I recently had the privilege of meeting with some friends about our church’s annual mission trip to Ensenada Mexico. Nine of us sat around a couple of folding tables and with honesty and concern discussed the future of a trip that has been in transition for the past couple of years.
Roughly 25 years ago a friend of mine started this mission trip. He was then what I am now, in charge of the college ministry at our church. He took about 20 young adults to a place called Rancho Agua Viva (http://www.aguaviva.com/) where they stayed and ministered to a local church. All these years later and my friend is still sitting with us at that table, discussing what to do about crucial areas of the mission.
All these years later, and of the leaders who sat around that table with us, 4 were under thirty. This mission trip has proven to be fertile ground for the discipleship and leadership development of young people. We run the trip intergenerationally-that is to say that anybody can go. But over the years there has been many youth and young adults who’ve taken on leadership and this has now become an explicit value of how we operate the trip.
The goal of this meeting was to divide up major areas of oversight. Most of us, including myself, were a bit shy at first about jumping on an area of responsibility. But we all warmed up and eventually had a great picture of who was doing what. The kairos moment for me was hearing the young leaders express concern, even after all of these years, that because of their youth people wouldn’t accept and respect them as leaders.
I say this not as a criticism of them, but as an affirmation of their journey. Only after our meeting did I remember that when I was first hired to do youth ministry at the age of 19, I had deeply felt insecurities about leading volunteers who were older than me. You know how I got over it? One-an older person assured me that I could do it and walked me through the process. Two-trial and error.
Sitting at that table as a 33-year-old, I was either the youngest old person or the oldest young person, depending on which generation was making the judgement. But myself and the mature adults sat back and had a rather moving conversation with these young people about how we would stand by them and fight for their leadership. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a blanket endorsement of anything they do or any decision they make (nobody gets that, at least not in our church). Rather it is one generation of leaders recognizing value in another. We have made a decision in Christ to succeed together and if needed, to fail together.
One young woman was concerned about exercising leadership over those older adults who were immediately at the table. I told her afterwards that I really appreciated her saying this because it shows her respect for those who’ve gone before her, leading and shepherding her to the place where she now stands. What I failed to tell her was that this kind of attitude is what most qualifies her to lead in this context.