Why youth leaders are often to afraid to scatter the seed

This may be true for many Christians, not just youth leaders, but it does strike me that there is often a singular issue that restricts the sowing of the good seed that God has given us. And what is that restriction? The fact that we define what the result has to be!

So many times I have heard youth leaders say that they are reluctant to do anything missional, because they don’t know what the thing will look like in the end! they need to have the totality of the picture in place, so they either engage themselves or encourage their young people to engage. But what would it look like if we didn’t have the complete picture in mind? If we were not so dictative about how things must look once a seed is sown? As Jesus invited the disciples to follow him, as he engaged with others during his journeys, there was no complete picture given, no definable absolute to how things had to be that was shared. There was a journey that was invited into, and life discipleship worked out as the journey was embarked upon. Why is it that we restrict ourselves to defined pictures of how things have to be, rather than enjoying the journey that God invites us on, and seeing where he leads? The farmer scattered the seed, some fell on 4 different types of ground. but it did not restrict him from scattering the seed. He never said to himself, “I have no idea whether this flower will grow into the exact flower, shape, size, colour that i want, so i won’t scatter the seed.” If anything he probably knew the reality that some of the seed would not grow into anything at all, but he still knew that there wold be great stuff out of his sowing, and so he sowed. Could we adopt a similar approach?

Rather than defining what the outcome has to be, could we scatter some seed, and believe, that good things would come from that? Is our reluctance to scatter more about our own lack of belief and trust? Do we hold on to the seed that we have been given because we do not believe that it could grow into anything that God would want? Where do we place our trust?

Isaiah, 55.11 says that the word that goes out will not come back empty. But do we believe that? Do we believe that the word that we speak out from God will not come back empty?

so rather than placing our defined pictures, or personal restrictions upon being missional, sowing the seed, sharing what god has given us, do this in a spirit of trust, belief, and enthusiasm.

The end of the youth group

“what would you like in your community if money, people and space were not issues?” A question that was asked to a group of young people in a school recently where we were involved. Interestingly the response from some came back, saying that they didn’t want youth groups, people puting stuff on for them, they would actually really like their own venue, their own space, their own place to hang out, be, chat, have fun. When exploring this further there was quite a voice that spoke up saying that they would love to be involved in helping set something up, being part of making sure things happened, and being part of making it move forward. Could this kind of idea be the end of the traditional youth group?

A while ago I wrote a booklet, short booklet, which was called the P’s and C’s of youth work, where I argued that the terminology of group needed to change to the idea of community. I wonder whether this is at the heart of what these young people were saying? More community, where they were part of it, and part of the ownership of it, rather than a group, where things were put on for young people, by others, by adults!!

What would discipleship look like in this kind of context? A place where more relationship could grow, where life could be shared, where people are listened too, as well as spoken with. A place where the reality of life could collide with the fullness of life that Jesus offered in John10.10. community also brings in the idea that life can be engaged with more regularly than the 1.5 hours on a friday evening or whenever it might be, and then no engagement in-between times. If we look at how Jesus engaged with the Disciples, he gathered, he did life, he showed, he shared, he enabled, he invited, he released, he involved, he valued. Could it be that some of these values have been missed out, forgotten, ignored from our engagement with young people, or even with the teams that we lead.

Is it time to re-explore our discipleship approach, both with the young people we engage with, but also the teams we lead? Is discipled leadership something worth exploring further so that the phrase, disciples who make disciples is truly lived out? A group settles with what is, a community invites others to be part of what is happening, there is much more to write, but you can read more on some of this at www.rolltherock.org.uk/resources and click on P’s and C’s of youth work. A second part of this will be coming later this year.

The importance of strategic thinking for youth leaders

There has been a lot of thinking re strategy in terms of working wth, engaging with young people recently, particularly due to the nature of the work. Not knowing how many young people you are going to have on a weekly basis, or who is going to stick around post schools nd so on. So the question was posed about strategic thinking, due to its difficulties.

There are some good reasons for strategic thinking, and here are just a few:

1: gathering team: yes this is a lot to do with vision, but it also includes strategy, as a team is vital to see the vision come into fruition. Different people will play different parts along the journey of the strategy, and offer different gifting, some of which, maybe all of which will be useful to help see the vision come into fruition. Team also helps bring the creativity that is definitely required, but the reality is that most people are unlikely to join a team if they don’t see a vision, or a framework of strategy of how the vision will come into fruition. There needs to be a plan of some description for people to see how they can play their part in enabling the strategy to be worked out.

2: direction: linked to the gathering of team, people need to have an idea of direction. strategic thinking can and should bring some direction to where people are heading. In regard to youth discipleship, there are steps to seeing the depth of growth in the discipleship of young people, plus also a growth in the number of young people who are going to be involved. Strategic thinking leads to growth.

3: growth: Often regarded as a bad word in relation to discipleship for some reason. Peoples person growth is important yes, but so is the growth of sphere of influence, impact, and people engaging with what is going on. Strategic thinking should lead to growth, otherwise things remain as they are, and that small grouping remains that small grouping, which is not lined up to a God who is moving in peoples lives, and a kingdom that is at hand for all.

4: people joining in: This is partly linked the gathering team, but it also enables others to get involved, and play their part in what is going on. young people are more likely to join in, invite others to join in, if they know where things are heading, and know that it isn’t just going to stay static. to invite others to be part of something there needs to be an understanding of what it is people are being invited too, and where the journey is heading.

These are just some initial thoughts re strategy and work with young people. there will undoubtedly be more.

Having things in the right place and in the right order

As you may have picked up by now, Andy is busy writing a book exploring how leaders flourish. One of the books he has been reading for his research is called Leading Out of Who You Are, by Simon Walker.

Something Simon writes in the book is: ‘What we need to grasp is that the front stage and the back stage are always connected.’ For leaders, it is important to realise this connection because  for so much of our lives, people look at our “front stage” – what we do and who we are in public. It is more rare for people to ever ask about the back stage, the unseen, the not public side of our lives.

What we do upfront, engaging with young people, speaking with our teams, engaging with parents, speaking at conferences or even in our church gatherings, is underpinned by what is going on in our back stage, the unseen places.

This is not a permission-giving blog to say that we should be asking anyone and everyone about their back stage, or even feel that everyone can ask about ours, but what it does mean is that every leader should have a few people around them who can ask questions and with whom they can be really honest, knowing they are not going to be judged or condemned.

Ministry is a privileged place but also a vulnerable and often a lonely place. Our back stage may be where so much happens that people do not see or ever really appreciate but it foundational to our front stage, to who we are and how we display ourselves.

Back stages also take time to develop, to ensure the right things are in place; they just don’t get created overnight. Not only do they take time to develop, but they also need maintaining. Time needs to be taken by, and given to, a leader so that everything they give in public comes from a good strong foundation of a back stage.

So, questions:

Are you looking after your back stage space?

Do you ever ask or support a leader in the maintaining of their back stage space?

Do you ever over expect from a leader about their front stage without caring about the back stage?

How much time do you as a leader give, or how much time do you as a supporter allow your leaders to take care of their back stages?