“It has been an honest whirlwind, rollercoaster of three years, and it’s been the absolute biggest blessing.”
A Pastoral Leadership Reflection written by Susie Wells.
My youth pastoral leadership journey was quite unique. I started three years ago already two years into ministry as the youth pastor at Mt Albert Salvation Army. I knew very little about anything Baptist (other than that they actually baptize*) and I was juggling quite a few things. Over the course of the three years, I proceeded to pick up more things. I changed jobs, returning back to my home church, and gave birth to my baby girl, Callie. If you’re on site, you may have seen her running around, adventuring and getting into mischief.
But each of us in the cohort had quite unique journeys. Each of us had to juggle – ministry, work, study, and some sort of a life. We face wins and losses, the absolute beauty of ministry, and the heartbreak. We struggled alongside one another, under the watchful eye of a ministry training team (and wider staff team) that cared for us and prayed for us and guided us.
I was recently introduced to a new concept termed ‘holding space.’ When Jonny asked me to speak at Sending about my pastoral leadership journey, it immediately came to mind. It’s a counselling term and it is not a counselling diploma I’ve received, so bear with my sparse definition.
To hold space is quite simply to hold metaphorical space for somebody else to grow and develop, to “donate your ears and heart without wanting anything back.” (Margeaux House, ‘What Holding Space for Others Actually Means and How To Do it’). It is to be totally present for someone, to focus fully on somebody else in order to support them. Holding space allows somebody to feel safe, to be vulnerable, to grow.
Over the last few years we were blessed with a ministry training team, with Carey staff, with church leadership and with families, who held space for us. They were totally present with us when we needed it, putting themselves aside to focus fully on us. They made us feel safe, provided safe spaces where we could be vulnerable, and pushed us to step out of our comfort zones and grow.
Personally, I had a group of people calling out what I was doing as crazy – I remember Wendy’s shock when I actually showed up to our second-year retreat with a two week old – but simultaneously cheered me on and encouraged me. They acknowledged the hard, commended me for it, and empowered me to keep getting it done.
We all learnt so much about ourselves and one another. We each grew so much. In my first year, the idea of giving a five-minute presentation just in front of our cohort had me physically shaking, and now I’m stepping into God’s calling on my life to preach and teach feeling relatively comfortable.
While it was never framed in such a way, over the past three years we held space for each other, and learnt how to hold space to those we’ll minister to. Though it sounds a bit cheesy, we are so thankful for how Carey gave us space to grow into the people we are today. Our growth is far from done, but we have been set up in the best way to continue running this marathon that is ministry. It has been an honest whirlwind, rollercoaster of three years, and it’s been the absolute biggest blessing.
* In the Salvation Army we don’t practice baptism or communion
Susie finished her Diploma in Youth Pastoral Leadership in 2020.