So last week we had our uth@waratah visioning day. (That’s not me above by the way, I’m too tubby at the moment for t-shirts and too dorky for hipster beanies.)
It’s interesting how you can envision something for so long and then the closer you get to it, the more you change what you’re going to do. We’ve obviously done youth ministry visioning days before, but at some point you have to move from visioning to planning.
Previously, the panning has happened roughly the same way; I sit there with between 5 and 10 leaders laptop computer on my lap, going through an electronic copy of the youth program as a meeting agenda and filling in the ‘gaps’ with activities, devotions and so forth.
This year, I decided to do something completely different.
This is because late last year I was challenged by my practical-theologian wife in a conversation about Jesus’ pattern of ministry. There is of course oodles of ink spilt over ‘Christ centred ministry’ and doing it like he did it, but I have not seen one, not one text point out what she did, and yet it’s so….obvious.
The goal that Jesus was ultimately working towards in his ministry to his disciples…was to leave.
That is, he performed every miracle, uttered every parable and exposited every part of scripture to his closest ‘team-mates’ knowing that one day he would say to them “It is good for you that I go away.”
Jesus knew in a way that that disciples obviously didn’t, that things were going to get even more amazing after he left them, because and only because, this would herald the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
I have since realised, that our fear of what will happen to things that we are leading when we do not have direct input over them has nothing to do with what we are doing and everything to do with our lack of trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a humbling thing to realise that often the Spirit does the most amazing work through the people you are leading when you’re not in the room. Choosing to ’embrace a little leaving’ is choosing to trust the Spirit of God.
This year I decided to confront the fear of ‘handing over my baby’ in two practical ways. Firstly, I shared with our leadership team of 9, that for both the primary and high school groups, I would pick one Friday night per term and essentially not turn up. One of the groups assumed that I wasn’t going to tell them what night that was going to be and planned the whole term as if I wasn’t there.
This leads me onto the second way: as mentioned above, I have in past years ‘quarterbacked’ the youth meeting from behind a laptop. But this year my exact words were “You guys go into that hall, you guys stay in this hall, I want a complete youth program for each group for term 1 in 30mins…..Go!” Then, I proceeded to go and make myself a cuppa.
After their initial reactions of surprise, they got cracking.
Fast forward to 30 minutes later, and both groups had produced a program replete with term leadership focus, term devotional theme, activities planned, night coordinators assigned and devotion presenters nominated.
I remember thinking to myself “Man, I remember when it used to take us an hour and a half to do this.” Then I remembered, the only difference between then and now was my direct involvement. The penny dropped, the problem was me. Clearly at the beginning I had to lead meeting in a way that showed crew what a youth meeting was all about, but at some point I forgot that the crew sitting in the room weren’t newbies at this anymore.
I had been so keen to make sure meetings were well-managed that true collaboration couldn’t exist because as long as I was there, if ever a conundrum arose, everyone could be like: “it’s cool, Peter will sort it out.” Now, they had to collaborate, (which the millennial generation love to do) to figure everything out.
This completely shifted the attitude from, passive participant to active planner. They in turn were forced to rely on each other thereby bonding the team further and I believe, opening the door for the Holy Spirit to work. Whenever I read the book of Acts, the Spirit seems to be most clearly at work when his representatives are united in goal and purpose.
It’s is also where, if we watch carefully, we can begin to see God’s anointed future leaders.
I learned that sometimes the best way I can worship God is simply fulfil my role of training, discipling and mentoring and then…..get out of his way.
Sometimes the most amazing things can happen because we’re not in the room, because that’s when our entire trust is in the Spirit of God and what he’s been doing.