The longer you serve on Young Life staff, the more you will be confronted with three simple questions. They are asked at banquets, summer assignments, staff conferences and trainings. They will be posed by adult guests, committee chairs, staff associates, senior staff and peers. On the surface, the questions seem harmless, but if you look closely, they reveal one of the secrets of the mission. Here they are:
Question 1: “When did you come on staff?”
Question 2: “In what communities or schools have you led Young Life ?”
These first two are obvious and even expected. They speak to your tenure, experience and to some level, your resume — where you served, roles you have had and the ministry context. However, there is a third question, and it may be the most important. It speaks to your lineage and DNA in the mission.
Question 3: “Who Trained you?”
This third question speaks to something totally different. In a ministry that values relationship, contact and teaching, the question of where your training came from speaks to your ministerial family tree. In many ways Young Life is an “oral tradition” ministry that is passed down from person to person, and the role of the supervisor/trainer is to ensure that the principles and values of the mission are passed onto the next generation. Jesus did this the best, and if a disciple is a student, then a disciple-maker is a trainer (1 Corinthians 11:1). That is why we see some phrases continue to surround the Young Life mission:
“Incarnational Supervision:” The premise that the relational style that we employ with students should be our model with supervision.
“The greatest expression of love is wasted time:” In an age where time is currency, the most important investment we could make is the ability to spend time with those we supervise and train.
“Walk alongside” Leadership: The biblical style of training that doesn’t just send but goes with.
“Young Life-caught, not taught:” The realization that the beauty of good Young Life work is in the nuance and details. Not necessarily taught in the classroom.
“I do it — you watch; you do it — I watch; YOU do it”: The beautifully inefficient and wonderfully effective slow style of local training.
I have been on staff for 28 years in 12 different schools, several communities and a geography that started within a school district and has grown in scope every year. I learned a good bit in every community, role and setting, and have had countless mentors, coaches and trainers, but I smile every time I am asked question #3 because I get to answer. “Ray Donatucci was my trainer!” Ray is one of the most senior staff in the mission, incredibly gifted and a legend in Young Life. The mere fact that I am associated with his training grants me access to any room in Young Life.
The Secret of Young Life is: “Everyone is a Trainer!”
This is what has enabled our mission to flourish for 77 years. We have a world-class Training department that is the envy of much of the non-profit ministry world, but the majority of our training (over 75 percent) occurs locally, and that is at the heart of a ministry of presence. We have over 70 courses, classes, experiences, and cohorts that facilitate the growth and development of all of our staff at every age and stage, but if the local training isn’t intentional and dynamic,all of our missionwide training is wasted.
That is why Ray entered my mind immediately. Words he said, priorities he instilled and challenges he extended my way all had their effect. It is one of the secrets of Young Life. The slow, subtle, transforming style of training.
Biblically, we often hear about rabbinic teaching where students would walk so closely to the rabbi that they would “collect the dust” from their sandals. That is Young Life training at its best because it leaves a mark on the person being trained. There are lots of avenues for training from several perspectives — missionwide to divisional and regional — but with the conviction that we are all trainers and it is all of our responsibility, everything changes!
Now, two questions for you:
1. If everyone is a trainer — who trained you? Maybe take a moment to thank them!
2. If everyone is a trainer — who are you training and how? Maybe go spend some time with them and leave a mark.
In Young Life we never just SEND someone to training, we prepare them for being SENT.
Written by: Ken B. Tank. email@example.com