Thursday, April 06, 2006

Authority and Interventions

Rebellion against authority means that a person is not subjecting himself to God, though it may appear that the person is rejecting some impure manifestation of God's authority through a human channel. - J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader

I can remember some intense conversations on mission experiences and they all deal with the appearance of rejecting an "impure manifestation of God's authority." I like to call them 'interventions.' I know I'm being a bit overly dramatic, but in many mission experiences, these types of conversations are painful, important and a little too close for our comfort.

I can remember having these types of conversations with whole teams [my whole team of 5 in 1994 were irate at me], small groups [two students upset at one leader], and one on one [me and one student]. It all varies and every time, it is difficult.

Sometimes it is inevitable. Mission experiences are pressure-cookers full of ranges of new and intense cultural, logistical and emotional situations. Adolescent emotions swing within a wide range. And of course, living 24x7 with the same people can also be difficult.

But the biggest cause of these conversations is authority. A leader saying something a student didn't appreciate. A leader not showing enough touchy feely love to a student. A student not getting enough respect. It seems to always be related to a leader and a student and always about the leader's level of authority over the student.

Here are a few ideas that I think may help, even before we get into the authority scenarios - and when its too late.

1 - As the lead leader, believe in your leaders.
Encourage them, uphold them, have a good dialogue with them once something like this happens. And tell them that it is okay. Give them permission to have students dislike or not agree with them. They are *your* leaders. You picked them. They sacrificed a huge amount to serve with you. And you know how capable they are, what kind of character quality they have and how they would lay down their lives for these kids.

2 - As the lead leader, believe in your students, just a little less.
I know there are kids reading this. And I will tell you - face to face as well as in a post - that I put more trust in the leaders than you. Not a lot more...but the balance swings in their favor. Not that I don't believe you, because I do. Since I picked these leaders, I know them. I know how they see you. And I can tell you that they adore you. You have easily won their hearts. They would, and as a matter of fact, have, sacrificed enormous amounts for you - to give you this experience - so that you can do something with it.

3 - As a leader, be gentle with your students. Keep sarcasm in check. Respect them, listen to them, love them within this awesome opportunity you have sacrificed for to get them here.

4 - As a student, respect your leaders. They know more details, have a bigger picture and are committed to your growth and well-being. They are wholly, 100% on your side.

5 - If there is an issue, talk about it. Get it out in the open. Appreciate honesty from all sides. Most of the time, just talking about it helps immensely.

And let's remember that authority is a big issue in life, not just on mission trips. It affects a whole lifetime, including my teachers, my boss, my kids, and ultimately, how I view and obey God.

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