QUESTION: What is one of the most important relationships in your YL Area?
(Hint: It's not what you think.)
The Area Director/Committee Chair Relationship
Written by Eric Protzman Committee Chair, Intermountain Young Life
The relationship between the Area Director and the Committee Chair may be the most important relationship for introducing kids to Christ and helping them grow in their faith. Over my tenure of involvement with Young Life, I have grown more and more convicted of the truth of this statement because I’m part of the community. I'm not staff, I’m a Committee Chair. Let me tell you what I see.
If you ask the question “who really owns Young Life in your community?” a common response is “well, um, actually, it's the Area Director or staff.” It’s true that our current model defines Area Directors as having the greatest vested interest and at times it seems like the the AD “really owns” the local ministry, but if that is our reality we ignore and neglect a tremendously significant group: the local community and the YL Committee! As a missional organization, a Young Life staff-person may serve in several communities in their tenure, while the adults who make up the local Committee remain. The adults in a YL Community communicate the ministry of presence as strongly as anyone in town!
The flawed premise of exclusive Area Director ownership can promote the ‘outsourcing’ of ministry to kids in a local community to the local Young Life staff. However, my growing conviction is that a community has a responsibility for the engagement of kids in their town with the Gospel; it is non-transferrable. Intentional cleaving of ownership from the community leaves key adults underutilized. We can find ourselves waiting for a list of ‘tasks’ from the Area Director and take on only what we feel like taking on ranging from very much to very little. We treat what help we provide as a gift to the AD, not a responsibility to our kids. In the end, we are delighted to help, but we have missed the true calling because….
There is a Better Way
There is a better way: 100% joint responsibility and ownership between the Committee and Local YL Staff.
When the Area Director/Committee Chair relationship holds 100% joint responsibility for everything that happens in the Young Life Area there is a durable focal point for ministry that belongs to both the community and the YL organization. There is division of labor tied to gifting and skill sets but the ‘secret sauce’ is not shared labor it is shared responsibility. AD's work hard, but they often work alone. In our 100% model, we are truly in this together.
There are numerous benefits to a strong relationship between the Committee Chair and AD because 100% joint responsibility says, 'whatever happens in the Area, good or bad, is at the feet of the Area Director and Committee Chair.' Not one...Not the other...Not sometimes. It's always and both. Or, as we have become fond of saying - “It’s Our Town, Our Kids!”
By sharing the responsibility of the local Area between the Committee Chair and AD we gain wisdom, a partner, a friend, a brother or sister in Christ, experience, and know how. If we don’t get this relationship right we can live in frustration and tension. However, when the responsibility is jointly held you may discover a deep respect, admiration and love for each other. The YL staff I have worked closely with have truly become some of my favorite people! I have seen them grow in their gifting, calling and leadership. To be transparent, I have been changed too. Even though they may transition to other communities or roles, they have kept the same priority of having a strong relationship with their local Chair and I have now seen this model work repeatedly.
When the Committee Chair and Area Director share a common vision and commitment to the local ministry - the result is transformative. We are in it for each other. We are in it together. We do have a lot of work to do, but we do not walk in fear. It feels so good to have a partner. It feels so good for our efforts to be focused on introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith. If this kind of relationship is what you long for with your Committee Chair or Staffer, the following 4 steps are a good place to start.
4 STEPS to building healthy relationships between the Area Director and the Committee Chair:
1) Protect a weekly one hour face to face AD/CC meeting time (meet by phone as a last resort).
2) Start your meetings with prayer for your relationship, your community and your kids.
3) Tackle the topics, of Faith, Family, Fears and Ministry - nothing is out of bounds.
4) Connect, follow up and encourage each other several times over the week and create a partnership.
If you honor these four simple steps - you will tranform this critical relationship and you will be able to watch it ‘trickle down’ to the rest of the Committee and Community. Trust me. The Committee Chair is the highest level of volunteerism in your local area. The Area Director is the Senior staffed position in the local area. If the relationship between these two roles embraces the command to ‘love one another’ (John 13: 34-35) then you stand as an example for everyone else in your community. It’s ‘Our Town, Our Kids!’
Feel free to contact me with questions or let me know how it goes!
Eric Protzman, Committee Chair (firstname.lastname@example.org)