"RISE" Youth Empowerment Event

In early February, I had an opportunity to speak with a group of 8-11 grade students from one of the local school districts. This opportunity offered me to reach nearly 350 students while speaking to a 3 groups in 3 separate 45 minute workshops.

When I was informed of this event, initially called on a Monday, I was informed that there would be more to follow when it came to how many people were attending, and length of time offered to speak.

To bring this into perspective, I normally conduct a one day 8 hour course, that targets ethical voice, servant leadership, motivation, and resiliency; however I was not informed about how the day would go, however after being informed I was required to chop this down into a 45 minute workshop, for high school students, and did not receive my finial confirmation until the Thursday before, leaving me less that 48 hours to make this work. Not to mention a house filled with 5 children, and having to work both Thursday and Friday night before, which really only left me about 3-4 hours to make this happen.

Once I arrived home on Friday night after a evening of work, I quickly turned on my computer and started to chop and edit my curriculum, to fit the necessary time line, and only a few short hours later I came to the final product, leaving me both a bit nervous, since I would have to relearn the flow, and some of the videos, and other reference items were hit or miss.

When I woke, just 4 hours later, it was off to get ready for the event. As I arrived there was someone who greeted me with a smile, and said, you're Erik right. I was taken back, because I had no idea who these people where, and she said to me, I checked you out on facebook, and recognized you. I though, at least she recognized me face. As she escorted me to my room for the day.

As the young men started to flow in, you could feel much of their nervousness of the young men, along with the others there to speak to these young men about, “How to live a fulfilled life, and not stray or go down a wrong path”. To follow your dreams, don’t get lost in the streets, stay on track and complete school, where much of what was the verbiage for the day.

Once the last bus arrived and all the young men were checked in, it was game time to develop these young leaders.

As I sat patiently in my room awaiting the first group to arrive, I had some inspirational videos playing, and once I hit play, they started to walk in, but something seems off, and to be honest I remember when I was in school, I didn’t want to be there on a Saturday, but I was told that these individuals signed up for it.

As the last one for my first group sat in his chair, I could feel the tension, and what felt like I was about to get into a battle, I turned off the video and ask “who here really wants to be here” and of all 20 in the room only 2 raised their hands. This was when I felt as though it was going to be a long day.

As I started with my opening, and walking them through the “powerpoint” I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing, and at that moment I threw out the entire game plan. These kids didn’t want to sit here and look at a power point, they needed to have a real conversation about what leadership is and what it looks like, so with that idea, I decided to take a different approach and I decided to speak on how to follow.

I ask them “who here knows what a disciple is”, and one stepped up and said a follower right, and we were off. This launched these young men into a conversation that was guided by 5 motivational principles.

But first I asked these to very important questions:

  1. Are you motivated To become a better servant leaders
  2. To develop and identify your purpose while empowering others to  reach & lead others
After these question were presented we dove into the 5 principles.

1. Know their name:  I ask them if I were your leader and didn’t know you name how would you feel. This allowed me to break the ice with them and give them the insight of one who cares

  • To impact a one’s life, you need to care about them as an individual—know their name and extend a personal invitation to get to know them. 
  • Many individuals respond best one-on-one. (shake hands, look them in the eye, and let them see you care
  • bring words of encouragement -  this can help others break the chains the hold over themselves
  • help individuals see what they may not see & help them become what they want to be
  • Helping others in seeing A clear, simple prescription to bring individuals to maturity. 
  • It’s mature people who can take others under their wing and show you how to walk a better life. 
2. Know their passions: What they loved and like to do, many played sports
  • Know and understand individuals joys, passions, hobbies, and personal story. 
    • (If they want to share it with you)
  • Understand your target audience. Be specific. Don’t try to be all things to all people. 
    • (people are drawn to activities that have a specific theme or topic)
  • Show that you are willing to walk with them as they face their fears & take risks. 
  • Understanding their passions will help you lead with the ultimate source of strength, hope, and courage
3. Know their pain: What affected them in their lives that eventful molded them into who they were in that moment
  • There is value in going beyond small talk and addressing felt needs. 
  • Be a skilled listener, hear what’s missing and ask important questions. 
    • (Listening is probably the most valuable skill you can possess. when we feel ashamed, these critical details may be too painful or embarrassing to recall.)
  • Be willing to accept their differences without being judgmental or critical. 
  • We are not all alike so we must respect that within one another
4. Know their heart: What relationships are your building
  • Discipleship/Followership begins with relationship.
    • (You can’t grow with someone who is unwilling to share give all their heart)
  • Get past knowing ones name and seek to find their passion and pain
  • We all have hurts, fears, insecurities, and wounds, But they are also the places that offer the greatest potential for life transformation & growth. 
  • How purposeful and motivated are you in getting to know those you lead? (Too often we talk more about ourselves. Active listening intentionally builds trust and makes others feel valued.)

5. Know yourself: Do this first and foremost to really have a grounding of who you really are, allowing to the understanding to help other grow in themselves

  • You cannot lead others without leading yourself first. you must first get yourself right and your family
  • Are you also a follower (one must follow to lead and lead to follow)
  • Be self aware, always 
  • To have others follow you it is important to remember that this is not just
    • a friendship
    • a teacher-student relationship
    • an accountability partner. 
    • a small group meeting
It is all the elements listed above, with a commitment to model integrity, ask tough questions, listen with discerning ears, and not let you settle for anything less than their best.

As the events came to a close for the day, the only thing that asked for them to take away from the day was to remember me, in hopes that I made an impact, not what they learned, but really me. Why? Some may ask, is because if they remember me, I can always remind them of what we talked about, however if they forget who I am, this information may never reach them again. What I have noticed in my years of leadership is,
no matter how many people you come across daily, if they walk away forgetting who you are, did you even make a change or impact in those people? 




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