Written by Ryan Duckworth from Creek Street Church in Bendigo
Hi readers, I am privileged to be able to share some of this journey with you and consider it an honour to bring before you some real thoughts from the experience I have had in the first year heading up a healthy youth ministry. I trust this reflection article blesses you, encourages you and resonates in your spirit as you read through.
I have eight quick thoughts I would love to share with you that I have learnt, acquired and in reflection would go back a year and tell myself as they would be beneficial to know. To bring context to this write up, note that although this may be my first year as head of a youth ministry it is my fourteenth in youth leadership. So these thoughts have been developed over time and by being apart of some very health teams and environments.
- Be a Leader who ushers in the Presence of God – This may be the most significant point of all. It would have been my first 6-8 weeks of leading the youth ministry, I was hanging out with Ps Brendan Findlay (Youth Pastor at Neuma Church)in-between sessions at a conference and it was awesome to talk youth ministry and lean upon his experience as he was further on the journey than I was. The number one question I had was “If you could go back and tell yourself something when you took on your youth ministry that you know now, what would it be?” The response Ps Brenno gave I’ll never forget, he said “Be someone who ushers in the presence of God.” This is where it’s at. Be a leader who values and carries his presence in the world! I was so deeply impacted by what Ps Brenno shared with me that day. He left me with this thought “If you go knocking today and God doesn’t answer, will you go knock again tomorrow?” We won’t always get the answers we like straight away or how we want it, regardless will you keep knocking? Will you be someone who ushers in the presence of God to the world around you?
- Be God focussed then Ministry focussed : Yep! In that order! Jesus first commanded us to love the Lord our God, then likewise to love the people (Matthew 22:36-39). It can be so easy to get caught up justifying your position from the Youth Program you run, what is greater is to live a God centred life and allow everything to flow from that. Check it out, Abraham dug wells wherever he went. What challenges me is this question: Am I digging wells and if so, how deep are they? I don’t want to waste any time just relying on the wells of my Senior Pastor or those who have gone before me have dug. Keep digging! Don’t put new wine into an old wine skin, it will burst!
- Be aware to check your Heart – This is crucial as a leader! The Psalmist writes: “search me, God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139), and “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51). This is the condition I continually want my heart to be in, soft before God. I know he can work with a soft heart open, willing to be shaped by his hands. This is the humble posture that allowed me to see and to understand ‘It’s not my youth ministry! It’s been given to me to steward!’.
- Be in the Grace Zone – each of us are unique with weird and wonderful gifts and attributes. The Psalmist again in Psalm 139 puts it this way: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I don’t believe I really understand the full context of this scripture, still it speaks to me about how unique and individual I am, I’m one of a kind! Paul writes about unity and diversity in 1 Corinthians 12. Each of us are all so unique and have a part to play in the body of Christ, the church (and the youth ministry!), it’s important we operate in what God has graced us to do! E.g. I’m naturally a creative, that’s what I was graced to do in my first few years in youth ministry, now I’m graced to lead the youth ministry, deliver the vision, disciple the youth team. If I was focussing on doing all the graphic design again, I would be neglecting what God has graced me to do now. Be in the Grace Zone God has given you and if you’re leading teams of people, release others in their grace zone too! *Remember you are so highly valued for who you are not a roll or job you fulfill!
- Be a Learner – Leaders are Learners! How do you best learn? For me I desire to always be hungry to learn, which means I’ll take up whatever opportunity presents itself to learn. You may be a terrible reader like I am, but I am really passionate about the things of God and am studying at college because my desire to learn outweighs my insufficiency and lack of enthusiasm in reading. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). There’s nothing that reeks more than thinking you have it all worked out, there’s always more to learn! You get what you go for! Maybe you aren’t a reader, but thank God there are podcasts! If you desire to learn you will be surprised what God will do in your life!
- Be an inviter of feedback – My incredible Senior Pastor, Dave Hickman, is excellent in modelling this and instilling this in our leadership team. It requires great humility and vulnerability, but great leaders are who they are because they invite feedback. One of the most important things to remember here is to make sure you’re seeking feedback from the right source. The best people to listen to are people who genuinely love you, who work close to you and actually are credible too. In other words, someone who knows their stuff, who has runs on the board, a potential mentor. “Iron sharpens Iron” (Proverbs 27) May I encourage you to embrace feedback, seek wise council and if you don’t think you have the right people in your world, pray to God that he would bring them into your world.
- Be a person who Honours – Romans 12 speaks about honouring others above yourself. This doesn’t mean just those who are your authority, the essence of this scripture is about love and devotion to one another. Honour those who have gone before us as they are worthy of honour and honour those who are in the trenches with us. I believe this is best done in how we talk about people in admiration. I have so many amazing people, many here in Victoria who have been incredibly good friends to me, to my future and have loved me enough to not sugar coat things instead have been honest with me to help project me forward. The best way I like to honour is by talking positively to them and about them to others. Honour is a powerful thing that breeds unity!
- Be Responsible – Everything in leadership is your responsibility! Regardless if you’re directly or indirectly in a process or a decision, the bottom line is for everything that happens, true leaders have to take responsibility. So, if something goes down that shouldn’t have or that you don’t like, you the leader will wear it! A leader must be aware they are answerable even when others let you down. Take care as everything will reflect you, right or wrong, so be prepared to take lessons on the chin, work at developing others and the culture of the ministry.
I trust this blesses you and encourages you as you have read through some of my journey, there would be so much more I could write but these 8 thoughts are the ones I believe, upon reflection, are beneficial to anyone in Ministry, particularly early on.