Today, visiting with a former coworker, I remembered the children's choir camp I led about 15 years ago. I was appointed "leader" by default when the person in charge jammed out a few weeks before camp. We had a location and a musical to learn. 85 kids. 20 parents. Where to start?
We immediately put in place permission for everyone to exchange info, and encouraged parents to come up with ideas for consideration, no matter how "silly" or "radical". We challenged them to use their gifting, experience, and talents. I clearly laid out my weaknesses. "Pick up the slack, please," I asked. "You're good at things I'll never be good at or interested in. I'm counting on you!"
The parents nodded and laid out what they preferred to do. One mother with a big heart became camp nurse and surrogate mommy. Another volunteered as our bookkeeper. One dad emerged as head of security, and another as event coordinator. I wrote everything down to make it official. Everyone chose their part in the bigger task.
During the camp, the inevitable emergencies were dealt with by parents with appropriate skills. Throughout the riotous week of fun, underneath the mood was calm, with the confidence that comes from sound planning. There was little hysteria or drama when tough decisions needed to be made. I would pull in several parents, let them decided what to do, and then they took responsibility to see it through.
At the end of the camp, the counselors gave each other tearful hugs, exclaimed that they had never worked harder, had more fun, or enjoyed themselves more at any camp. Many of the parents became close friends, and those friendships have continued. I met one of my best friends at that camp.
What was the secret of our success? Our short-term team valued each member, no matter how small or great the talent. We assumed good intentions. Everyone was invited to use their diverse skills and interests for the good of the camp and the children. We boosted each other and collaborated on difficulties. There was no one-size-fits-all, that's for sure. Sometimes a solution went one way, sometimes another. The flex and flow was amazing. And it worked!
When I stepped back from the leadership limelight to support others, people came forward who had never used their skills. Many started out shaky and unsure, and came by for reassurance: "You can do it! We've got your back!" We'd watch them gain a bit of confidence, then boldly and competently lead an activity, share an idea, or play a group prank. We applauded every success.
To wrap up the week, the counselors' entry for the weekend talent show was hilarious, and amazing. The natural choreographers laid out the plan. The group clowns hammed it up to the full. I hate acting, so they generously designed a little side part that didn't embarrass me too much. We all looked good and the kids gave us a standing ovation.
I'd forgotten how energizing it was to lead that diverse group. To give them the confidence to venture into uncharted territory. To let the experience flow past us, trusting that God would give insight and skills for every circumstance. He did not fail us.
Thanks for sharing your stories with me, Sue. It was great fun to see you again and remember a story of my own.