When I was in seminary, I had a professor that had a fascination with the Navy SEALs. Ok, maybe an obsession. It seemed like everything we did in his classes revolved around an illustration involving the Navy SEALs–swim buddies, mantras, mottos… the list goes on.

At the time, I didn’t really have a particularly strong interest. (If we’re really being honest.) I had trouble bridging what I viewed as an enormous gap between my day-to-day experiences in ministry and the military strategy involved in being a SEAL. And if I am really honest, I probably even mentally checked out a lot in that class because I just didn’t see the connection… it didn’t seem relevant to me.

Well, it turns out, our professors generally know more about life than we do. (Surprise!) They’ve usually got significantly more life experience. They’ve spent years researching, applying, and living. And now, almost every week, I find the words of that same seminary professor spilling out of my mouth–in meetings with my small group leaders, over dinner with my husband, in the pages of notes I make after a youth event.

And what are those words that have become so “stuck” in my head, heart, and mouth?

Be the best _________ you can be. Then become 10% better.

You can fill in the blank with whatever you want. Obviously, this seminary professor would talk about SEALs being the best soldiers they could be, and then becoming 10% better–but he would then take this statement and apply it to everything.

Be the best minister you can be. Then become 10% better.

Be the best spouse you can be. Then become 10% better.

Be the best youth director you can be. Then become 10% better.

Be the best small group leader you can be. Then become 10% better.

This statement has become my go-to evaluation question for everything in my youth ministry–confirmation Learning Events, youth lock-ins, Bible Studies, Sunday School, summer trips. It’s almost guaranteed that before we even leave the church from an event, Scott and I are asking each other:

How did we do today? What can we do to make it 10% better next time?

And now, when I look back on where we were at a year ago (or even two years ago), I can see the difference. A 10% improvement over every event, conversation, interaction, eventually turns into huge change and improvement.

Are there times when that 10% improvement doesn’t go as planned? When things don’t get better the next time around? When something flops and goes worse? Sure. That’s normal. Are there still days when I feel like totally giving up on youth ministry? Yep.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

Because 10% better doesn’t happen just by talking about being 10% better.

It takes work.

It takes change.

It takes accountability.

It takes teamwork.

It takes time.

So, next time you feel like you’ve hit a glass ceiling. Or you feel like a failure. Don’t try to totally reinvent what you’re doing. Start small. Because 10% isn’t huge–but it is something.

Be the best __________ you can be. Then become 10% better.

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2 thoughts on “Being 10% Better.

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