Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Preparing Youth To Lead When They Leave

As youth development professionals, we spend a good deal of our time preparing students on how to get things: an internship, a job, a mentor, etc. We do not, however, spend enough time teaching them the proper way to leave the internship, job or mentorship. As a result, we are developing a generation of young people who have an idea on how to create relationships, but do not know how to maintain them.

As the CEO of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), I am always aware that our organization will not always be the right fit for every young man who enters our middle school pipeline. Even still, those who make it to the Ambassador Program don’t always finish the course. My mentor Bill McLellan once told me, ‘95% of the falls in mountain climbing occur in the last 5% of the climb’. Sometimes we just don’t finish things well, but we don’t have to go through life burning bridges.

Below are three ways that our organization prepares our Ambassadors to lead when they leave; either through program completion or attrition:

• Discuss the end at the beginning: Kelli and I have a 14-year-old daughter who is a beautiful girl in spirit and beauty. Undoubtedly, we are entering the stage of teenage life that most parents dread: dating. Although Mackenzi is at least a year or more from having a boyfriend (emphasis on ‘or more’), she knows the one question that any young man who asks to be in her presence must answer – ‘How are you going to break up with my daughter?’ As my mentor Dr. Covey says, we have to begin with the end in mind. When everybody’s heart is gushing at the beginning of a new relationship, that’s the best time to talk about how each party will behave when and if it becomes necessary to part ways.

• Evaluate Commitment Daily: Earning and keeping the Ambassador status is not an easy thing to do. I often equate our programming to the Military Academies; this isn’t for the general enlisted, but for young men who are willing to submit themselves to training that will test them on a daily basis in various areas of their lives. If an Ambassador is not asking himself everyday, ‘Do I really want to do this?’, then we aren’t doing our jobs right. Young people under your leadership should be encouraged to revaluate their commitment to your organization each day. This pause allows them to not only reflect, but to also recommit themselves for the challenges ahead.

• Don’t Be Afraid of Attrition: There are those who equate attrition to poor service and poor leadership and this assertion is true, sometimes. Attrition can also be attributed to choice. Sometimes people leave because they are not willing to adhere to the program standards that have been set before them. L.E.A.D. is a six-year program; what was good for a young man in the 6th grade, might not be what he wants in the 9th grade and that’s ok. Our job is to ensure that we’ve done all we can to prepare him to be a good steward over the relationships and opportunities that will come his way- whether we’re in his life or not. In addition, we also want to be sure we’re providing the best programming we can, so I strongly suggest doing periodic surveys. The feedback from these surveys will help to keep your program activities fresh, relevant and impactful.

Through technological innovation, our world has become so wide; the way we make it smaller and more personable is through relationships. Let’s be sure as men and women who are leading young people that we are preparing them to lead even when they have to leave.

Special thanks to L.E.A.D. Ambassador DeMarkus Parris (Alonzo Crim High School c/o 2017, Atlanta Public Schools) and Rose Caplan for helping me write this blog.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Thankful To Live Out Of My Wilderness

Life on earth is indeed a wilderness experience and I'm grateful to be a part of God's eternal plan. I share the 40 things below that I'm most thankful for as a challenge to myself because I need to know what I'm thankful for in order to also know what to ask God for in prayer.

1. Thankful to be among the living.

2. Thankful for being a follower of Christ.

3. Thankful for being the husband of Kelli Stewart.

4. Thankful for being the father of Mackenzi and Mackenna Stewart.

5. Thankful for being born to Willie and Gail Stewart.

6. Thankful for being a brother to Nicole and Erica Stewart.

7. Thankful being a grandson to two healthy age 91 grandmothers Elizabeth Dunn and Lizzie Moss.

8. Thankful for being an uncle, a nephew and a cousin.

9. Thankful for being born and raised in Atlanta.

10. Thankful to know my purpose in life which is to be significant and to serve millions by bringing them into a relationship with Christ Jesus starting with my wife Kelli and my daughters Mackenzi and Mackenna.

11. Thankful for several close friends.

12. Thankful for haters.

13. Thankful that I can forgive haters.

14. Thankful that I can be peaceable with haters.

15. Thankful for being the CEO of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) who's mission is to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.

16. Thankful for being the fulfillment of L.E.A.D.'s mission with the support and prayers of people like you.

17. Thankful for being an unapologetic and consequential leader.

18. Thankful for being true to myself.

19. Thankful for John White for loving me enough to introduce me to my discipleship partner Mike Moye. Mike challenged me for three years to memorize bible scripture although I was kicking and screaming at first. And now I humbly serve as a Deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church.

20. Thankful for my spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and relational health.

21. Thankful for being convicted as a selfish and self-righteous man several years ago and being built up with Habitudes.

22. Thankful that my yes means yes and my no means no.

23. Thankful for loving myself firstly so that I can love others.

24. Thankful for being able to be loved by others.

25. Thankful for being willing to forgive others and reconciliation as well as understanding the difference and need for each one from sermons and teachings from Pastor Bruce Hebel and my pastor Dr. Craig L. Oliver Sr.

26. Thankful for food, clothing, shelter and working automobiles.

27. Thankful for being born in America.

28. Thankful for being educated within Atlanta Public Schools (Center Hill Elementary School, Grove Park Elementary School) and Fulton County Schools (Love T. Nolan Elementary School, Ronald E. McNair Middle School, Westlake High School c/o 1994).

29. Thankful that on November 20, 2011, Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond proclaimed November 20th as C.J. Stewart Day and L.E.A.D. Day in Atlanta through perpetuity. And that is a day that I can be held accountable by Atlanta to do what I claim to be called to do as #10 states above.

30. Thankful that my friend Rendell Jackson (Atlanta Public Schools, Assistant Director of Athletics) would have the humility to ask Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond to do it.

31. Thankful for not having to fear another man but God alone.

32. Thankful for hope and being able to dream.

33. Thankful that people that don't respect me are exposed sooner rather than later and removed from life but not forgotten because everybody is special and have a calling to fulfill.

34. Thankful that I can pray for blessings for my enemies.

35. Thankful that I can apologize when I'm wrong.

36. Thankful that I value the power of relationships.

37. Thankful that I now have a childlike excitement to read and write so that I'm empowered to lead for wants right.

38. Thankful for being a Leadership Atlanta alum.

39. Thankful that I can laugh and cry when my heart hurts.

40. Thankful that I can worship God for who He is, praise Him for what He does and the wisdom to know the difference from studies of Boyd Bailey of Wisdom Hunters.

I am a unapologetic, consequential, often misunderstood, transformational leader that is intentional about blessing the world with significant people that I've mentored. It was done for me. My life will have meaning among the living as well as through eternity. - C.J. Stewart