Are You Developmentally Challenged?

Okay, okay. I’m not trying to belittle any true challenges or struggles people face today. Please, don’t send any hate mail.

The question posed here has to do with your continual growth, both personally and professionally. Are you growing? How are you facilitating that growth? Do you even believe that you need to grow?

You’ve probably heard this adage: “You cannot truly sit still. You are either moving forward or backward.” It’s been applied to our Christian walk, our relationships, and our professional lives. But do we take it seriously? Do we live like this statement is true?

As part of our team and professional development, our staff have enjoyed watching sessions from Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit. We took advantage of a closeout on DVDs that put together five or six sessions under different topics.

In one of these sessions, Bill Hybels detailed for us his personal development plan. Through these steps, Bill is working towards maximum efficiency when it comes to leadership.  Here they are:

  1. First and foremost, he reads everything he can find on the topic of leadership. He stated that he keeps two leadership books in his briefcase at all times.
  2. He says to go where leadership is taught. I don’t what your budget for travel and conferences is like, but mine doesn’t exist. That’s why we’re buying and watching DVDs like we are. According to Bill, “Every time you go in an environment with other leaders where leadership is being taught well, you are going to grow.”
  3. We should also spend time with leaders who are ahead of us. If we take time to think out intelligent questions and respect their time, leaders who are ahead of us may be willing to indulge us a bit.
  4. Lead something, because “90% of what leaders learn they learn by leading.”

Why bring this up? We’re in the middle of our own leader’s summit at our church. The goal is to develop and challenge our core leadership team.

When we hear something like Bill’s development plan, some natural questions should follow: “Do I have a plan?” “Am I going forward, or coasting into oblivion?”

You may have noticed that I’ve started linking to book reviews that I post on another site (www.christianbooklounge.com). I’ve always shared at least the first step of Bill’s plan: read everything you can. I know not everyone can read every book that is out there, so I hope that by sharing tidbits of the books that I’ve read, people can find out more about books that might benefit them at their time of need.

I subscribe to another blogger that often posts book reviews. Around Christmas he wrote a post listing seven books he was already planning to read here in 2009. At first I thought it strange to be making a list of what to read. Over the past few years, I’ve just kind of bought what sounds interesting, or what was related to the book project I was writing.

But shouldn’t we be purposeful in our plan? Why are we reading? What do we hope to gain from it?

I admit that I haven’t read much fiction in the past couple of years, except for the whole of the Narnia series so I could find some great info out of it. In getting caught up in whatever, I often found myself in three, sometimes four books at a time. As a result I would take months to actually finish them.

I’ve made pledge this year to keep my reading to two books at a time. For instance, I’m currently reading a long fiction book (over 500 pages) while reading more developmental books. Some of those books are for my personal development (ministry, leadership, Christian living, personal growth), and some for professional development (leadership, branding, change).

You could say I’ve adopted this quote from the life of Thomas Jefferson: “I cannot live without books.” Not all of us are readers, but we all need to find a way to grow, to glean from others and be challenged and inspired to do and become more.

Sometimes it’s good to follow the wind of the Spirit when picking up a book. I had a year where I picked up books from unknown authors or an fringe topics that I’m not sure how they made it into my hands, but I blessed and encourage by them. Other times, though, it helps to add a little direction, to water a specific seed in our lives on purpose.

So what are you reading right? What are you developing? Maybe you’re not. Don’t fall back. Stretch yourself. That’s what the plants around us are doing. They’re stretching for the light, their source of life. (Now that’ll preach.)

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