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This past week I had the wonderful opportunity of being at the Canadian Baptist Youth and Family Forum in Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was a gathering of about fifty youth and family leaders from across Canada. Together this crew articulated the opportunities and challenges in reaching this generation with the Gospel. Together they reached some bold recommendations for the churches. Their observations are being put together in a report to be shared across our Nation. Please watch for the report! In today’s blog I want to share my personal take-aways from the gathering. These three observations hit me strongly, from the perspective of one of the people on the planning team (Canadian Baptist Youth and Family Team) for this event. These three things will change the way I lead. May they change the way you lead too.

1. The power of listening – my role at this event was to listen. One of the main focuses of this forum was cluster groups, where we heard from participants the challenges and opportunities they see in culture, in engaging theologically, in leadership, and in church culture. I was a cluster group leader, where my role was to ask good questions, invite discussion and help the group dig deeper. My role was to listen to the voice of the participants. Even between sessions and over meals I was impressed with the level of deep questions people asked each other, as they listened deeply to each other - hearing the stories of what God is doing across Canada and discerning with each other what is happening in their leadership, church and context. Something amazing happened when the cluster group leaders got together at the end – very clear themes were repeated in each group and in the side discussions. We didn’t have an agenda, we didn’t know where the forum would go, but as we listened to leaders from across our Nation it was clear certain themes were being highlighted (Watch for the report! It contains these important themes!) Here’s my big take-away: God absolutely does speak through the collective. Somehow in the drive of leadership I’ve not taken as much time recently to listen to the voice of those in the trenches of ministry and life. Forgive me. I’m listening now.

Leaders – are we truly listening to those we are leading? Do we trust God’s voice speaking in and through the body of Christ?

2. We have excellent next generation leaders – during this forum our leaders impressed me repeatedly. There was not a hint of competitiveness in the group. Not once did I hear leaders comparing size of youth groups or churches, salaries or budgets. There was a clear heart to see God’s Kingdom come here on earth, across Canada. There was a great willingness to help each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, share resources, share ideas and share hope. There was an amazing willingness in this group of leaders to do whatever it takes to see this generation transformed by the Gospel. There was a great willingness of these leaders to look critically at themselves – their own walk with God, their own love for the church, their own leadership, their own theology – for the sake of becoming more effective in our Kingdom work. Again and again during the week the planning team was thanked by the participants for the level of professionalism with which we were treating them. I wonder if this comment comes from the lack of professionalism with which we often treat next generation leaders? Remember just because the Youth Pastor plays a killer game of dodgeball, she/he can also have the depth to walk with youth and the church through complex issues and change. Friends, our youth and children are in very good hands with this group of leaders. We need to let them lead and trust them to lead. We need to treat them with professionalism and trust their professional voice as those who work with this generation.

Leaders – are we trusting and giving real authority to our next generation leaders?

3. The power of imaginative hope – it was a very packed schedule and an exhausting week, and yet everyone I talked with said they were walking away feeling renewed. How can both be true? The power of imaginative hope. During the week Gary Nelson shared “The opposite of hopelessness is imagination.” This is why the week was so renewing. Every leader had space to imagine what could be – space to imagine what ministry to the next generation could look like, space to imagine what their leadership could look like, and space to imagine what their church could look like. Again, watch for the coming report as it tries to articulate the imaginative hope that was expressed at this gathering.

Leaders – are we giving space for people, especially our young leaders, to dream and pray with imaginative hope?

There are my three major take aways from the forum that will change the way I lead. What do you think? How will these three things change the way you lead? If you were at the gathering – what was your big take-away(s)?

-Renée @r_embree

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