I’m totally biased, but I kinda think my husband Dennis is a super genius. (You don’t read these posts, do you, hon? Don’t want a statement like that to go to your head.) On his blog, blog.trainforpurpose.com,my husband wrote an inspiring post based on his time at TEDxAustin. I will now attempt to interact with his post “Learn this to change the world: Big Solutions REQUIRE a really big question first.”
An introduction from Dennis:
I attended TEDxAustin this past weekend, and I really enjoyed and was inspired by all the people that came on the stage and how powerfully they we changing the world for the better. They say TED is about celebrating and spreading ideas, but I was struck by how much all of the speakers on the stage had DONE. just check out this speakers list :http://tedxaustin.com/TEDxAustin-2012-Program.pdf
A world record holder in free diving, Someone training dozens of doctors in Iraq, A recognized and awarded Musician and conductor, An accomplished photographer, Successful and energized urban renewal activist. These speakers had done a lot.
I was also struck by something else, the similar process they went through to get to where they were. I am going to try to distill what I heard down to a few points that seemed to recur frequently during their “Life in 18 min” talks.
First, See the bigger problem
Almost every speaker had a more or less common problem, experience and took a different or second look at it. And they saw something larger than what they were dealing with.
Michael McDaniel who looked beyond the news of Katrina and the sad pictures of the first few days and weeks and saw a huge injustice in the way people who had lost their homes were being housed.
David R. Dow who handles death row cases, looked beyond the problem of the trial and appeal process and said literally “how can I make this problem bigger?” and started to see the amazingly similar backgrounds and stories that make up the most common back story for 80% of the people currently on death row.
Chris Bliss, Who looked beyond the “10 commandments public display” controversy to find a truly mind boggling lack of the celebration of the bill of rights.
Taryn Davis, who saw beyond her own pain and loss to see that there is an entire generation of people, just like her, that did not have support, and even google could not figure out where to point them.
Luis von Ahn, who we saw pre-recorded, took a look at the success of his captcha technology and looked beyond that to see the tremendous amount of time that was being wasted daily on a global scale.
Jeremy Courtney, who looked beyond the one sad father that wanted him to help find his child a lifesaving surgery in America, to see the massive epidemic that was going on in Iraq.
So step one is to take a point of view that sees something bigger. It was often not sought out, but something that these speakers found themselves in. Some of them were people who had trained for years to be in the field, but the vast majority were people pursuing something else, and when they encountered a problem, took enough time to see the bigger problem behind it.
See the bigger problem. So, if I am going to take step one to heart, I’ve gotta tell you that the big problem I see is too many broken people in youth ministry. The people aren’t broken so much as they are abused by a system that will let them work with at best one day off a week, pay them poorly, criticize what they do and expect more than can be done. I have more than a few friends who are talented, smart people full of love for Christ and young people that essentially got beat up by their churches. It’s frustrating to hear about people leaving the church because members of the church or senior pastors think it is okay to dump on them. No youth worker is perfect, no youth worker will ever be perfect. But unlike ordained clergy, there is no system or set of standards in place to protect youth workers from losing their jobs unexpectedly, from working crazy hours, from being criticized, from neglecting their own care.
Obviously this varies for every church. I’ve seen churches with incredibly healthy ministries and healthy relationships between the student ministry staff & pastor as well as staff & congregation. I get the sense that where there is ministry health it is directly related to the leadership of the church.
Step 2, Ask a really crazy bold question
I have written before about the power of questions. I have seen firsthand how powerfully the world can shift if you earnestly seek an answer to a good enough question.
Jeremy asked, how can I do something that will make sure that every child in Iraq that needs a lifesaving surgery can get it?
Taryn asked how she could help all the military widows reclaim their lives and identity and look forward to waking up?
David asked, What can we do as a society to prevent murder in the first place?
Michael asked, How can we provide descent emergency shelter that can be deployed anywhere it is needed in time to meet the need?
And most boldly of all was Luis, who asked the very powerful question, in the 10s on average that someone takes to do a captcha, can we get them to do something useful at the same time? The emphasis is mine. The genius of and thinking is really apparent there.
And what is amazing is that every person on the stage was well on their way to providing a definitive answer to these crazy questions. But they could not be where they were if they had not responded to seeing a bigger problem, by asking what must have seemed at the time to be an impossible question.
So be sure to ask yourself a question that will solve a problem in the most _________way possible.
(pick one or two here) Audacious, Impossible, Resolute, Passionate, Just, Permanent, Life-changing, Bold, Crazy, Immediate, Unexpected, Complete, Fearless, Imaginative, Powerful
We all solve problems every day, often we don’t look beyond the face of the problem presented, and if we do, we only use that insight into the bigger world to just solve our problem better. To live into a bigger destiny, you need to take those moments of insight into the bigger problems of the world, and make your problem bigger, ask a bigger question.
My big questions. The word that rolls around in my head the most is ADVOCACY. As in, who is an advocate for youth workers in the church? Who is standing up for them? How can I be a voice that reconciles the conflict between youth workers and their churches? How can I communicate what is reasonable to expect from a person in youth ministry?
Step 3, You ARE the leader, Take action, Now
If you are going to ask the big questions, you also need to “get comfortable with the fact you will be a leader” that aspect was mentioned multiple times, by Chris regarding his monumental project for the bill of rights, Jason Roberts when talking about his projects in Oak Cliff, By Michael and by Jeremy. They might not have felt comfortable being the leader, they might not have had the experience to do this on paper, but they all leaned into the discomfort and looked around and saw that they were the leader that was needed.
Chris even mentioned a point where he was looked around the room, and found himself staring in the mirror, and how he knew at that point, if it was going to get done.. It was going to be him.
And then he took the leap, and so did the others. They made the commitment. They took the plunge and jumped, not into the know, but into the compelling unknown.
One of the speakers quoted W.H. Murray
The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
I don’t believe I can improve on those words.
Whatever you are wrestling with starting today. Begin it now.
Hmmm. So here I am. A reluctant leader? Or am I even by myself here with these questions?
Are great organizations like Simply Youth Ministry’s Simply Soul Care and We Love Our Youth Worker the only voices out there? Who else is standing up for the youth worker and setting standards for youth workers and churches?
Anyone wrestling with these questions besides me?
And does anyone else dare to ask their own big questions?