail to remember is that leadership is an everyday adventure. It isn’t just about organizing an event or being in charge of something “major” it begins with creating some habits. Here are some things we are going to try:
Eye Contact And Name Calling: Dale Carnegie said this: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” Take a trip to the mall or really anyplace that has employees that wear name tags. They will need some spending money. (If you want to make it an added bonus see below.) The goal is to start a conversation with the person checking them out, looking them in the eye and call them by name. The person at the check out will probably say something like, “How are you today?” They need to respond with, “Good, How are you?” Then learn small talk, while at then end of the purchase say, “Thank you (insert name.)” People notice when you call them by name, and acknowledge them. I have had more than one person in retail thank me for hanging up my phone when I am checking out with them. They are people not robots. We will discuss what they got out of it after the fact. If they can interact with a store employee by asking them questions, this is a bonus. Learning to acknowledge people, look them in the eye and be cordial is a valuable leadership lesson.
Random Acts of Giving: For an added bonus, have students buy some things they can give away in random acts of kindness. One summer we made up baskets and dropped them off at a retirement home. We included small gifts, candy, bath products, ways to be giving. They can buy something for a neighbor, or a church member. The goal is to purchase something and give it away unnoticed. Giving without being noticed is a great lesson in stepping up because it teaches us that accolades isn’t the point.
Customer Service: There are three stores KNOWN for their service: Starbucks, Chik-Fil-A and Apple. If you have one of these near you, spend an hour there. Have students observe employees. How do they treat their customers? Is there anything that stands out to them about these employees? If you don’t have these stores, just spend an hour in a busy fast food place. Which employees stand out? Which are not helpful? Discuss it as it is going on, or afterwards. Learning to treat people with respect that goes above and beyond is a huge leadership lesson.
Media Log: Part of leading is understanding integrity. To me this is about “practicing what you preach.” Students need to know that their decisions do make a difference. What they watch, or hear gets stuck in their thought life. The issue isn’t about judgement, but we can end up looking so much like the “world” that unbelievers don’t see a difference. For two weeks keep a log along with your students about what you watch (T.V., Movies, YouTube, etc.), play (video games, tablet/smart phone games), read (books for and not for school, graphic novels etc.), listen to (music or anything that goes in their ears.) or post (anything you are putting on social media, or thoughts you are texting to others.) Have them track their favorites. Answer these questions: Does this help me think on God (honestly?) If the answer is No: then does it make you think about things that hurt your relationship with Him? (Honestly) Is it not “good” or “bad?” What do you want to see, listen to, etc, that you are choosing not to? Why? Then talk about this log. Use this as a launching point to discuss integrity and how these are our first choices, but our choices do affect our relationship with Lord. Everything that doesn’t actively bring us closer to the Lord isn’t “bad,” but we do need to be careful. This is not about keeping a list of “rules,” this is about helping them to understand how to stand out in a dark world.
I have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve. We are going to read a leadership book together. I am thinking about “Master Leaders,” by George Barna because it gives a great overview on the topic. Some of these students are only 14, but I am excited to help them practically see that their faith and leadership goes hand in hand. We may talk about the importance of accountability. I know we are going to talk about service going far beyond any trip. So many lessons are out there. I can’t wait to use the summer to show them in actions.
What would you do?