“We need to listen more”
That’s the most common piece of advice that I received repeatedly as I met with our newly formed Student Advisory Council a few weeks ago. What is the Student Advisory Council? New this year, this diverse group of student leaders from across the country meets with me monthly online. They give me their advice and perspective on challenges we’re facing and strategies we’re exploring as we seek to help students know Jesus and experience His power to change.
The passion of this group has been both inspiring and refreshing to me personally. They love Jesus deeply and desire to engage those around them with the gospel message even in the midst of their own growth and transformation.
“We need to listen more”
I heard that theme repeatedly as we met in person at our corporate office in Langley, BC. Over the weekend, we discussed cultural realities they face everyday as students on mission. We looked at some of our evangelism and discipleship practices and brainstormed how they could be improved in order to become better contextualized. We discussed how to measure progress and how we could better listen and learn from diversity. We are seeking to create together an environment of grace where they feel free to speak truthfully to me. I am thankful for their boldness and kindness.
“Urgency has to be for Jesus, or it just makes you hate the world and be sad,” one of them expressed in a conversation about urgency and mission. Again, I’m so encouraged by how these students embody a desperate desire to know Jesus deeply which fuels their desire to invite others into that experience.
Before they arrived for the weekend, I had asked them to read the book Canoeing the Mountains: Christian leadership in uncharted territory, by Tod Bolsinger. This book has been very helpful for us as we awaken to the reality that our cultural landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and we need to change our strategies in order to better engage this generation in the life-changing message and person of Jesus. The Council picked two strategies we have leaned on heavily in the past and I asked them the following questions:
1) What cultural realities in the past allowed that strategy to be successful?
2) What is the DNA of the strategy? Why do we do it? What elements of our motivation for pursuing it at the time of its inception are core to who we are and do we not want to lose?
3) Are there new cultural realities that now challenge that strategy and what are they?
4) How could we adapt to these new realities while still maintaining our DNA, the core of our “why”?
This exercise was insightful. If you are in a place of doing things the same way you’ve always done them and wondering why they aren’t working as well any more, I’d encourage you to try this. Ask yourself or a group of leaders these questions. And then listen.
That weekend, I was struck that whether we were talking about culture, evangelism, discipleship, measurements or leadership, the students on the Council consistently repeated that one point of advice: we need to listen more. We need to listen to God more. We need to listen to our friends more. We need to listen to each other across gender more. People are longing to be heard. Listening with empathy is counter-cultural and it is what this generation is longing for.
I’m not yet sure what all this means for how we approach ministry at Power to Change, except I believe I should take the advice of these students and listen more. One of the things they told me was that I should communicate more using meme’s, so I will begin my increased posture of listening by posting one here… just for them.