by Tommy Nixon
The path to great leadership and effectiveness is found in our willingness to face our own hypocrisy. One thing I love about urban youth is that they can search out BS faster than most. After experiencing the cycle of pain and suffering through poverty, broken families and the violence of our culture our youth today are cautious and even afraid at times to experience authentic care and love. Yet so many times what we are providing for them is programming and the idea that if you are extremely busy and give everything to doing ministry, then you have arrived.
If we want healthy urban youth we need healthy urban leaders. We need to be grounded and live a life that is congruent to the abundant life that Christ calls us to and to the picture that we are creating for how that looks for our youth.
Last week I reconnected with a young man who has fallen away from Christ. A large reason for that is the pastor he was under in my neighborhood sexually assaulted another student. This has ruined his view of the Church. We had just started up a Bible study and he walked in, hunched over by shame and the uncomfortable feeling of someone who knows they haven’t been living right. I welcomed him and he said that he needed to talk to me one-on-one. Then he left. When we met up his first words were, “You are the realest Christian I know.” We were able to start from that point and set some goals for forgiveness and inching his way back to God. This isn’t to glorify me, but if the institution fails him, if the leadership fails him, if he feels like he has failed as a Christian, one of the most important things our youth need in those moments is a picture of the gospel. A picture of Jesus. We live in the neighborhood that we work in at Solidarity. I am on the block. If I am yelling at my kids, the neighbors hear it, and there are chismosos (gossips) everywhere. The consistency that this young man has seen me live in Christ has had an impact on his life. It is something he can hold onto as we help him reach back out to Jesus. So how did I get there?
Since many of us are from an urban context we need to use our BS skills on ourselves. We need to confront our own hypocrisy to see if we are actually living out what we say we believe. Below are 5 ways we can become the picture of the Gospel that our youth so desperately need.
- Be introspective – We have to look inward and not be afraid of what we find. If we believe God can save the drug addict why don’t we think He can heal our brokenness? Our tendency is to fill those moments and memories with “ministry” while at the same time we don’t see how it is pouring all over the youth we lead. Take notice of your feelings, what were the highs and lows of your day? Write those down every day and you will see the areas that God wants to heal you in.
- Spend a lot of time with God – Many of us don’t actually spend that much time with God while professing to our youth that He is the source of everything. What does your calendar look like? Is your time with God scheduled? Is it consistent? The belief that everything is found in His presence and the action to back it up is the path to everything you have ever dreamed of for you and your youth.
- Learn conflict resolution and practice it – We are called to the ministry of reconciliation but many of us don’t know how to resolve conflict. I have found that my deepest relationships are those that have survived conflict well. Learn to own your mistakes and say sorry. This is an area that is desperately needed in the hood.
- Be consistent and show up on time – If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere do it! Our youth are waiting to be disappointed. Don’t let that be a foothold for the enemy. Even if they don’t show up make sure you do. Be careful what you promise and make sure there is mutual responsibility. If a student wants to meet up tell them to text you to set up a time. If you miss something or forget be quick to apologize and ready to make up for it.
- Learn to be humble – One of the greatest traits of Christ centered leadership is humility. I have found that one of the best ways to gain humility is failure. Do not be afraid to fail. God is bigger than your failure. Take risks as you seek out the vision that God has for you and your youth. Try something new. What is the thing you are tolerating in your life that is stopping you from going to that next level? Most of the time what is stopping that movement is fear. We profess God is sovereign as long as it involves things we are controlling. Let go of that. Step out in faith, when God shows up the story will be so one sided that we have to give God the glory and if it fails then we are on the path to humility and we can rejoice in that.
Tommy Nixon, Executive Director of Solidarity, a community of believers intent on going deep with Jesus. They focus on community development, immigration reform, mentoring, education, gang intervention/prevention, and social enterprise.
You can attend one of Tommy’s workshop at this years UYWI National Conference. Click below for more info on how to Register