To be honest, there wasn't much to leading teams on this level. It was more a title that went to the better players. Any bit of leadership that we as captains engaged in was informal and relational, a kind of "do as I do" type of leadership.
I wasn't a named captain of most of the teams I was on, but I had a lot of influence based on my attitude, personal drive and commitment to the team. The coaches of these teams were, at the time, men I wanted to be like. They were confident, powerful and engaging. People seemed to love them. Because of my skill on the field of play, some of them took an interest in me and poured into me on and off the field. They always encouraged me to be a better person before being a better athlete.
At this point, my parents had verbally told me they viewed me as an adult and I was free to make my own choices. In practice however, this wasn't the case. As I attempted to begin leading myself, I was somewhat stifled by their decisions to over-rule my choices. The one choice I had made was where to attend college - Central Michigan University - to pursue a career as an Athletic Trainer. They didn't like this, but they allowed me to try.
This was the first time in life I was actually able to lead myself. I found out quickly how ill-prepared I was to do this. I did well in my first semester, but my grades dipped in the second semester as I was less inclined to go to certain classes because of their overall difficulty and my lack of self-discipline. School had been easy for me to this point, and now that it was hard I lost confidence in myself.
This was my first formal leadership title. I was a leader in the dorm. All RA's had to go through a week long training session that would prepare us for helping other students in their college journey. We were essentially community organizers and lay councilors. It was our job to be available to others as needed, and to help other students understand what it meant to succeed in college. Unfortunately, I was far more interested in my job as an RA than as a student myself. During this semester I failed 4 out of 5 classes. My parents decided it was time for me to come home.
I started working in the hospital as just a job. It was here that I had people help push me into different learning experiences and influential leadership roles. I never had a formal title that would indicate that I was a leader, but my work ethic and desire to make myself more valuable to the company gave me informal, influential leadership. I started to regain my confidence throughout my time here. It was also during this time (sometime in 2007) that I decided to quit college until I knew for certain what I wanted to do with my life. This was the first time I broke from my parent's leading since coming home. They were not happy, but I was too angry to care anymore about their feelings about my decisions.
This was a defining moment for me, however, I didn't know it until much later. Failing 4 of 5 classes and being forced to come home by my parents had a lasting effect on much of what I would experience for the next decade. I lost total confidence in myself and felt as if I had let everyone down. I experienced the feelings of shame, anger, disappointment and an array of others that are difficult to describe. I came back under my parents leadership a broken person, and while my parents did their best, they contributed to keeping me broken on far too many occasions.
Meeting Denise was the catalyst for everything that would happen from that point on. At first she was just the "religious" girl in my department, but as I got to know here more from our work relationship, I began to notice how differently she led her life. I never felt judged by her. She began witnessing to me (even though I had no idea it was happening) and I was receptive to her because of how safe I felt with her.
The event that changed everything. Once I came to know Jesus, my life did a complete 180. Behaviorally, I changed drastically and this caused a major rift in the relationships I held with my friends and family. All but a small handful of friends stopped talking to me, and my family had no idea what to do with me anymore, so they stopped trying for a long time. Thankfully, Denise and her family came alongside me and her father guided me through the changes I was experiencing. He and his wife began calling out the potential I had in me and encouraged me in my growth as a Christian. Shortly after coming to Christ, Denise and I got engaged to be married.
I had no idea what it meant to be a Christian husband. I knew it was my job to lead our lives together, but had only seen it modeled for a short time and had much to learn. There was more error and bad judgement than I'd like to admit during this time, but my wife was patient despite how I continued to hurt her through my growth.
This was the next phase of leadership development for me. I was asked by the organization to lead my small team of 7 to begin the trip. After three months on the field I was asked to lead the group of 42. I had stepped into another realm of leadership that I had never attempted before. I was learning a bit of what it meant to pastor a group of people, the major difference being that I lived with all of them. I was able to learn many tangible leadership skills including logistics, finances, interpersonal dynamics and many other things over the course of eight months.
My leadership and overall lifestyle once again needed to change with the birth of my first child. There was increased responsibility to provide financially, and learn to support my wife, who underwent a horrible bout with postpartum depression. The most impactful leadership skill I learned in this time was patience. Postpartum wasn't going to go away with a quick comment, so I had to learn what it was and learn new ways to lead my wife throughout the recovery. The spiritual leading that I was now responsible for was also very intimidating. I had no idea how to lead a child, and now I had to learn on the fly.
I felt called to develop myself with formal education to prepare myself for pastoral work. I enrolled at Liberty University to do that as it allowed me to complete my schooling online while I worked full-time. The Bible came to life for me once again and Jesus was leading me into a deeper understanding of who He was and who He is. A lot of my pride was crushed in this time as I had thought I knew a lot, only to find out that I knew relatively little in the formal sense. Humility became much more important in this season.
The suicide of my best friend, Rob, rocked me. Throughout the next year, I would have to learn how to lead myself and my family when things seemed the most bleak. At this time I felt as if I were alone. I never blamed God, or thought He was no longer good, but I did have many questions that I felt that I needed answers to. I have yet to fully understand what good could come from this type of an event, but learned that God was there always. As an unfortunate side effect, I became more equipped to help lead others through sudden traumatic loss, a burden I hope I never have to walk through again.
As my family grew my priorities were much more focused on the here and now. I needed to make sure I held down a good job and was able to provide for my family. I continued to go to school and work full-time, but I was growing weary. Graduation was coming closer so I knew I needed to learn and cultivate the leadership skill of perseverance.
Graduating from college made me the first in my immediate family to obtain a college degree. I was proud of the accomplishment, but knew there was more to come. My wife didn't think any more schooling was necessary, so I, again, had to learn the skill of patience. I knew that seminary would be in the future, but until my wife was completely on board I had to wait. I spent much time applying for jobs with the degree I had obtained but I was never close to receiving an interview for any of them. I began seeking out information on seminaries and doing whatever planning I could do so that when the day came that my wife was ready to pursue further education I would be ready to present options.
Our family continued to grow shortly after I graduated college. I took time off from applying for jobs to be more present for my family. At this point we had two boys, and now we had our first girl. I knew intrinsically that I couldn't be the same with my baby girl that I was with my boys. I knew that new parenting and leadership skills would be necessary to ensure I would be able to lead all of my family the way they needed me to.
I felt the call to pastoral ministry and knew I couldn't do it without seminary training. With the support of my wife we started our journey to pastoral leadership. We sacrificed a lot, and sold many of our possessions to make it here, but we knew that God would provide what we needed. We quickly learned dependence on His provision. We saw much of that during our first semester. At the same time, the first semester was the most difficult season we had experienced in our marriage. We had to learn how to communicate all over again with new needs and ways of engaging with our family. We had to learn how to balance school, work and family in a completely different way than we did when I was in my undergraduate work.
On this day there were shootings in Dallas, TX. It was at this moment that God spoke to me about the state of the country. Feelings of racism were, and continue to be, escalating and I felt that God was calling me to play a part in the solution. It was at this time I decided to join the police force to be an instrument of institutional change.
This promotion was the next step for me in my practical leadership education. In my current role I am responsible for seven employees. I am responsible for all training, leading meetings, making schedules and formal discipline, if necessary. I'm also responsible for the normal job duties. Leading others who were formerly peers has been an interesting development as well. Communication and clear expectations have been the biggest lessons I have learned at this point. I am also exploring how to raise up the next leader and making sure he is better prepared for the job than I was when I took over.
This is one of my assignments for class, but it is one that I believe will be extremely formational in nature. Once completed, my hope is to be able to show it to perspective employers to give them a better sense of who I am as a person, and what I believe as a leader. I also recognize that this will be a starting place in which to build over many years. I am excited for this opportunity.
I am expected to graduate in May of 2018. With my degree, I will be no more qualified for the position of police officer than one with no degree at all. That said, I will have experience, formal education and an theological background that will be invaluable to me when I do enter the police force. I know this degree will help me to be a better leader whether or not I have a formal title that implies leadership.
This is an unknown at this point. I will continue to apply for police jobs until I am able to obtain one. Throughout the academy I will learn another set of leadership skills. Combined with the skills I learn at Denver Seminary, I hope to be an agent of culture change.