Caleb Course Reflections

It’s a week now since I finished an 11 day leadership training course and I thought it would be a good time to note down some highlights and reflections.  The objective of the Caleb Course is “to equip leaders to multiply ministry through mobilising and equipping their people.”  And I believe they achieve that.  Unlike many leadership conferences you don’t listen to lectures, buy books and then go home at night saying, “that was nice” and basically forget most or all of what you heard.  This was a very much a hands on approach with a heavy emphasis on application and skill development along with plenty of interaction (much of it wonderfully humorous).

Caleb Leaders

Here are our trainers. They’re not celebrities, they have no books after their name (that I know of); nor are they on the list of the Forbes 500.  They are just ordinary people with ordinary lives but with great leadership skills.  And they taught me a ton of stuff.  Phil (far left) quietly and consistently modelled to us the importance of having a depth of leadership character, Margie (2nd left) modelled good relational skills, Evan and Brett (centre) were great models of effective communication; John (green) helped me get my head around management skills, David (next to him) brought his many years of experience in leadership and Rex (far right), our fearless leader, basically watched over everything and made sure it was running right.  They worked as a fine team together.  And they weren’t simply interested in us as students and trainees, but as people.

Like with anything in life, you only get out of it what you put into it.  I went with a hunger to learn, knowing there were a number of areas in my own leadership that needed sharpening and as a result I benefited from it hugely.  In fact it will likely become one of the defining points in my life and ministry.  Let me share a few highlights:

Relationships.  Believe it or not, after 20 years of pastoral ministry there was room for improvement here.  Too many of my conversations are superficial and lack true care and concern for the individual (in other words, I’m not listening to their heart).  Caleb worked on that.  They taught us how to really listen – not just with empathy but understanding.  And then there were the 3 words: AFFIRM, AFFIRM, AFFIRM.  People need affirming and encouraging and as leaders that’s one of our key responsibilities.  I have started practicing it this week with amazing results.  People really respond to it. I even got 2 extra hugs from my daughters!

Communication.  I’m a pastor, I get up and speak to people all the time; I should be an expert at this – right?  Wrong.  Listen to people when they get up and speak.  There’s often way too much verbage, fill-ins, um’s and uh’s and unnecessary additions. And I’m no exception.  Caleb were militant on this.  Throughout the course we had to give a number of short talks (60 sec. 2 min. and 12 min).  And it was timed, to the second.  It was brutal, but valuable.  I’ll be using much of what I learned to help others in our church to prepare short, effective talks – the kind where people are left thinking, “that was great.”

Delegation.  No one had ever taught me how to do this properly.  I thought delegation involved explaining to someone how to do a job and sending them away to do it – right?  Wrong (again).  It’s much more than that.  It involves 3 simple but important steps: 1. I give you the desired results (don’t tell them how to do it), 2. You give me a plan of action (to ensure they are on the right track), and 3. We agree on the supervision (how this will be evaluated).  Brilliant.  Simple.  And effective.

Decision making.  This is probably one of my leadership strengths.  I have little problem making important decisions (and have difficulty choosing a flavour of an ice-cream).  But what about leading a team through a decision-making process?  That’s a whole different story.  To be honest, I tend to go in having my mind made up and then try and persuade everyone else to follow suit.  But that’s not team leadership nor will you accurately discern the mind of God (which is often revealed collectively, among God’s people).  Caleb taught us a simple process, prayerfully weighing up the essentials and non-essentials that leads the team to a decisive conclusion, without argument or debate.

That’s just a taster.  There was plenty more.  You can read about the weekend away in an earlier blog (see “Alone“), where we spend an extended amount of time assessing our own lives – where we’ve been, where we are now and where we are heading.  That alone was worth gold to me.

Thanks Caleb team, for investing a small part of your life in us for those 11 days, for your consistent care of us as people, and for your love for Jesus and your sparkle in life.  You left an indelible mark on all our lives.

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