My wedding day, volunteering and risk

Posted on October 10, 2012 by Amy Tolmie
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s, Young Leaders,

Eight weeks ago I got married.

Four months before that I got engaged.

My new husband stood up behind the table on that day and, addressing the gathered crowd, announced “when Pip and I said we were going to plan a wedding in three and a half months, I think what we actually meant was that you were going to plan us a wedding in three and a half months”. No truer words were ever spoken.

Not only did our friends help us plan our day, they took whole sections and just made them happen. Texting our worship leader the songs four days before the wedding did not leave any time to discuss how they'd be led. Asking friends to turn up at the venue and 'set it up' meant we had no idea how it would look when we arrived (despite sending instructions). Having the cake made 300 miles away by Al's auntie meant no practice runs and having to use, in her words, 'artistic license' to produce the most beautiful wedding cake I've ever seen.

Much of our wedding day was a surprise, we trusted our most precious day into the hands of those we loved and saw the amazing results that followed. Their personalities as well as their love for us shone through, and in so many ways the day was so much better for my lack of control over it. How rarely is this how we handle youth (or any) ministry?

Giving away responsibilities that are important, that have an impact, can be scary and it's often easier to micro-manage volunteers and strongly lead the direction of every element. However, in order to lead something that can grow, that can have life and that people can truly be a part of we need to be able to entrust the things which are precious to us to others for them to fly with. How often do we make volunteering in schools work a copycat task as opposed to an opportunity for creativity and leadership. I realise that not all volunteers want this level of responsibility (I'm sure many of our friends probably didn't), but many were delighted to make their mark, and produce something that has had an impact far beyond the day.

Our walking in music which I'd never heard rehearsed was breathtaking, the hymns were led completely differently to what I'd expected (the electric guitar was a total surprise!), but family who aren't church goers actually said 'if church was like this I would go every week'. My bouquet, ripped to shreds moments before leaving the house and thrown at a friend to re-tie, was one of my favourite elements of the day, a beautiful posy that suited me far better than the original. Letting go of responsibility and handing over opportunity can be scary, but it releases others to make an impact, show their gifts and make their contribution. What I yielded to in necessity I hope to practice through discipline - to let go, to give away and to be amazed at the beauty, skill and generosity of others.

Is there even more of a tension around giving away responsibility to volunteers in schools ministry because of your responsibility to the school to produce something appropriate? Does the need to maintain good relationships with schools restrict your freedom in releasing responsibilities? Or conversely, does the often dependence of schools work on volunteers mean that this giving away of opportunities and leadership is a more common practise?