Growing Together

I had several wonderful moments of growth this week as I learned from the people around me and even had opportunity to share my knew understanding with others.

I’ve been sharing “Moses moments” at the start of my leaders meetings each Friday night, and this week the pre-planned verses were related to Moses learning from Jethro and teaching Joshua. I had the bonus of reflecting on how one of my leaders had actually shared some insights about cultural connotations of a word I’d been using that sounded odd in her ears. Growing up in America, my understanding of “student ministry” was related to an age demographic, but here in New Zealand “student” is much more closely associated with school. I don’t work in a school any more, so the more appropriate term is “youth ministry” – which in America is a synonym for “student ministry.” Not gonna lie, it’s still kinda wild to me that I don’t work at a school, but that’s a reflection for another day.

This conversation was super exciting for me as I learned how to use words better. We also talked about her aversion to the word “goal” and why that might be; I shared how I wanted to be a support in her ongoing growth rather than presenting a stressful target that she might not achieve. The next day I had a different lovely chat with another leader who had me laughing as his response to every health and safety concern was, “What’s the worst that could happen?” He included that as a note on his junior camp registration to reassure me that even if there were broken bones, I shouldn’t spend so much time worrying. This team of leaders is super fun, and incredibly dedicated. One of my leaders is 40 weeks pregnant and still showed up to youth group. Seriously, I love this woman; she rocked up this week the day after her due date and was in the thick of helping me with a sticky situation for most of the night.

Nothing heavy, but there was a learning moment for me as I gathered support from a few leaders to help navigate a situation that was new to me. This job has a steep learning curve as I navigate being in charge of a thriving youth group instead of lesson planning and hosting teaology conversations. As I read a book on adulting this weekend, I smiled through the chapter on keeping your job even if you’re not passionate about it or it gets hard. I actually happen to be very passionate about this job, and honestly, pretty good at the skills required for it. That said, it’s got some challenges, and I’m growing into the role. This past week as I was reflecting on some leadership moments with Matt, he gave me some suggestions for growth, and I responded brightly, “Oh, I can definitely do that!” He just laughed and said, “Of course you can; I wouldn’t have hired you if you couldn’t.”

I can’t emphasise enough how much I value having people around me in structural positions over and under me who both believe in me and want me to succeed. And not just professionally – they care about me personally. After viewing that accessible property outside my price range last week, I heard on Thursday that I was offered the tenancy. I also had a chat with a woman interested in living with me so I can rest easy without needing to adjust my budget too much. I’ll move in about three weeks; it’ll be a wild week because I get the keys the day before heading to junior camp, so I will take a little more time to settle in. Everyone around here has been so excited for me and offered loads of help with the next transition. I have a feeling this might be a specific RCC thing rather than a New Zealand thing, but like half a dozen people immediately offered to help me move when they heard I got a place. They are so genuinely excited for me, and I love the whānau God has given me.

Friday night’s talk was on our youth group value of “growing together,” and I got to watch one of my youth leaders who was one of the youth my last round in New Zealand give her first talk as a leader. It was really exciting for me to think about how I get to encourage her to grow over the next several years, and I really look forward to the future talks she’ll give as I keep growing as leader in this role as well. During the small group time, I spent a little bit of time with the Year 13s – who were the year 8s when I first got here. I’ve told stories about the guys leader, Sean, for years because he was such a bright young guy joining the leader team, and I loved his passion for Jesus and naiveté about 90s television. Now, five years later, he’s still a delightful punk, and I love how one of his guys teases him about being a slack leader while simultaneously putting Sean at the top of his list of mentors who he goes to for advice. One of the girls asked me if I remembered her from when I was here before – and I actually do. There are three of them in the small group who I distinctly remember joining as Year 8s. I love how I get to have conversations with Hannah about how she’s seen growth in these young women over the five years that she’s been their leader. I also really love how Hannah and I get to have conversations about how we are each growing as leaders and as Jesus followers.

She randomly popped into my office this week, and it absolutely brightened my day that my job includes conversations with this gifted woman who is passionate about intentional discipleship of young people. Matt joined our impromptu chat, and I got to talk with both of them about how our generation understands rest and challenges differently than the young people we work with and how that forms our vision and vocabulary surrounding discipleship. I really love this job.

Then later that day, my friend picked me up to take me to her house for dinner, and when I opened the car door, her four year old shouted from the back seat, “My mommy has a baby in her tummy!” I got to celebrate that joy with the whole family, and once the kids went to bed, we adults read through Luke 2 and had such a rich conversation about what it must be like to parent the Messiah and loads of other good content. This rich life I’ve been gifted includes a wonderful job that I love being developed into while also giving me a lot of beautiful friendships early into my settling in. Earlier that morning, I’d met up with Haley for coffee, and I can’t tell you what joy it brought me when she’d texted me the night before that she happened to be free and wanted to hang out. Sure I got along with people when I was here before, but three of them actively sought me out with their free time this week because they consider me a friend and want to spend time with me. This blessing cannot be overstated; I really love my whānau.

There’s a drawing of a hippo in my office to remind me of how hard it was to leave Germany. It was drawn by my friend Heather’s daughter, and I’ll never get to teach her kids. My friend Kari sends me “Greenie kid photo therapy” because she knows how much I love her adorable kids and the stories that go along with their cute faces, but I’ll never have them in class either. Don’t get me started on the Bryans or the Yaus or the Pecks or the nine kingdoms and two dynasties I left behind. My nephew texted me a picture of the chess trophy that he won yesterday, and I absolutely love that I was included in receiving that news because I won’t ever get to attend his chess tournaments. I can watch some of these precious kids grow up while I’m an ocean away, and I will actively pray for their growth and development and relationship with Jesus. What an absolute privilege it is, though, to be present in the lives of these Kiwi kids.

Amidst the chaos of youth group supper and last minute junior camp sign ups and street party set up on Friday night, the Year 13 boy who volunteered to plan next week’s activity talked me through his game plan, and I couldn’t help but be so proud of this kid who earlier that evening had told everyone at his program graduation that he was spending this coming year as an intern working with young people at his church. Originally, he thought his small group was going to help him with this activity, but it’s pretty much been him driving the whole thing. Apparently the small group had a wild failure a couple of years ago when the event they planned ended with a lot more vomit than anticipated, but no one told me that until after I agreed to let them run something this term. Don’t worry, there’s nothing remotely vomit inducing in this activity, just shower curtains and water guns. What’s the worst that could happen? It’ll certainly be a chance to grow together.

I told Hannah on Thursday that I have this selfish plan to buy a new map identical to the one my students signed in Germany and to have each Year 13 sign it every year at the leavers’ dinner we host in December. I’m really excited to watch it fill up next to my first one as I hang them both up in my new house.

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