Lessons Learned as Adventist Youth Leader: Mistakes and Wisdoms
photo by Rafael Fischer (http://iasd.org)
AY Department is probably one of the most important department in a church because it prepares the next generation for their responsibilities to God and fellow men. Unfortunately in most churches it is also probably the department that has least attention.
I’ve had a year experience as my church Adventist Youth (AY) Leader. The church was a petite one, with only more or less 10 youth in total. However, the lessons that I learned I believe are quite fundamental and exist in other churches as well.
In this post I want to share some of the lessons that I have the great opportunity to learn during my AY leadership term.
Lesson #1. Every church has its own problem
So you see another ‘ideal’ church and you start envying how on Earth they could be so perfect in all AY aspects? Great programs, great parents support, cool officers, and other things that make you want to move to that particular church.
Well, believe me, there is no all-perfect church, and that church that you think is the heavenly church is no exception. That church must have one or more problems that it’s facing.
There is one church in Jakarta that is famous for its number of youth. It has a great choir group with full schedule, beautiful girls, and handsome guys, and very active AY members.
I happened to have a chance to talk to one of its AY member, and I was surprised with what I heard. She said that there is actually some internal problem among the youth. Well well well.., who would’ve thought?
What’s my point?
Don’t get panic and discouraged when you meet a challenging problem. That’s really the life fact since the second Adam and Eve sinned. Problems are in nature just like the gravitational force, and as the AY leader, you are the lucky person who should handle them. Hehehe..!
Don’t get mad at me yet. It’s really your responsibility to handle those AY problems, but always work with the other AY officers and church officers to solve the problem.
Lesson #2. Have a Purpose
Allright, I’m not actually promoting the book “The Purpose Driven Life” here, though yeah, the book is a great one.
Rather I’m encouraging every AY leader to have a deeper purpose rather than just be an AY leader.
What does it mean?
When I was the AY leader of my church, I always have this purpose of “teaching the teens and kids in my church so that they will be smarter and better person when they are at my age later.”
That way I always prioritize programs that are aligned with this purpose, such as Adventurer and Pathfinder programs.
Having a purpose means you have a higher goal than just completing your one year AY leader term. This will help you set out one year AY plan, help you cope up with problems that come to you, and feel more sense of accomplishment when you are done.
Please make it personally, not something that you got from the Pathfinder Guide Book or any pre-made sources. Because you won’t feel the passion to do it unless it really comes your personal thought.
Lesson #3. Be patient, have an open mind, and be tactful
Now I should admit that this is one of the toughest thing that I learned. I thought having seen so much in Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia, I must already possessed enough level of the so called ‘open mind’.
Maybe, but there is no word ‘enough’ for this. There is really so many different people in this world, and this world always have a ready stock of people that can make you crazy.
So what should you do?
First, keep your head cool. Then talk to them and get to know them better. Try to know their passions, goals, and hobbies.
Because from my experience, people that are bad and kill joy at one event, may be the central of the universe and heroes at other events. They who you believe ruin one of your carefully planned program may be just the person who save your face in other program.
It’s similar to the colors of different painting. Blue may be the color of choice when you are painting a scene with lots of skies in it. But not be a good choice when you are painting a close up flower.
Knowing your AY members will give you a great advantage of choosing the right people for the right time. It will give a win-win situation for you and the AY members.
Lastly, never think that people should always think like you do, because naturally they just don’t. Keep your mind open for different opinions and options. Besides, who knows that these opinions and options may be better than your original ideas.
Lesson #4. Network With Other AY Leaders And, If Possible, AY Mentor
Who says that networking only work in business world? Leading a church AY will be a lot more fun and interesting when you have fellow AY leaders to share and discuss with.
Some problems may not be as hard as you thought before when seen from other person’s point of view. Some problems may already even solved by other person, so you don’t need to find out the solution further.
When I was an AY leader, I had a very good friend of mine who happened was the AY leader of her church. It is really encouraging when you can talk to someone who isn’t only understand the situation, but also can feel the problem.
Having an AY mentor is actually an ideal situation, a utopia for every AY leader, especially for a beginner. Unfortunately, it is a very rare condition because what happen most of the time is rather a sad fact.
Most of ex-AY leaders are usually very much tired and exhausted with the AY affairs. With several famous reasons such as ‘no longer a youth’, or ‘i’m already married’, these ex-AY leaders are actually wasting their precious experiences that can help any current AY leader to repeat the same mistakes.
However, I believe you still can consult them every now and then. To recognize them early is really important, because usually they play low profile once they complete their term.
One important notice though in networking, please don’t think that it’s an obligation for your fellow AY leaders and AY mentor to help you. They are just like you, so they probably have their own problems. Do return the favors and offer them help if you can do something for them. This will keep a healthy relationship.
Lesson #5. It’s Not About You, It’s About Jesus and Others
When I knew I was elected as AY leader, I was not only surprised, I was outraged. How on Earth??? Why me? I almost never attend the AY when I studied in college, though it was Adventist college. Once even I got a ‘prize’ for being the person who attend the least number of AY. (It was the idea of the AY leader, she really knew how to recognize the lazy AY goers.. :p).
So I thought, okay, whatever, just let see what gonna happen.
To my surprise, it wasn’t actually that bad. Besides, it’s pretty cool to be an AY leader sometimes. It caught girls attention pretty good sometimes.
However, I realized it’s totally wrong to think selfishly when you are the AY leader. Jesus has showed us that to lead is actually to serve. I know it sounds cliche, but trust me, it’s hard to refuse the chance to use your position for some selfish reasons. Especially when people don’t notice and it’s all covered in great programs.
Always pray to God, ask for His help, and surrender yourself and your plans fully to Him. Because when He takes control, it just can’t get wrong.
Remember guys, an AY leader has a really great responsibility. It’s the person who the younger kids are look up too. Whatever examples that the AY leader showed, they are what the kids will most probably do when they grew up later.
Don’t do it because you were elected and you have no choice. If you feel so, please consider resigning, because it will only hurt yourself and the AY.
So far, these five tips are what I can share with you. If you have problems and suggestions about AY, feel free to contact me. 😀