Winnipeg, MB – Every Monday Jenny, our emerging leader development coordinator, and I lead an Apprentice Training group of 6-8 youth and we also connect with these youth 1 on 1 throughout the week. Four of these youth are hired as staff apprentices who are integral team members helping lead our weekly children’s drop-in programs. Several others are volunteers in our drop-in or work as summer staff at our camp. The training and mentorship we offer these youth is aimed at helping them grow into caring, competent and godly leaders in these ministry roles. This is part of the vision of leadership development.
Our leadership development is not limited to developing these youth to be leaders in ICYA’s programs. We also want to equip them to be healthy and Christ-like leaders in their circles of influence wherever they are and regardless of where God leads them in their future vocation; in their families, their friendships, their schools, their workplaces, their churches and their neighbourhood.
We believe that discipleship is at the core of developing leaders; as young people grow as followers of Jesus they become the kinds of people who will serve and influence others in life-giving ways. Ted Travis, an inner-city youth ministry leader and author, describes discipleship as, “when Jesus-followers submit as much as they know about themselves to as much as they know about Christ.” As we gather with, serve with, teach, and walk alongside emerging leaders we are helping them learn more about themselves, more about Jesus, and how to live in the ways they were created to.
Here are some examples from the past few months of our leadership development work with youth:
Several of these young leaders play sports for their school or community teams and we show them our support. We have attended some of their games, cheering for their team and after the game telling them we are proud of them. Recently over coffee, one of these youths talked to me about how he was trying to become better at leading by example on his team.
Jenny and I have committed ourselves to praying regularly for the emerging leaders we are leading. We intercede for them and listen for what God might want us to share with them to encourage them.
We have developed a connection with KeKiNan Centre, an Indigenous seniors’ residence in our community and we have begun coming monthly to play games with the elders. Although this was intimidating for our youth at first, they felt very welcomed by the residents, and we have been impressed at how the youth patiently and respectfully interact with these elders. Recently Jenny and a few of the youth went shopping for prizes for our upcoming Bingo night with the residents. These young leaders took ownership for making this event special and thoughtfully chose prizes based on what they had learned about the elders they had gotten to know.
We have listened, talked and prayed with many youth as they work through challenges in their dating relationships and seek wisdom. We hope to see each of them grow into adults with a foundation for healthy relationships.
Many of these emerging leaders will soon be graduating from high school and are thinking about post-secondary education and careers they want to pursue. I have had many conversations with youth exploring their dreams and plans for the future. We also encourage them to consider investing time in deepening their faith at a Bible college or discipleship program as part of their preparation for adult life. In February I went with two students to a campus visit day at Steinbach Bible College, where they got to hear and experience a little bit of what Bible college is like.
Our weekly Apprentice Training times include teaching, discussion, prayer, eating supper together, and sometimes fun outings. Some topics we have learned about recently are Boundaries, Understanding Emotions and How to Share Your Story.
One of the rhythms God has used to help me stay healthy in ministry over the past two decades is taking occasional sabbaticals. Sabbaticals are extended periods of several months to step away from the pressures of ministry to rest, seek God, learn and gain renewed vision and perspective on ministry. The ICYA Leadership have given approval for me to take a sabbatical from May through August this year. I am grateful to ICYA for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to time with my family, spending time in prayer, Scripture and reflection, and digging into deeper learning that will enhance my ministry. I also look forward to returning to my work here refreshed and with renewed vision for the next season of ministry.
Please pray for me and Amie during this time. Pray for peace, rest and renewal. Pray for me that God would work in me and give me what I need to live and serve faithfully in the coming years.
Home church: Nassau Street Church, Winnipeg / Altona EMMC Manitoba
This article was originally published in The Recorder Vol 60 No. 2