I spent today in Leeds, at a Growing Leaders training day (“training the trainers”), and I’m really excited.

I’ve been reading the book of the course, and there’s a lot of it that excites me because of what I believe to be my overall calling in life, but also that resonates with stuff that I think God has specifically been saying to me over the last few years.

Two of the verses in the bible that excite me the most are Ephesians 4:11-13 (NKJV)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

And Jeremiah 3:15 (NIV)

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.

That phrase equipping the saints just sums up perfectly where my passion lies. The Jeremiah passage I find hugely encouraging – it’s kind of a two-way promise. To the people, it’s a promise of good shepherds, but to the shepherds, it’s a promise that they will be made into good shepherd’s for God’s purpose.

In terms of stuff I think God has been saying. Well, I’ve discovered contemplative spirituality over the last few years in a whole new way. Exercises the like Awareness Examen and Lectio Divino, and experiential bible meditation. I have to give a huge nod here to Mark Yaconelli, in particular his book Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus with Young People (link is to Amazon), which I think should be required reading for anyone in any form of Christian leadership. The title is misleading in a way, as I believe the principles apply across the board, and it’s a hugely accessible way into a more contemplative and reflective (as opposed to anxious) way of life.

The other stuff has been about shape and direction (in particular, Rick Warren’s S.H.A.P.E acrostic). I find it very easy to strive for balance, and being able to do everything. If there’s a particular ministry or activity I struggle to do, I easily see that as a failing, and try to rectify it. I’m slowly becoming more accepting of who I am and how God’s made me. That means I’m good at some things, and rubbish at others. It means that my character traits are not inherently good or bad (they just have associated strengths and weaknesses).

Two examples.

First – youth work. Broadly speaking, I am academic. I think, ponder, reflect, pontificate, and review. I try to give a considered response to questions, that I can back up with a solid argument. (It drives my wife mad!). I often s.p.e.a.k ….. q…u…i…t…e … … … … s….l…..o……w…..l…y. (not always, but often). My co-leaders are not wired up this way. They are dynamic, exciting, enthused and responsive, and most of time are bouncing off the ceiling.

I find it very easy to think they are “better” than me, because they connect very easily with the youth, and find it much easier to joke and laugh with them then I do.

But I think the reality is both are important. The youth need to connect, for sure, but I think I bring a depth that might not otherwise be present. I spent the first couple of years as a youth leader trying to be hip and exciting like the others. Now I accept that God called me into that role, as I am, and me being me is far more valuable and real than me trying to be a 21 year old. In addition, I have come to see that some of the (particularly older) young people actually find it easier to connect with someone who’s a bit more quiet and reflective in their approach…

The irony here is that one of the key aims of ministry to teenagers is helping them to feel comfortable in their own skin, and accepting of who they are!

Second example – DIY. In direct contradiction to what I just said, I also tend to rush in. I get excited by new things, and by getting things done, and tend to charge on in, without always taking the preparation steps that really the job requires.

This is not always a good thing where DIY is involved. In fact, it is rarely a good thing.

On the other hand, jobs gets done. I actually get on and do stuff. I know of people with a more measured approach, who actually never end up getting anything done, either because they never get around to it, or because the preparation takes so long there doesn’t end up being enough time.

I am coming to see that neither approach is in and off itself better or worse. There are strengths and weaknesses to both. I get the job done, but with rather more mess or with less than ideal results. Others may do it perfectly, but take a lot longer to do it, if indeed they get round to it at all.

They key for me is self-awareness. If you know who you are, and what your character is, then you can get help in areas which don’t come naturally.

Ermm, forgotten my point now.

Oh yes, Growing Leaders. I’m very excited because it is all about equipping the saints. I’m so excited about learning more about my own calling and leading in a sustainable way, and then having the privilege of helping others do the same thing (and even better, helping them to then pass that on to others in turn).

Pete Broadbent (Bishop of Willesdon) said on Twitter:

It works right across the church spectrum. Much recommended. Growing Leaders is a gift to the Church.

(which is a pretty good recommendation)

Anyway, it looks like I’ve got a year to work through the course, and try to get a leadership strategy in place (there may be one already that I’m not aware of), and then we’ll kick it off Sept ’10 – Insha’Allah.