Do you ever wish you had a time machine so you could go back and undo all the things you did that made you look silly?

Well, I wish I could turn back the clock and live my early twenties again knowing these five tips. It took me nearly a decade to figure these things out, and if someone would have put them in front of me like this when I was twenty-one, it would have saved me a decade of heartache and kept me from making a lot of terrible decisions.

#1 being on time means being early

I cannot emphasize this point enough. This may sound like a really anal concept, but there’s good functional reasoning behind being early instead of on time.

Let’s take talk about a meeting for example. By the time you dispense pleasantries with the other individuals in the room, put your stuff down, unpack your iPad, sip your coffee, and get totally settled in, a good three to five minutes has passed. This means that if you’re showing up on time, you’re actually engaging late.

Anyone who tells you that being on time is showing up when you’ve been asked to show up probably never needed to have a handle on anything extensive in their lives.

The scope of ministry work is so broad and cumbersome that every extra minute counts. So show up early, make your leader proud, get an extra minute of preparation in, and be known as the person who is always present when everyone else shows up.

#2 conflict should be resolved fast and face-to-face

Conflict is going to be a perpetual theme throughout your entire life. It is through conflict that we are challenged to grow sharper and more capable.

Conflict will definitely get the best of you if you’re not prepared to handle it correctly up front. One of the biggest problems I see with young leaders today is their inability to handle conflict without making the issue worse. I’m speaking from experience here; I have done some incredibly stupid things over the years as a response to conflict.

One of the biggest mistakes a person can ever make when trying to resolve conflict is seeking to do so electronically. Don’t get me wrong, emoticons are incredible ways to share how you’re feeling…in basically any circumstance that requires no seriousness at all.

However, we’re talking about real problems involving real people. This means a text message is absolutely not the way to go. As a matter of fact, it’s downright disrespectful to try and address a leadership or personal issue via a text message. I tell my staff that text messages are for any questions that can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No” and anything fun or unimportant.

This goes for Tweeting (sub-tweeting especially) or posting on Instagram as well. When we’re toe to toe in a conflict, it’s really easy to take the immature way out and complain to the world subtly about what’s going on. The reason it’s so easy is that it feels good until you realize you’re shrinking your platform of influence and making yourself look like a child in front of all your online followers.

Actually, the same goes for sharing your personal conflict with other individuals at all. The Word of God said it first; if you have a problem with someone, go handle it with them first. Sometimes the best advice is the advice you’ve had all along.

#3 success will come the day after tomorrow

One thing I have always said to my staff and the folks I work with is “anything is possible, but not today.” This is because I honestly do believe that anything is possible with God. However, I also know that patience is a fruit of the spirit for a reason.

The hard work you do today may not lead you to success today, and it may not even lead you to success tomorrow. Yet, if you work hard and keep your eyes fixed on the mission that God has given you, you will see success the day after tomorrow.

I’m not speaking literally here of course. The point is, the strategies and sacrifices of this day will pay off in the long run. Don’t get discouraged when you feel like your ministry and influence aren’t where you want them to be. Do your best and everything will ultimately end up exactly where it should be.

When I look back, I am constantly shocked at the level of influence I have considering where I came from, but it took me well over a decade to get here. So be patient, and just accept the fact that ministry is a long-term play.

#4 just because the older folks look at you as a kid doesn’t mean you need to act like one

It’s a trap! When someone over fifteen years beyond your age treats you like a less capable more childish person than you are, they’re trying to frame you.

They’re trying to frame you into their picturesque idea of who you should be, and it’s probably based on who they were at your age. It’s a sad human nature to want to keep younger people from becoming more successful than you are. Yet, it’s a real thing.

Don’t take the bait. Many people are expecting you to fail because you’re young. Rise above it. Do your best. Admit your mistakes, and learn from them every time. Most importantly though, be patient and understanding.

It’s hard for someone twice your age to accept that you have almost the same grasp on many of the ideas that they do. It’s a different world. Young leaders learn faster, achieve faster, influence faster, and they understand the state of the world more accurately. This can really be hard for someone of more advanced years to understand.

Have compassion for those who lead you, and don’t act like a child in response to the ways that they treat you like a child.

Plus, every single person in the world has something to teach you. You will never have a leader that has nothing to teach you. You will never run into someone older than you that doesn’t have more experiences than you.

So take what you can from them. Ask them questions about their lives and their beliefs. You don’t have to always agree with them, but you will gain influence in their lives by having respect for them, not challenging them, and throwing a fit every time they treat you like a child.

#5 be yourself, but allow everyone else to be themselves too

Challenging people to be themselves is basically one of my favorite things to do because I believe that God created every one of us with special skills that are more valuable than abilities we have from copying the behavior of others.

However, individuality is an art more than a science. There is a very fine line between being yourself, and behind disrespectful to those who are different.

One leadership lesson I had to learn early on was that being ambassadorial was almost always more valuable than showing off who I was to the individual.

Making peace was always more important than starting debates. Making peace caused so many more people to respect and follow my lead, while creating debates created lines that separated people from myself.

For instance, when a person who is sixty-five years old says they don’t believe you should have cell phones in church, your response is probably an explanation of how people use them to access their bibles, and share what’s happening at church on social media, which in turn spreads the word.

At this point, they could be fairly reasonable and accept that as a really good explanation. However, they could also push back and begin to tell you all the ways that it’s distracting to them, or explain that they believe it’s disrespectful to God’s house.

Rather than escalating the cycle of trying to assert your generation over theirs, try asking them questions. Try to understand why this is important to them. Tell them that they have great points, and although you can’t change the way things are, you have a great respect for those ideals.

If you really want to make an impact on them and gain their respect, tuck your phone away and sit next to them in church on Sunday with a good old-fashioned paper Bible.

The idea is to be yourself when it is fitting, but make peace and grow your leadership purview from a position of understanding and learning.

There are far too many times when I tried to prove that who I am, or the way my generation acts is better than the opposing individual instead of appreciating and allowing them to be themselves in the way God created them as well.

we love training young leaders

If you, or someone on your staff, is in a new position, we would love to get them the training they need to be successful at their job. Leadership is at the center of our expert ministry training, and this absolutely includes training the next generation to lead.

Blog posts are great ways to get going the right direction, but our intensive training sessions can really help someone get themselves in the best possible position in their first year on the job; especially if someone is under thirty.

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TK Dennis

TK Dennis

Chief Executive Officer

TK has worked in the church for over a decade and brings years of executive leadership experience along with years of experience in media and technology. TK has a Masters in Public Administration and is an expert of navigating the minefield of procedural issues churches experience. He’s not quite so stuffy though; he is vibrantly creative and understands what it takes to create and plan a weekend from start to finish including video, music, and production.