I really enjoyed the Student Leadership Institute conference this past week at Prestonwood Christian Academy. We spent about a day and a half hearing about SLi and how God is using that program to challenge students to impact the culture with a biblical worldview.
Larry Taylor, Head of School at Prestonwood Christian Academy, started SLi when he was at First Christian Academy in Orlando. He has been doing SLi at Prestonwood since he arrived there 7 years ago. One of the things that impresses me the most about Larry Taylor is his excitement about investing in students.
A lot of the things we talked about concerning SLi are not new to me. Many of the components are basic leadership development techniques. I am glad to say that many of the things he mentioned are already taking place at North Cobb Christian School. There are some other components that they have implemented that I am excited about putting into action at NCCS. After hearing the presentation and asking Larry some questions, I think that SLi might be just the tool we are looking for to organize our efforts as we seek to develop students who are going to impact the culture for Christ.
I love learning about leadership. I believe that leadership is something that God instills in a person. I love reading books about it, going to conferences about it, and talking about it with other leaders.
Larry shared a great illustration about developing leadership in students. He told us that he has four sons. As each of us his sons got to be old enough, he taught them how to cut the grass. He would spent some time with them showing the how the lawn mower worked and talking about safety. Then, he would have them watch while he mowed the yard. They could pick up sticks and rocks and help prepare the yard to be mowed. Next, they would help by emptying the bag and putting in gas and that sort of thing. Then Larry would give them a chance to mow small parts of the grass. Then they would mow the entire yard by themselves while Larry monitored.
He told us that the first few times his sons mowed the yard, it didn’t turn out so well. There were some parts that they missed and some places that could have looked better. He would point those spots out as areas they might want to focus on a little more next time. He said that the first few times, the grass didn’t look all that great. However, after a while he said he could finally go inside and sit down and have a glass of tea while watching football and listening to the lawnmower in the background. Finally the boys were able to see on their own places that needed to be done better. In order for them to learn how to cut the grass well, he had to just let them start cutting the grass.
It’s the same way when it comes to developing leaders. I can’t expect high school students to come right out of the gate as fully developed leaders. However, I can give them opportunities to lead right now. The first few times they stand up in front of an audience or enter a debate about ethics, it might not be pretty. The success of our leadership program comes from the way we respond and help students grow through those messy experiences. It is our job to teach them theory and then give them a “safe country” to practice it in. “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” Jeremiah 12:5
If my students are going to stumble as they develop, I want to make sure it happens under the watchful and loving eye of Christian teachers and administrators that can walk them through the learning process. If our students are going to be out on the weekends engaging in debates about ethics, current events, politics, religion, etc., I want to make sure they are ready for action. Before they head out to college and their future careers, it is our responsibility to make sure they know how to engage the culture and influence their peers with a biblically sound stand on the issues.
Over the next several weeks, we will be having meetings and talking about the best way to implement SLi at North Cobb Christian. Now is the time to give our students an opportunity to start “cutting the grass”.
Lord, give me opportunities to teach students to make a difference for Christ in our world. When those opportunities arise, give me the wisdom to point them to you and your Word.
Mstrange@ncchristian.org i miss you and i hope your spring break is just supurb!!!
funny thing about lawn mowers and leaders…. they no matter how good they are at what they do, for some reason people only look to them when things are out of control…. that and they both fill up with stuff that has to be unloaded frequently in order to function.
Another funny thing about cutting the grass…I know from experience…you become better at mowing the grass through practice, but you only care about how well you cut the grass when you’ve got some ownership of the yard. It really comes down to feeling invested in something. Then, initiative takes you beyond where the best training and practice ever could.