Not long ago, I wrapped up leading my very first Women in Youth Ministry Cohort with 9 women from all over the U.S. To say it was personally fulfilling and life-changing is an understatement. Of course, when you pour your life into another (2 Timothy 2:2), you always wonder how it's being received. A few weeks after the cohort ended, I received one of the greatest emails a leader can receive. One of our cohort women was asked to present to her church leadership board, her reflections from our coaching cohort. Below is her response.
I'm launching another cohort in early 2015 (as soon as we can fill it!). If you know another woman in youth ministry, please consider sending them my way. I'd love for them to share a similar journey to Andrea...
To The Church...
Over the course of my life I can point to certain chapters that I would consider to be “defining.” They are times where I have seen my soul be awakened, challenged and changed. They are moments that I couldn’t have wished for or created on my own. They are points in time that have been critical to shaping my heart. The past 10 months have been one of those defining chapters.
Last Fall I found myself feeling restless. I was in the middle of my 10th at our church as Youth Pastor. We had just brought home our son Biruk from Ethiopia after a 3 year journey of waiting. I was in the middle of a maternity leave, attempting to figure out not only how to be a Mom, but how to be a “working mom” with a paid professional job. I was struggling with so many fears in my personal life. And honestly...I was struggling to feel valued and validated.
That October, I received an email that would change the course of my life. The email was from April Diaz, a friend whom I had been corresponding with for about four years via Facebook. I had been connected to her by another woman in ministry who had taught one of the seminars I had attended at a Youth Specialties Convention. I had been struggling with my journey of infertility and in the end discovered April had walked a very similar journey as I was walking and was in the middle of adopting two children from Ethiopia. Over the 4 years, April not only encouraged me in my personal life, but began to speak into so many other areas of my life, ministry being one of them. When April emailed me last October, it was to tell me that she was starting a Women in Youth Ministry Cohort, through the organization “The Youth Cartel.” It was going to be a 10-month long cohort, comprised of 8 other women Youth Pastors from all over the country. We would gather twice together, face to face in California, video conference call several times throughout the year, and have 4 phone coaching calls with April. The purpose of the cohort would be to challenge us, affirm us, shape us, and develop us as professional women in youth ministry. I knew it was something I needed to do, so I took a leap of faith and signed up. I had no idea how it would affect my life.
Throughout the course of this cohort, I have read about 10 books that have empowered me as a woman in youth ministry, have helped me to understand my role as a working mother, have taught me so many different facets of leadership, and have taught me to lead courageously. I have learned the importance of knowing my personal vocational values and how they affect the role that I choose to be in. I have been challenged to think outside of the box with the issues I face in ministry. I have been reminded of how crucial the role of prayer is in my life. I have been not only encouraged to find a rhythm of rest as well as a monthly day of solitude in my life, but have come to love and look forward to it. Most of all, I have been forced to recognize so many of the fears I carry around with me and have chosen, with the accountability of my cohort, to face them head on.
Each month in our cohort, we set goals for ourselves and assigned personal homework to accomplish. These assignments included reading, journaling, having necessary conversations with people in our life, creating prayer teams, taking days of solitude, creating personal vocational values, taking risks, setting personal goals, facing fears and writing about them, and so much more. In the end, I was able to complete all the assignments I was given and had given myself, which I believe had a huge impact on what I got out of this cohort.
This cohort has been such a defining chapter of my life because I have learned to face my fears of failure, of the unknown, of not being good enough, and of so many things outside of my control. I have learned that my fears can’t control me and that God is so much bigger than any fear I could ever face. I have learned that I have something to offer this world and that shouldn’t be silenced. I have been taught to step out even when I think I am not good enough.
That, my friends, is why I do what I do. It's for women like Andrea and the women she represents that The Youth Cartel is so passionately committed to equipping women for church leadership.
The best is yet to come...
You can follow Andrea's remarkable journey as a momma and leader at Life Unexpected.