It’s not over till it’s over and looks like even for this year, given my circumstances in ministry, my youth ministry isn’t over just yet. As most of you may know, this semester I have been given the chance to return to my old high school to help my pastor out with the ISCF group there. Back then I was a student leader (not a very good one, but was learning vital leadership skills those final two years of high school), and I consider myself very lucky to be given the chance to go back, see what things are like, and to put the last 4 years of my experience back into something I was a part of in the past. I suppose another way you could word is that I got a second chance to be a leader of the ISCF group and do better than I did the first time round.
The main difference in helping with the ISCF group this time round is that I’m acting as a leader to the leaders of the group. This is quite different than when I was leading youth group at church, and it did take me a few weeks to realise that leading leaders felt much easier than leading “regular” youth at youth group. “Easier” in that these were kids who were strongly convicted of what they believed about Jesus Christ from the Bible. “Easier” in that these kids had most of their life organised and knew how to prioritise their ministry over other aspects of their life (aside from church). Even the new year 10 leaders that I was training up at the start of the semester were the keenest of the bunch and they all were reasonably good at managing their priorities; they do struggle a bit with getting to meetings and communicating with other leaders effectively, but at the end of the day, these are all high schoolers and it wouldn’t be fair to expect an amount of effort from them equivalent to what we young adults can do. Don’t get me wrong, some of the leaders at the moment are doing wonders and are really putting their gifts to good use in glorifying God. The other day they showed they have strong musical talent, and even though they didn’t rehearse much, they still made “Your Grace is Enough” sound awesome!
Leading leaders has felt vastly easier than leading your regular youth group simply for the reason that you have a group of the keenest Christians – they have a decent amount of conviction, character and competency. And then when I compared that with my experiences of youth group in the last 3 years, I really did feel like I enjoyed leading the leaders of the ISCF group more than my youth group. But I realised I was very wrong in making such a comparison. Even though youth group felt hard and unrewarding at times (much so compared to student leaders), those youth were at their own respective points in their Christian walk, and had different needs in growing as Christians – different to youth who were ready to step up as leaders. And because of these differences in where people were at as Christians and what they needed, my goals for each ministry (youth group or leaders) should “scale” accordingly.
Of course it is easy to teach what you teach to your youth group, to a bunch of student leaders – that is because they can grasp the same Bible concept much faster and understand how they should be living it out. And of course from that, it would seem that leading leaders is much easier. But that shouldn’t be the case. If these student leaders were ready to step up to teach the Bible and use their skills in reaching the peers in their school with the gospel of Christ, then they need to be spurred to do so. This means pushing them to their limits in being proactive about sharing their faith with their non-Christian friends (and they should be much more proactive than someone who doesn’t have as strong a faith). They should be challenged with something much harder and deeper in the Bible, since the Bible should always be challenging and convicting us, no matter where we are in our Christian walks.
*********** EDIT: Tuesday, 23rd October *************
What I forgot to add the first time round is that leading leaders feels easier because they respond more positively towards me. When we have Bible Study at meetings (to teach them what to teach), they’re more passionate about reading and learning from God’s Word than your average youth group kid. Student leaders respond more positively to what I suggest and that just makes it easier to get my agenda across to them in terms of what I think is most helpful for them. They’re also quick to listen, and the only conflict we have is in struggling to work out what the passage is saying at such, this is good conflict; as opposed to unproductive fights about trivial unimportant matters. And perhaps it is this one factor that makes ISCF “feel” like a more fruitful ministry for me in comparison; the atmosphere and the attitude of those attending make a huge difference.
By no means do I want to make myself think that youth group wasn’t worth the time and effort (in comparison to the ISCF group). In all things God is in control, and what happens (good and bad) is based on His will. That, and that ministry should never be seen to be easy; leading others should always seem like a struggle because growing and living as a Christian should always feel like a struggle. And we as leaders (overseeing other leaders) should always be pushing the people under us to keep wrestling with the difficult issues in growing as a Christian. I guess the correct conclusion I should make from my observation is that I haven’t been trying to push my student leaders hard enough. I had felt content with where they were at, and what they were able to achieve but I suppose instead I should use their foundations as Christians as a foothold to help them grow even more.
In light of university coming to an end for me and having all my ministries and relationships being shuffled around for the transition into full time work (and of course having to drop my ISCF ministry), the time that I have enjoyed with my student leaders is quickly drawing to a close; and that makes me sad. But all the more it does spur me to think hard about what sort of final things I want to train those guys up in and how I can leave a strong impacting message that will really push them to grow as Christians at a “rate” that’s according to what they are capable of right now from where they are at. In all things, God is sovereign and He will keep growing and protecting those who love Him and would seek Him all the days of their lives. I, as a leader or leaders, am merely a small part of His grand design.