Late night flights have been a theme throughout the last seventeen years I have spent on the road… and, unfortunately, so have delayed flights. A few years ago, it was such a flight and that kind of night! I was finally sitting on a plane that had previously tormented its passengers with the promise of boarding after two delays. Nevertheless, five minutes after takeoff, a hush came over the cabin where my seat was located as all around fell fast asleep from the exhaustion of a long day that had turned into a late night. Over the years, it is in these moments that my imagination seems to wake up as if to say, “get something to write with man, it’s time to play!” I had left my laptop home on this particular trip and only had a book I was reading entitled, ‘Creativity, Inc.’ by Ed Catmull. Ed is the president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation and was the creative leadership force behind computer animated shorts and movies. In other words, the guy is brilliant on every level and literally invented the future.
As the plane reached cruising altitude and the hour transitioned from P.M. to A.M, I flipped to the back of the book and found an empty page. Staring at the page I began to wonder, what would I change about the Student Leadership University experience if no obstacle stood in the way? While many thoughts flooded my mind ranging from cutting edge technology to providing students access to the world’s greatest thought leaders, one thought rose above the rest. While I use the word ‘thought’, the term ‘burden’ would be probably be more accurate. For some time, our team has been burdened to make the SLU journey possible for students who are under resourced. Many of these students reside in our urban settings and have incredible amounts of potential and capacity, but no opportunity to be resourced in the area of leadership development.
With this thought center stage in my mind’s eye, I began to scribble on that blank page between the end of the book and the back cover. What spilled out of my pen came to be known as ‘The Inside/Out Strategy’. Essentially it is a four-fold strategy designed to make leaders practically, prepare leaders educationally, resource leaders locally and celebrate leaders publicly (you can read more about the strategy here). The primary focus is on, but not limited to, students in our cities across the country.
The entire point of The Inside/Out Strategy is to help a new story begin to emerge from our cities. The older I get the more I realize that life comes down to doing what you can to change the world for the glory of God, and then hoping and trusting the Lord to bless such activities. As I think about SLU in regard to that statement, I am more convinced than ever that ours is an organization that helps emerging leaders tell a different story… a better story with their lives. SLU probably won’t ever be the organization that leads the charge against issues such as gun violence or institutional racism, but I wholeheartedly believe we can help an army of students write a different narrative with their lives that will influence in these types of areas. The kind of narrative that leads to new conversations, new laws, new opportunities and new culture.
The entire strategy begins with making leaders practically through the Student Leadership University 101 experience. And so it is with a sacred sense of hope and anticipation that I humbly ask you to help a generation tell a new story by making SLU 101 possible this summer.
On this giving Tuesday, SLU and I ask that you consider giving to our Inside Out strategy. Help us bring more students through our programs so they have a chance to learn to think, dream and lead at the feet of Jesus and understand they are capable of changing the world for good. We aren’t going to ask for a specific amount but want you to give as much as you feel led. Whatever you decide, thank you for your partnership with us!