What is Youth (and Adult) Leadership? (28th Sunday, Ordinary Time)
We read in Matthew 29, the “Great Commissioning” given to us by Christ. The “Great Commissioning” was:
- Go out and make disciples
- Teach them what I told you
- Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
- Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
In this week’s readings, the Book of Wisdom and Mark’s Gospel flesh out some specifics related to the Great Commissioning. One must understand, that this commissioning was not just given to priests and sisters and holy people. It was given to anybody and everybody who has been baptized and received the Sacrament of Confirmation and Eucharist. What does that mean? You are not allowed to sit on the sideline. The great commission is a leadership commission. You have been called to take a leadership role:
- Right now,
- Exactly where you are
- Being exactly who you are and the way that God has made you.
You are not the future – you are the present! You are called to influence the world for good.
If you are going to fulfill your “Great Commission,” there are traits that you must have:
The first quality of youth leadership is: you need is to be a man or a woman of “character.” Look at Psalm 78:
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born… Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
People need to know that you are a young man or woman of your word. You must have the reputation that if you say you are going to do something, you do it. You need to be someone who can be trusted and relied upon. This leads to …
The second quality of youth leadership is: “faithfulness.” If you are an athlete doing wind sprints and grass drills. If you are a musician practicing scales. If you are an artist using a sketch book. This stuff is boring – BORING! But you have to have the fundamentals down where they are second nature – where you don’t even have to think about them, they’re automatic – before you can build your own personal style upon them and become skilled in the task. Leadership is a learned skill. Being called to influence the world for good and actually going out and doing good is hard – and it’s a learned skill.
Look at I Timothy 4:
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. … Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Your prayer life, Eucharist, Confession, spiritual guidance, reading – both are good secular, as well as spiritual material. Faithfulness in the little things that you are called to do right now is doing leadership homework. It’s boring and it’s hard and it’s not necessarily fun and it might not be exciting. You want to lead. You need to be faithful in the little things. Matthew 25: “The master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with little things; I will put you in charge of bigger things. Come and share your master’s joy!”
The third quality of youth leadership is “talent and ability.” If young people are going to be a positive force and influence for good around them they are going to have to be competent in what they are doing. Attitude is important. Vision is important. Hope for the future is important. Enthusiasm is important. But unless you can be seen as someone who is not only reliable, but also has a skill set and is confident in what you do, you’re not going to have the impact that you would like to have and you are going to be frustrated. Identify the unique contribution that only you can bring.
We do not have blinding clarity about what your purpose is in life. The idea that you would have absolute crystal-clear clarity about what you are supposed to be doing for the rest of your life is an unrealistic expectation You are not adults – but you are almost adults. What you can start doing is asking yourself what you do not want to do and what are you not good at. This will begin to help you discern the direction that you should move in.
The fourth quality of youth leadership is brokenness. Another way of saying this is “Repurpose your past so that you can call others to do the same.” Look at the great leaders of the Bible: King David, Joseph and the coat of many colors, St. Paul, St. Peter. Look at Jesus. Every single one of them went through a period of struggle and failure and it was from the brokenness that they were able to develop the skill set and the personal characteristics of character, humility and integrity so that when the time was right – and God put them in a particular place to accomplish something great – they had already been prepared.
This is a huge issue for young people. Many young people regret decisions that they have already made in the past. Bad relationships, poor friendship choices, drugs, alcohol, sexual activity, cheating, crime. The problem is that they continue to hold onto this and therefore say that they have already disqualified themselves from the mission and from the “Great Commission.”
There’s two problems with that:
- This is such a narrow vision of a great future that God has in store for you.
- It totally discounts God’s ability to be able to take situations in your life then turn them around. God has the ability to make what happened in the past into something spectacular for you – and most especially – for others who find themselves or have found themselves in the circumstances.
God is going to take your past and going to connect it with your future. Think of the worst thing that has happened in your past whether it was with family, parents, sibling, drugs, sex, alcohol whatever. Here’s your prayer:
“Lord, what are you going to do with this? How are you going to take this and use this for Your greater glory and for a more fulfilling life for me?”
Look at Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
And look at James 1:12: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
The world will tell you everything that is wrong and evil about the Church. The Church has been around for 2000 years. It has been attacked. It has been vilified. It has been persecuted. It has made mistakes – HUGH mistakes.
It’s still here! The score is: Church 2000 – world zero.
Stand on the Church. Rely on it regardless what others say and regardless on what happens not only to the Church but especially what happens within the Church.
Smacking the church around is easy but if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem and if you see any issues or problems within the church – maybe you are being called, as part of your mission, to do something about that.
The final quality of youth leadership is: Bloom where you are planted and let Jesus set the pace. You don’t have to do great things right now. Perhaps the Lord is leading you to do smaller things – but in a great way. Let the Lord determine the agenda. Let the Lord guide your actions and see where he leads you. (Check out Proverbs 16:9)
In closing you can do me a favor. If, what we are doing here at Saint Monica, is something that is significant – then young people like you are going to want to be a part of it.
- If young people from your neighborhood from your family from your school are not actively engaged – then St. Monica needs to have the courage to ask itself the question “Why is that not the case?”
- Is what we are doing here captivating and compelling and contagious? If not, then I would ask you to come to me or come to Jason Carter and tell us why and also give us suggestions on what it is that you see out there in the marketplace that we need to do here.
Audio version of the homily is here: