As I was locking the door the other night after youth group, I was saying good night to one of my student leaders. After having just talked for thirty fabulous minutes to his small group bible study, he was happy to tell me about, and my mind started to wander.
I couldn’t help but think about that same Sr. who led a small group five years ago when he was in Jr. High.
Five years ago was totally different:
– I found him slightly obnoxious
– He frustrated me by not listening
– He made me wonder if I still had it in me to work in youth ministry
The good part is, that as time went by, our relationship did change. I remember when he was a sophomore how he gave me this huge running hug when we were serving together on a mission’s trip in Mexico.
As he left church last week I yelled out the door before he got in his car and told him how much he had changed over the years and then he laughed. He knew exactly what I was talking about. So I asked him, if it was because I didn’t do things the way the guy before me did? To my surprise he said “it wasn’t” but that he “was breaking me in.”
That actually made my night, and I told him that, which made him ask why it made my night. I told him that in the second church I had served I would hear how my predecessor did it and to be honest that drove me nuts.
On occasion kids and parents would say – “He did it that way”
Hearing those things made me feel like I was in his shadow
When I got to that church, I had already been in ministry for eight years so I thought I had enough experience to not have to hear that, but it turns out, no matter how much past experience you have, you’re probably going to hear something like that.
I think I’ve experienced this sort of set of emotions in every setting except the first church I served because there it had been three years since they had anyone doing vocational youth ministry when I began.
In the last few months I’ve had a number of conversations with brand new youth workers and in some scenarios they are following someone who had been there for quite a while and in others they are blazing new trails.
I don’t know that they are feeling this, but my guess is that to some extent they are.
So I thought, lets write about this. But before I wrote a word I read some articles on the subject online and every article I read about the subject was more for the person who was leaving and how they could pass the baton of leadership on to the next person. And yes, that side of the conversation is very important but that’s not what I want to write about.
I kept reading about passages like Paul affirming Timothy and Moses relating to Joshua. Yes, Moses and Paul had their parts that they played as they passed along leadership but so did Joshua and Timothy.
So, I guess this is more about the Timothy and Joshua side of the conversation.
In 2nd Timothy 4 Paul says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” and then he goes on and builds on how God worked through him while offering encouragement and instruction.
For Timothy, these would prove to be great words.
One of the things that struck me as I was thinking on this was that anytime there is a change in leadership there comes with it a change in personalities and styles. That made me think that Jesus didn’t call 1 disciple to follow Him, and multiply himself in to hundreds of carbon copies, He called twelve unique and diverse people to follow Him.
Mark 3 verses 13-15 shows us that really well. Check it out – “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”
I love it.
He called twelve unique individuals to follow after Him and make a gospel difference. The twelve were all imperfect and flawed individuals and sometimes those flaws showed up as they related to each other. Luke 9 gives us a glimpse of their differences as the disciples argued amongst themselves. And we know how different they were from each other when we hear of the different backgrounds that each had when they were called (tax collector, fisherman, etc).
Perhaps, if those disciples had settled in one place, and then a time came for another to take their place, that church would have had experienced the realities of transition leadership.
I don’t know if those things would have for sure happened, but we can guess it might have.
For me, hearing about the variety of the twelve, reminds me that it takes all sorts of different personalities and styles to take their places in this thing called the church.
It reminds me that in any church I, or anyone goes to, that when we go to those churches we go as called by God to serve in accordance with how God wired and made us. We don’t go there to resurrect the last staff member or leaders legacy but to be who God called us to be.
I’ll throw out some ideas that struck me as I thought about this that might help you as you move forward where you’re serving
- Be who God made you to be
- Be patient – You might have to wait it out while you build up credit with your new church family. They are getting to know you just as much as you are getting to know them.
- Older students (those graduating soon) might not be your focus
- Figure out what you can change and figure out early on what needs to wait
- Seek after parents. Communicate with them. Value them. Let them know you care about their children.
- Build relationships with students, because if they don’t know you care, they simply will not care.
- Speak well of your predecessor when you speak of them
- Partner with your pastor and others in your churches leadership
- Discover the vision and plans of your church and work with your church to figure out creative ways to be a part of those plans
- Rest in being a child of God
I would love to hear what you think of this post and any other ideas or comments that you have. Please feel free to get a hold of me and pass along any ideas that you have at[email protected]