by Heidi Swartley, Doylestown congregation, and Kate Hockman, Deep Run East congregation
Over the first weekend of September, we had the wonderful opportunity to attend Franconia & Eastern District Conference’s youth leadership retreat. During this retreat we learned many lessons and met many people who we probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. It was a fantastic feeling to spend time with other people from separate churches in our conference who had the same willingness to lead. The weekend included a wonderful speaker, awesome team building exercises, and an overall feeling of excitement to learn and lead.
One of the first things we recognized on our retreat is just how hard leadership is. Showing up, being present, putting yourself out there, and trying with all of who you are, is taking a huge risk. Our doubt and fear will convince us that it is not a risk worth taking, and we are not the right people for the job. This doubt is a part of life. Our speaker for the weekend, Pastor Joe Hackman (Salford congregation), assured us that all leaders experience doubt—a reality we don’t often name or recognize. But as leaders, we do not stand alone, relying on our own strength.
Our theme for the weekend, “I Am Called”, grounded us in the confidence that we have been called: He will never leave us nor forsake us, and He will go with us as we work for the glory of His kingdom.
Scripture. As Pastor Joe talked to us about how we stay grounded in our faith in the midst of our doubt, he turned us to Scripture. The Bible tells the stories of many great spiritual leaders, who all grappled with doubt the same way we do today. Our theme verse from the weekend was 1 Timothy 4:12, in which Paul comforts Timothy in the midst of doubt over his young age. Timothy also had struggles with his family and his health, which likely contributed to the doubt. Jeremiah, in the Old Testament, tells the story of God using people, even in their doubt. God calls Jeremiah, and Jeremiah retreats into doubt saying: “I don’t know how…” and “I’m only….” Scripture not only tells us about the doubt of past leaders, but also provides verses of comfort and instruction in what to do with our doubt.
Values. Everybody has them, but sometimes it’s hard to tell what they are. Joe suggested saying the following statement. “If I took away___ from ___, they would cease to exist.” For example, If I took away empathy from Kate or love from Heidi, they would cease to exist. Identifying and knowing what your core values are is another way to handle our doubt. In order to identify our core values as leaders, we were given small cards with different values on them, values such as freedom, empathy, and helpfulness. After Pastor Joe told us to split our cards into different groups based on their importance, he asked us to pick three to five core values that were important to us. We realized that if we were ever experiencing doubt, we could fall back on the values that we picked.
Community. Community is one of the most powerful ways to cope with doubt, and as Pastor Joe told us, “fear fears community.” In order to be a successful leader, we need to realize that somebody is always on our side. Our church community is always there to support us in any way they can, especially in times of doubt; they’re right there, cheering us on from the sidelines. Community helps to root us in the truth, in how truly loved, supported, and valued we are. Community is patient with us, in our fear, brokenness, and weakness. Seeing Christ’s love reflected in another’s love for us is a powerful thing.
Overall, this experience taught us so much, and we are grateful we had the opportunity to go to this retreat. We learned so much about God and what it means to be a leader.