One of the shows that I watch religiously is Shark Tank. If you’ve missed ABC’s hit the past ten seasons. here’s the premise in a nutshell: entrepreneurs present to five investors in an attempt to get them to buy a percentage of their company. These companies hope that the partnership with a shark will provide financial stability, guidance, and ultimately success for their company.

This show fascinates me and challenges me to think and rethink about how I run my youth ministry. Here are my three major Shark Tank takeaways:

1. You should be able to rattle off important information when asked.
Everyone enters the tank hoping for an investment from a shark. In order to invest in one of these hopeful entrepreneurs, the sharks have to have confidence in them as a leader. Isn’t the same thing true about the leadership and parents at our own churches? They have to have confidence in us in order to trust us. But they aren’t just trusting us with money, they are entrusting us with the most precious thing that they have — their children. Many business owners get halted on the show because they can’t immediately give important facts to the sharks. Many youth workers struggle with the same problem. If you are asked a question, know where or whom to point someone for the answer. Have the regularly asked answers ready to go (i.e. attendance, finances, deadlines, etc.). Youth workers are frustrated when someone doesn’t treat them with respect, but your congregation deserves professionalism and knowledge from you as someone over students. Know your stuff.

2. Some crazy ideas are inspired… others are just plain crazy.
Shark Tank has some awesome inventions come on the show. More than once, I have added something to my Amazon wish list mid-episode. However, there’s a big difference between, “Why didn’t I think of that?” and “WHY did you think of that!?” That can also be true in our youth ministries. Every idea isn’t a good one. As a leader, part of your job is to think through every possible scenario with a new idea and decide whether the payoff is worth the risk. I’m constantly seeing events online from other ministries that make me cringe. We should challenge ourselves to brainstorm and think outside the box, while recognizing that safety and common sense cannot be checked at the door.

3. When in doubt, find common ground with your audience.
The entrepreneurs hand out samples of their products to the sharks. Often, they will correlate colors of products to favorite sports teams or the companies of each shark. Do we take the time to make the little connections with those around us? For example, one of my elders needs to see the numbers, another wants detailed information concerning an event, while still another could listen all day to stories of life change. If I sit with my leadership and hit all of the preferences in the room, my likelihood of success improves. Take time for the details. Send a student their favorite candy after a surgery, write the specific thank you note to a volunteer, give your leadership the information you know each one specifically needs. Small actions may yield big results.

– Allison Williams

Discussion Questions:
1. Am I treating my role with professionalism and knowledge?
2. Can I differentiate between a great idea and a dangerous idea?
3. Remember that everyone is different. Take time to uniquely accommodate individuals when you can.

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