Servanthood and Mission
Learning while living in a community of “urban monasteries”
an interview conducted by YouthWork Magazine
Young people learn servant leadership in “urban monasteries”The following article, based on interviews with Kairos in Europe and the Middle East, was originally published in the September 2008 Issue of YouthWork Magazine, a monthly publication based in Great Britain which provides resources for equipping and informing Christian youth workers. Used with permission.
Leadership lessons are best learnt while living together, according to youth and students Movement, Kairos. For three weeks in July , 32 young adults from around the world were together in Dublin for an intensive training program in servanthood and mission, while practicing living in a community of “urban monasteries”.
“Kairos Summer Mission Households” is an initiative of the Sword of the Spirit – an international ecumenical movement. They provided seventy hours of classroom and workshop style living and a week of street mission, all in the context of these young people living in households. The participants, of different nationalities and denominations, were divided into single sex houses, shared bedrooms with two others and took part in an intense schedule which began with breakfast at 7am followed by morning prayer. Prayer times started with the ancient tradition of chanting two psalms, listening to scripture, and then moving into open prayer and then finishing with quiet time. The students took about an hour for their own study time before starting the program at 9:30 am. During the rest of the days, training included sessions examining contemporary culture, how to address the challenge of relativism, how to build strong teams and developing the skills needed in leadership. The third week of the mission was devoted to various missions on the streets of Dublin.
The university-aged students who attended were young pioneers wanting to gain experience in building community, and grow in the skills and gifts of evangelism, leadership and outreach. “Leadership training cannot simply consist of developing competence,” Youthwork was told by Jamie Treadwell, the founding Director of Kairos and now the Kairos coach. “Forming character is a crucial part, and some would say is the area of greatest need for this generation. We must go beyond classroom theory into the life experience of service. The households are like a little urban monastery geared for mission.”
The program puts such an emphasis on the importance of students learning how to live alongside each other, because Paul Jordan, Kairos Director considers the aim of the program to be helping young people to grow as servants. “The theory is great but living with each other is where the rubber hits the road, where you learn how to serve one another. This is the fundamental attitude of a leader and missionary.”
Joni, one of the household leaders from Belgium gave an insight into her experience: “In leadership we tend to focus on the task, but this is not the whole picture. People have a background. One of the girls said to me, ‘I'm not used to structured life. At home I get up when I want to get up. I have a meal when ‘'m hungry.’ I've realised in leadership we have to understand where they are coming from. It's not a matter of disobedience or being lazy. It’s just that people are different. My heart has expanded in this leadership role. I'm concerned for the girls in my household - is everybody OK, how are they engaging with the program, are the relationships going well, is their sleep and food all right?”
Joni also described the areas that were less easy. “There’s a burden here too. I get tired. I need to get a good night's rest and a good time of prayer. I need God's grace to help me if I am to lead others well.”
The 32 participants were from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland Belgium, Poland, Germany. Lebanon, USA and from a variety of Christian streams, including Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Roman and Maronite Catholic and Greek Orthodox. All of the students held positions of responsibility or have a vision for leadership and mission work at their universities.
Kairos is the international youth and student movement of the Sword of the Spirit, an international communities movement. “The Summer Missions Household” is hosted by Nazareth, a local community of the Sword of the Spirit. They supported the program by opening up their homes, providing lunch, giving administrative and prayer support.
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