Winter Youth Leaders
Matt Gelding - Director Soul Survivor NSW/ACT
I love Winter! I love the chance to wonder (not wander) in the Blue Mountains, I love the log fires with family and friends and the cold fresh air. Its a great time to reflect and I believe its a unique moment in the year for leaders to ask a different question.
At the beginning of the year our question as leaders is.. where are we going? Unpacking this a little: what do we understand (from God and with one another) the direction He wants, some new goals that Jesus wants us to work on and what do we need to achieve all of this.
In the middle of the year, in winter time, our question is more - how’s it going? How am I going and how is the group that I am leading going?
Firstly, “How am I going?” Winter is a really good moment just to stop and ask this question regarding our relationship with God, our relationships with family, friends and church and how we are going with God’s mission. So please spend some time doing this. We don’t need to feel bad about how we are going. We do need to be honest, to be authentic, so that we can address what the areas that are zapping our strength are or address the areas of passion that need more fuel. The group is affected by how I am going. If I am going well, they pick up on that, my energy and strength with mission and prayers and the content of my conversations. If I’m not going well and i’m quite flat with my prayer life, my bible reading, making decisions and faith levels.. they pick up on that too and it can ‘flatten out’ the group. When you and I simply display addressing the areas of need in our Winter life can encourage your team and group that you are being proactive. But for us who love Winter and we are going well, we are addressing our energy/ strength levels with God, we are making sure that we’re renewing our mind and our soul is quite full with the Holy Spirit - great work!
I don’t know if its an Australian thing but I do sense that a lot of Aussies naturally love summer and they find winter quite low. Depressing is a strong word for some, but they do they find it quite low. And that’s ok in the sense that life is seasonal and we have our ups and downs and we are not called to always be on the up and up and up, it’s not realistic! And its not really reflected in Scripture. The Psalms is what comes to mind to quickly address that. So for some of us it is quite a low period of the year and that’s ok but what is not ok, is holding it to ourselves and just trying to figure it out all by ourselves. So I would just encourage any of us that are feeling the winter blues to share this with a trusted friend or a leader in your life who can chat and listen and if you are up for it to wonder with you what you can do about that. At winter, being a youth leader, I want to address where I am at with God and in myself and engage with that and address my energy levels. So that I can walk into this second half of the year with a bit more energy to keep moving ahead.
How’s the Group? Its time to get those goals, thoughts and hopes that we had in January out of the drawer ( or the google drive ). And with these January thoughts.. I am simply wondering whether its going well and to be quite factual rather than emotional about it. Facts are our friends in Winter because our feelings might be quite naturally low and therefore not helpful with reflecting (it might not be as bad as you feel). So please do not be embarrassed with the facts or defensive about them too. They simply are a way to be real about how things are.
EG: one of your goals at the beginning of the year was to move your group from fifteen people to twenty-five? Whats the size of the group now? Are new people coming and if not, why? And brainstorm some reasons why. It might be that you didn’t try and it might be that you actually did try. It might be that you are coming up with the ideas of what the friends are interested in instead of asking the young people what their friends would actually be interested in. Do be honest about why the group is the number that it is. And then lets pray about this again and draw up adjusted goals (because we might have been unrealistic or outside circumstances affected us) or draw up new goals.
Its important to celebrate in Winter (with a good log fire), to see what God has done in the last 6 months and encourage the group and yourself in the Lord. Often the group can have a feeling that nothing is going GREAT and what celebration does is highlight ‘wins’ which produces perseverance. So please do celebrate.
I hope that in this Winter you do enjoy it. Its a time to stop and reflect, to readjust and celebrate and find your feet again for the next 6 months. I do love Winter and its unique purpose of log fires, hot chocolates, wondering and walking into September with a ‘spring’ in our step. God bless!