StartLeading: Challenge or Opportunity, Part 1 — Jason Gaboury

I was visiting with some ministry partners recently. They told the story of having a visit from a young woman who works with a different campus ministry. “She was delightful… Her passion was really something.” I smiled waiting for the question I knew was coming. “Can you remind us, what’s the difference between your ministry and that one?”

I’m meeting with student leaders. The tension in the room is palpable. My heart is echoing in my chest and in my ears. An influential leader has just passionately clarified vision for ministry that has nothing to do with InterVarsity’s mission. I have 3 seconds to redirect this conversation or watch the chapter drift away from mission, or head over the cliff of division.

Goldfish jumpSheila asks, “Can I be a leader here?” Sheila is a Buddhist student who has been hanging around for a few semesters.

“I thought you guys were committed to prayer.” Bently says. “You should join in the campus wide prayer and worship gathering.” The invitation is a trap. Either we can go along with the event, and thereby prove our commitment to prayer, or we can say no and be branded as unspiritual.

These experiences are just a few of the examples of the challenges that InterVarsity leaders face. Over time, I’ve come to see these challenges as opportunities. The question is how. How do we take moments of challenge and transform them into moments of opportunity? Here are 3 ways you can do this:

1. Get Clear: Underneath each of these situations (and many like them) is a key question that leaders can learn to identify and answer. Answering these four questions, “What do you do? How are you different? What do you believe? How do you behave?” with clarity and passion can help you turn a challenge into an opportunity.

2. Enter the Danger: Leaders need to enter the dangerous places where there is potential conflict, confusion, or discontent. We need to become comfortable entering into the danger instead of avoiding it.

3. Call for Commitment: It’s not enough to simply enter the danger and clarify the truth. Leaders have to make the ask. We have to call others to join us in our mission unapologetically. Do you see moments like those above as challenges or as opportunities?

Write a comment about a challenge you’ve faced recently. (This is the first of a series dedicated to turning challenges into opportunity.)

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