I returned late Saturday night from a once-in-a-lifetme experience. Last week, I spent seven days in France talking about youth ministry with a group of German youth workers. That alone was amazing, but what sent this event over the top was where the training took place; in France….on sailboats…on the French Riviera.
When I first heard about it, I thought what I’m sure you are thinking right now: “A youth worker training event on yachts…on the French Riviera? Yeh, right! That just sounds like a vacation disguised as something legitimate!” But I was wrong. My week sailing the high seas in close quarters with 15 other youth workers proved to be one of the best learning experiences of my life. One of the things I decided to do was to see how many sailing lessons also applied to youth work. Here are a few:
- The Journey Is Just As Important As The Destination. Every morning we would set a new course for the day, usually with an island as our ideal destination. But what I discovered was that as wonderful as the islands we ultimately arrived at were, it was the journey that was the best part! While we sailed we had to work together, adjust course, etc. We laughed together, told stories and learned from each other.
Take Away: As I lead my youth ministry don’t be so focused on the “destination” that I miss out on the joys of the journey!
- A Good Skipper Is Key! Our boat was made up of a bunch of eager, but inexperienced sailors. We were willing to learn, and worked hard at the various tasks involved in sailing a boat in open water. But everything relied on our skipper who was much wiser and experienced. He knew where we were headed and how to get there. He knew when to let us run things and when he needed to take control. He knew what was safe and what wasn’t. We quickly learned to trust him and follow his lead.
Take Away: Am I a leader people feel confident and safe in following?
- No Wind Doesn’t Mean No Movement. One day…for the entire day…the wind was absolutely dead. We totally lost momentum, and no matter how we tried to adjust the sails etc. we simply couldn’t get the wind to propel the boat. But we had to make progress so we did what nobody on a sailboat wants to do; we started the engine! We didn’t get to our destination they way we had hoped and planned…but we got there.
Take Away: There will be times in ministry where things seem to go dead; we simply lose momentum. In those moments I have a choice: Let my ministry drift or see it as an opportunity to “start a new engine”.
- Flexibility Is Key. I quickly learned flexibility was the key to enjoyment and success on the trip. We had to adjust our schedules and plans according to the wind and weather report each day. We had to drop anchor in a harbor for the night because the marina was full. We spent an entire day on land because the winds were too severe to sail. Over the course of the week, not a day went by that didn’t present some sort of challenge to our planned agenda. So we adjusted.
Take Away: In youth ministry, planning is vital. But an equally important quality of a leader is the ability to adjust plans to reflect the current reality.
Youth ministry is like sailing….who knew!?