A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with a youth leadership team at one of our Iowa Conference UCC churches. You see, they were facing a leadership challenge to which most of us can relate. They had lost a strong group of leaders in their choir while a large group of new people had arrived. The group didn’t have the same strong bond or sense of purpose that it once did.
After exploring the nature of leadership in scripture and through drama activities, we talked about their challenges. I mostly listened; they came up with solutions to their problems. I reflected back what I heard that they wanted to do. Then they ran with their plans. They began texting, emailing and Facebooking people to put their plans in action the following day. A few weeks later, those plans are still being put into place.
I was stunned by what happened. I often facilitate leadership teams through visioning and planning processes. Most of these groups are dominated by adults. I usually invite those groups to do one thing that they’ve put on their work plan before they leave in order to get the ball rolling. They often resist doing something as simple as leaving someone a voicemail message. Perhaps this is a basic resistance to change; maybe it’s burnout; maybe it’s just laziness. Regardless, it means that the new plans sit inert on the paper on which they were written.
Adults, including myself, often complain about the impatience and chaos that modern technology breeds. We complain that young people can’t focus or be present to the people in the room because they are distracted by the beeps and buzzes from their phones and computers. I certainly can be frustrated by this. But, the young people I worked with taught me that even though the technology can be a distraction, it can also be a huge asset.
The immediacy became urgency for these young people. The problem their group was facing was something they were committed to solving. They knew their group could be a lot better than it was. They wanted to make a difference. They didn’t wait for more committee meetings, discussion or processing. Once they had a plan, they simply grabbed their phones and did something about it.
This story demonstrates how young people who feel passionately about something are capable of using their tools to get things done. Their sense of urgency and immediacy was indeed an asset. They took action and, I expect, will begin to make lasting change in their group. Their phones and computers were not a distraction. They were an important tool in putting their plan into action.
It’s good for us to see how challenges can actually be an asset to our ministries. Never is something like technology only bad, it can also be used for good. It just depends on the intent or purpose for its use. God wants us to see this complexity. God wants us to see the beauty in what seems ugly. God wants us to see the blessing in what seems to be curse. God wants us to see light where there is darkness. There’s always a third way — just listen to God’s voice speak through a young person you know. You just might find it.