I was sitting with my small group, as the leader, and I didn’t know what to do. The hubbub all around me was overwhelming. I felt inadequate to lead the team. I volunteered for a church mission trip over Spring Break, leading a small group of fellow volunteers. I attended this event with the youth of Bayside of Central Roseville and the youth from an affiliate church, Bayside of South Sacramento. We visited a migrant worker’s community just outside of Visalia, California, with the goal of reaching out to the workers’ kids and families. I didn’t know how extensively I would be changed by this experience.
I tend to be introverted, on the quiet side, so I am more at ease following a good leader. My experience in mission work, up to this point, had consisted of playing group games, like hopscotch and soccer, helping with crafts, singing songs, and making friends with the needy children of our missions. However, during those past experiences, I was a participant, but this last year placed me in a new and challenging role. I was going to be leading a small group of fellow volunteers, and we would be working together to connect with and impact the farmers’ families.
The time with the kids was easy because my team of volunteers was eager and willing to serve the children. But the challenge came after all our fun and games were over, and my job as leader was intensified. I was expected to lead the group in a discussion of how our day went, what was fun, what was hard, and what worked. However, this was hard for me because I felt unsure of myself and I couldn’t seem to find the right words to facilitate the talk. With so little personal experience in leadership, I felt a little overcome by the many demands expected of me, from trying to encourage the members to share their thoughts and express themselves to inspiring them to catch that “inner flame” for our mission. How do I get everyone’s attention, which questions are pertinent to the discussion, and how do I lead all these people from question to question? That was the hardest part: to know what questions to ask, to know how to appropriately prod people, to know how to continue the discussion, and most importantly, to get something good and worthwhile out of the talk.
Already, after the first day, I was stressed and ready to give up. I would rather have evaded feeling lost, clueless, and embarrassed. But instead, I was determined to take charge, and to take a hold of the reins. I sought advice from the others in the group who encouraged me and supported my leadership role. I then successfully used their tips to direct the group in a focused discussion. I found strength in asking for help. By the end of the week, I felt confident that I had done my job as a leader. We did our job, worked as a unit, and had fun. Not only did this experience help me feel surer of my leadership skills, but it also helped me learn that my personal inexperience does not hinder me from taking control in many other areas of life.
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