Developing an EPIC Generation - Participatory

Friday, August 30, 2019

Continuing on from last week's post about this EPIC generation, this week we are looking at Participatory. This generation expects to participate. They have grown up participating in meaningful ways in a range of decisions and aspects of their lives.

They upload their thoughts and want to be heard, they participate in family decisions around food, holidays etc. To keep them engaged, we need to find ways to help them participate in meaningful ways. Not only does participating engage them more, it helps them learn and grow.

Jesus' leadership style was one that involved participation. Throughout his ministry he made people participate. His disciples didn't just sit and listen to his teaching, they were expected to engage and participate. Matthew 10 tells of Jesus sending out the disciples in groups of 2. What can we learn from Jesus's example in Matthew 10?

He had modelled what he was asking them to do.
The disciples had been with Jesus for a little while, so they would have heard his teaching and seen his ministry in action with healing and miracles. He was not asking them to participate in something they had never seen or something he was not doing himself.
When we look to have young people participate, context helps them. For example, if you ask one of your young people to lead a 5 minute breakout discussion with 3-4 people during your sermon, then make sure they have seen it done successfully, to help set them up for success.

He gave them the authority that would enable them to do what he asked
Jesus did not give them a task or responsibility without also imparting to them the authority they would need to do it. If we are only offering a token gesture of participation and not true participation, the young people will feel it. So we need to be mindful to allow their participation to be meaningful.
In our example of running a small discussion, if the young person we have asked to lead their group is not acknowledged in some way, then they may not have the respect of those around them. How you do that will depend on the size of your group. In a smaller group you can name those who will be leading the groups. In a larger context you could have it so that those leaders have a orange piece of paper with questions on it, get into a group with someone with an orange piece of paper.
There are many other contexts where we need to be mindful that the people we have asked to participate are given the authority for that to be meaningful.

He knew them
Verses 2-4 list the disciples, because Jesus knew those he was sending out.
This thought does depend on your context and what you are asking in terms of participation. If you are a communicator that regularly speaks with different groups, then you will look for levels of participation that can work for those contexts. We have all been part of groups where mis-managed participation disrupted what we were looking to do.
If you are in a familiar group then your knowledge of the individuals can help you take the participation to a different level. At the level of participation that Jesus asked for, he knew them by name and had been with them for a while.

He gave clear and specific instruction with both boundaries and expectations
Verses 5-8 show us that Jesus did not send the disciples out willy-nilly and without purpose, he told them where they should go and where they shouldn't go. He told them what they should do as they went. Their participation was not haphazard but directed and so meaningful.
To get meaningful participation from young people, giving guidelines and boundaries helps set them up for success. Will they need to be refocussed sometimes, most likely, but laying a clear foundation is crucial.

It was a growth exercise
Verses 9-16 gives more context and some fairly challenging parameters. They had to rely on the generosity of those they were ministering to in order to eat and sleep. With the young people that we lead, they may expect to participate at a certain level, but if we are committed to their growth, then sometimes we need to help them grow. Comfort is our default setting but growth requires stretching and stepping beyond what we know. So we challenge them to do things that are uncomfortable, that involves risk, and may even fail.
Why do we do that, set them up for risk and possible failure? Because God's purposes and sacrifice require that his kingdom grow. It must grow in our hearts and in our world, and doing the same thing day after day, week after week out of habit does not honour his purpose, sacrifice and kingdom. Faith and obedience should be growing in our hearts and lives, and his love being expressed into our world.
Take it in steps, but I encourage you to challenge your youth to greater participation and greater service, for the sake of God's kingdom.

There was probably a debrief and discussion
We do not see it in this passage specifically, but if Jesus it did it at other times then it is fairly likely that there was a discussion about how it went. I believe it honours the process if we make sure that we help the young people evaluate their experiences. Again, context will mean the application of this may vary, but it is important to do for our young people to get the most out of it.
Just as we should be evaluating, we should teach our young people to evaluate too. It brings self-awareness and increases the impact of the experience.


What do you think? What are some ways you can increase and add participation this coming week?


Other posts in this series:

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