Formal, Structured Conversation Is Useful for Learning

You learn a lot by talking to the right people. Informal, unstructured conversations over coffee can be surprisingly revealing.

But there’s nothing wrong with structuring conversation for particular learning. One on one or with a group, setting aside time to process a particular issue or experience for the sake of harvesting learning and growth is invaluable. It might feel forced, but it’s worth trying.

We did this in the Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohort I’ve written about before. Participants had 20 minutes to present an issue, and then the cohort got five minutes to ask clarifying questions followed by five minutes to offer constructive feedback. The whole thing was meticulously refereed, which made a big difference.

I’ve also used a thing called a Leadership Learning Conversation with my professional development people. It’s not as specific with the timing of things. Instead, it structures a conversation around a series of questions the presenter addresses: what is the issue, briefly stated? What is at stake with this issue? What have you already tried? What do you need?

I love being parts of these intentional conversations. Whether I’m asking the question or listening to it, I always learn something.


My Sweater Game Needs No Leveling Up

I’m kind of love with the idea of “leveling up” at the moment. The work we do is multiform, and the only way we get better is by choosing to work on particular pieces of it.

Sometimes that’s a choice to seek out a training or a coach. Learning Godly Play was a major leveling up for me (I did that with a partner–that’s never a bad idea). The Youth Ministry Coaching Program I did in 2012 was another one. I’m looking to level up even further with that particular platform in the coming months.

Other times it’s a choice to take advantage of some circumstance we didn’t create, like using a budget shortfall as a chance to level up our financial management game or putting a season of unemployment to work learning a different field. Choosing to level up means refusing to be a passive recipient of whatever slings and arrows come our way.

Where can you level up in the next six months?

(for the record, my sweater game needs no leveling up, according to Reverend Fem).

What Are You Reading?

Cribbing Seth Godin again for this late edition. In this post, he takes down people who aren’t doing the reading. Here’s the money quote:

The reading isn’t merely a book, of course. The reading is what we call it when you do the difficult work of learning to think with the best, to stay caught up, to understand.

So, for those of you in youth ministry, how are you doing the reading? I read everything Kenda Creasy Dean writes, and the research of danah boyd is invaluable. I also like the work that Sherry Turkle is doing on conversation in a digital age, because so much of that work focuses on teenagers and young adults. Andy Root’s writing on the theological foundations of youth ministry seems really important too.

As for non-book reading, the Progressive Youth Ministry conference is a marquee opportunity to think with some of the best youth workers in the church today.

For my money, a Youth Ministry Coaching Program cohort is one of the best ways to do the reading these days.

What about you? How are you doing the youth ministry reading?

Put Me in, Coach (Youth Ministry Version) Revisited

TheYouth Ministry Coaching Program wrapped up this week with the last of six two-day gatherings in San Diego with the great bearded Mark Oestreicher. The balance of our time was spent sharing growth affirmations and challenges we’d all written for one another–a slightly awkward thing, sitting silent for 20 minutes as people tell you what they think is great about you and how you could yet grow (the awkwardness was relieved a bit when, just as one cohort member was extolling my “thoughtfulness,” my new ringtone went off).

Peter, Tim, Margie, Armando, Wes, Pat, Drew, Josh, Jesse, and, of course, Marko: thanks for your honesty and attention. You’ve all made me better.

In the next couple of blog posts I’m going to share some of the growth challenges I received. My aim is to hear how you all do the things I’ve been challenged to do and to broaden the community of practitioners I interact with.

For example, one very helpful challenge was to build my playful and silly side. I tend toward the straight-faced and analytical, so I need to seek frivolity in my calling.

How do YOU do that? How do you seek opportunities to be playful? How do you build silliness into your work? For those of you who do, what is the effect it has on you and your work?

Here’s something to get us started: