The other day, my teens and I attended a workshop during which we had the opportunity to practice contemplative prayer. After doing so, the facilitator asked people to share their experience with 2-3 people near them.
My teens’ body language suggested it’d be good to share our experience as a table, with a larger group than the facilitator originally suggested.
When the facilitator saw us doing this, he walked over and stopped us, saying, “I said to share in groups of 2 or at most 3. If you don’t, a couple of you will talk the whole time.”
Though I think I hid my reaction from my students, I was horrified.
Who did this stranger think he was to tell me – the person who works with these teens on a daily basis – how best to minister to them?
Who was he to suggest that I – a veteran youth worker – couldn’t facilitate a discussion that would allow everyone to participate?
Despite my frustration, I recognized the inappropriateness of arguing with the facilitator, so we complied with his instructions. Though the adults in this workshop talked in their pairs for the next 10 minutes, my teens quickly ran out of things to say and sat in awkward silence.
As I reflected on this later in the day, it occurred to me, how often do I do the same thing to my small group leaders?
How often do I assume I know how to better minister to kids than the lay leaders who work with them on a weekly basis?
How often do I act as though my well-trained leaders can’t actually facilitate a good discussion?
No doubt, more than I’d like to think.
Having realized this, I’m determined to take the following steps, steps I hope will give adult leaders the respect and authority they deserve.
1. I will consistently remind leaders that because they know their groups well, they have the freedom to adjust small group materials in order to best meet the needs of their particular group. I will remind them it’s OK not to ask every question; That the quality of their discussion is far more important than the quantity of questions asked. Then, when I see leaders making adjustments, I’ll trust their judgment rather than freak out.
2. When I sit in on a small group discussion, I’ll do so as a participant, intentionally behaving in a way that gives and shows respect for the small group leader’s authority.
3. I will give away my title, reminding my leaders they are youth pastors too.
4. Since my leaders are youth pastors, when a situation arises that involves one of their kids, I’ll involve them.
5. I will regularly ask leaders how I can help them better minister to their kids. Then I’ll do my best to give leaders what they need in order to flourish.
What else do you do to give your adult leaders the respect and authority they deserve?