Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Russian Leadership Project

We just returned from 2 weeks in Odessa on the Black Sea at the "Russian Leadership Project". This was a very strategic time. We heard a lot of great seminars. "Reacting to Criticism" was very helpful since spiritual leaders have ample opportunity to practice this. "Passion for Leadership" was a great starting point since unlike Americans, Russians have been taught by history to avoid leadership since the tall blade of grass gets cut off. Political leaders are often corrupt and leaders in the workplace (and the church) are often dictatorial, so models of godly leadership are hard to find. But God says, "If any man aspires to the office of overseer it is a fine work he desires to do" (1 Tim. 3:1). We were reminded that God is growing leaders.

The key ingredient of the conference was mentoring. Evaluations from coworkers helped mentors look for blind spots and areas where God would have them grow. This evaluation was introduced by a seminar on the "Leader's Disease", failing to hear about our weaknesses. This is a sensitive process, as you can imagine. The mentors are a key factor in coaching this process and helping them see that this feedback is a way others express care for them for their growth. I am grateful we have this "feedback culture" in CCC. Since we are an organization of leaders, this is a very healthy practice. Do you have someone like this to speak into your life?

Each leader left the conference with a personal development plan to correct weaknesses and build on strengths. We couldn't have done this without the mentors who came from Moldova. They were fluent in Russian (and Romanian) and had been through this process 2 years earlier. I served as a mentor for 3 senior Russian staff members. It was challenging to lead discussions in a second language.

One of my men was having various problems working with people. These problems seem connected with comments about his poor time management. So we worked on time management, listening skills, and friendships. Another man was excellent in time management but did not understand the importance of communicating vision to those he led and had made no efforts to develop this skill. As they return I will email them periodically to hold them accountable for their PDP (personal development plan) and to be sure they find a local mentor.

The last few days we talked about strategic planning and applied the training to indigenization. Some of the Russians were hearing about this subject for the first time, others felt betrayed by the lack of progress and felt our ministry is too American. Few had thought about the steps needed to prepare leaders for this transition. Not only did we learn how to create detailed strategic plans, but we all contributed to a plan for weaning our Russian ministry from dependence on western leadership.

The conference included 85 staff members and 60 children. There were Russians, Americans, Koreans, and Moldovans. Many expressed how they felt loved and served by this family time in a beautiful location. One family brought all 5 children from Siberia, their first time together at a conference.

Luiza and four adults and three teenagers cared for the smallest 28 kids. It was challenging doing crafts with children in 3 languages (Russian, Romanian, and English). Some of the younger kids were shy or slow to communicate they needed the toilet, so wet pants were common during the first week. Ryan was an outsider most of the time since any cartoons or crafts were in Russian. The room was small and Russians believe you catch colds from drafts, so Luiza sweat a lot. (We expect the baby in 7 weeks here in Budapest.)

During free time I was able to meet with a number of people to work out misunderstandings about our Russian version of the discipleship materials. We also enjoyed some hours on most days at the beach (Ryan loves the waves). Our free Saturday we all went to the dolphin show. It was actually more of a water circus with acrobats, seals, and a sea lion.

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