I met Rachel age 4 and Beth age 5 pushing small chairs in the halls of the education wing of our church. “Hey girls, what are you doing?” I asked. Beth smiled big and said, “We are playing meeting!” Their response reflected an honest view of what the church has been reduced to.
Late night after hearing one of the top Christian youth speakers in the country I asked my group what they thought. “He was funny,” “He was good,” “I liked him,” were the replies. Yes, he was entertaining but I seriously doubt that any changes resulted.
When youth are asked to describe Christian leadership they most often describe models represented by microphones or a committees. What kids most often see are people holding microphones speaking or singing on platforms, pulpits and stages. Kids see people sitting in committees, elected to boards, appointed to task forces, joining advocacy groups, meetings talking and planning in meetings. These are the models we see, we reward, we applaud, give money to, and train people to be.
Clarity here is important. I am not against microphones and committees. We need them, but these models only fit a few people. It seems to me that the microphone and committee leaders only exist to gather us for worship, motivation, organizing, leaning and inspiration, so that we can go into the world being servant leaders.
Aren’t the real ministry leaders the one’s who care unconditionally for their neighbor? Isn’t the real leader the least likely person who walks along side, comes close, reaches out, takes some risks, crosses boundaries, takes action and does not care about recognitions or rewards?
“I don’t think this counts,” says the high school girl who describes hanging out with a friend on Friday night whose parents just split up. This is her response to me when asked how she was beginning to use her Peer Ministry training.
“I don’t think this counts” seems to be the response of most youth who are doing ministry everyday. We forgot to tell them that not only do such acts count, but that in fact such acts are the very essence of leadership! They are doing ministry everyday but we forgot to tell them hanging out with a friend who needs a good listener is ministry. We forgot to tell them that their acts of caring are always about God! Instead we keep exposing kids to more microphone and committee leadership styles.