Learning Style Affects The Way We Lead
I have been sitting in classrooms, lectures and conferences over the years and I realize my learning style is much more about taking in information. I take this information in, take relevant notes, process any immediate application it has for me personally and then write out questions or note down the “unknown”, that this info has caused me to contemplate and then I throw out information that I believe is insignificant or overly subjective. I think my generation is much more open to learning by scholastic teaching and how-to protocol while the generation before me was taught by a hands-on, authoritative approach.
The children of the 1950’s and 60’s went to school and did their scholastics because they were told to, my generation did their scholastics because we were told it benefited us, and now the Millennials are more likely to learn or take on academics because it makes sense. I learned from great teachers, good books and the beginning thrust of scholastic internet. Millennials are learning from youtube, non-traditional forms of schooling and emotional gratification. Of course, this is all based on my experience in leading and working alongside people in multiple generations and this is not necessarily some scientific law.
We live in a society that bombards us with ads, trending articles and entertainment that could literally waste our lives if we tried to read and retain it all. We can barely turn any of it off, our phones, tvs, radio, computers, tablets, watches and even outdoor advertising keeps us plugged in and unless we make a concerted effort to literally shut it all off, we are susceptible. Is this all bad? No, I love being connected but I often need to be sensitive to when it becomes destructive.
My learning style means that I could learn from someone simply because they have done it before I did and I want to know more. See, to me knowledge is life leverage. I grew up hearing that knowing a little bit of everything would help me to be successful and mastering more than one career would make me more valuable. While this has been true for my life, times are changing and both careers and ministry positions are changing in our western culture.
Changing the Way We Lead
If we want to lead a media bombarded generation, we need to be able to cut through the noise of their lives. Because this generation can click a link and get instant gratification, the behavior of this generation can come off as entitled. From a distance, it seems that unless is suits, entertains, improves, or eases their lives, their is no chance of leading them. The truth is a millennial does not want to be mentored or lead in the first place. They want relationships that are mutually beneficial, they want to make a difference from the word go and leaders tend to put a cap on the impact they can make now. When I take a 20 year old on a missions trip and let them loose to make an impact, I just did exponentially more to lead them than if I gave them 20 hours a week of lectures.
If I am coaching someone who is 25, I can lecture them until I am blue in the face and not get the results either of us desire from the relationship. I can assign books and videos, but I will not help change their lives. Why is this? What am I doing wrong, am I just a bad practitioner of the same teaching and coaching techniques that I learned from? While that can be argued as true, for this case in point let us assume that I am just as good as the teachers I had. What is the problem? It’s not relevant! From subjects as Algebra to Good Financial Planning, the case is the same. It makes no significant impact in their lives, so they may tune you out. Our education system still works in some ways because we basically hold “bad grades” as form of punishment and the fear of failure still has a grip on this generation at least until junior high.
As a preacher, teacher and communicator, I believe myself to be more of a story teller. I think I have more impact on Millennials when I can relate a given principle to their lives and illustrate the effectiveness of any change or addition of knowledge I hope they can embrace. When I was a kid in Sunday School and youth ministry, we were preached to. We basically received a pared down version of the adult curriculum or sermons and that was considered adequate. Today, a youth pastor is not most effective in the pulpit, the YP is most effective as a planner and strategist. If I could teach a course on youth pastoring 101, I would love to say these few things: prepare professionally, love unconditionally, preach sparingly, live the gospel generously (you should tweet that).
The current generation does not want to sit through a 1.5 hour service or class where the teacher/leader speaks more than half the time, hands off the fun stuff to someone else and then disappears for the rest of the week. This is not about youth ministry either. One of the greatest teachers I have ever had was a music teacher at Bayonne High School. She changed my life, quite literally. Why?
Time Spent Does Not Equal Investment Given
I was going down a really bad road and she took me in. She took a talent (if I could really call it that) to sing and act and put me to work. She spent time with me, allowed me to hang out and learn when I had nowhere else to go. I was suspended for almost one year and I had a choice to either hang out on the streets or stay in choir room for much of the day (thanks to my cousin Kristyn who introduced the idea). She got into my life personally, her husband loved on me and invited me over for Bible Study and actually cared about me. There is so much I could say about that and perhaps even write a couple chapters about servant leadership based on their lives, but for the sake of brevity I will conlcude. She chose to be real with me and I was able to be real with her and where my life was headed. Lydia and Gabe Megale made a difference in my life, period… and we should strive to do that in someone else’s life.
This generation needs that type of leadership, the kind that takes risks! If we are to lead this generation, we need to stop seeing problems and start seeing people. Our executive pastor at CLC says this all the time and he also says, we should choose to see people as seeds not cups. I will go into more of that in part 3.
When I first started in leadership, I used to talk about how much time I spent or invested in someone. I would then see them crash and burn and then feel bad about myself and sad for them. This is the wrong way to gauge my leadership effectiveness. To this generation, time spent does not equal investment given. They measure investment in terms of relevance and life impact.
What are your thoughts? Have any input?