Hi everyone! As some of you might know, I was away for 14 days in Rye, a scenic and quaint town along the Peninsula, on what was known as Summer Project (or Project). I was there with a group of Christian university students helping out with Schoolies Week – a week where high-school students flock down to Rye to celebrate the end of their high-school journeys. In Melbourne, Schoolies Week is seen as a rite of passage before high-schoolers hit university and the rest of their lives, therefore you can imagine that the vibes in Rye were loud, festive and excitable.
I was in Rye in 2016 as well, but distinctively, this year I was leading the team alongside another team-leader (Kevin). The trip this year stretched me in numerous ways and it took me a number of days to quieten myself down and recover. However, it was an amazing experience to cap off 2017 with and I was very privileged to be able to lead and participate in it. 🙂 Here are some of my personal reflections:
1. Early, disciplined preparation pays off.
A huge part of my preparation had to be done in the 3 months leading up to Project. Every week, Kevin and myself would have at least a 2-hour meeting that was spent sorting out tedious tasks like filling up risk-management forms and obsessing over every 15-minute block on the 2-week timetable. There were times when I felt exhausted and ready to snap at Kev, especially when exams were drawing close and my thoughts were pre-occupied elsewhere. There were also times when I wondered why Kev would spend much of his time making me visualize how each day would run and talk it through with him.
However, we saw the fruits of our labour during the actual running of Project. Project started with me having to explain to all the team members the purpose behind everything on the schedule. And during Project, there were days where huge chunks on the timetable had to be rescheduled or thrown out completely. In times like these, I had to evaluate the merits of things on the schedule before calling the shots on what stays and what goes. I realized that my ability to articulate what was important for our team did not come naturally, it came with months of systemic and disciplined vision-casting with Kev. It was only through these long and hard meetings that we were equipped to make informed decisions on what were the ‘non-negotiables’ on our Project and what we could afford to miss out on.
2. Words and actions shape culture.
This lesson was definitely not lost on me. During Project, I really learned to pay keen attention to the way our whole team conducted ourselves in words, thoughts and deeds. I believed this to be one of the implicit functions of a team leader, and it was one I took on with great reverence. As a result, I was constantly aware of what sort of culture was being created amongst our team. As Christians, we wanted the culture of our team to embody love, truth and kinship. Of course, when you put 19 people (many of whom have never met each other) into 2 houses to spend 14 days with each other, tensions are bound to rise.
I allowed myself to take a back-seat in observing how we could best develop the aforementioned culture. There were times when I felt the need to step in and redirect how everyone was behaving or speaking, which was a responsibility I squirmed at doing. However, I realized that the way a leader behaves shapes the culture of the team not necessarily what the leader says. That really made me watch my step and challenged me to lead in a way that was above reproach. I was really privileged to have members on our team who caught on to the same vision of the culture we wished to build, which made it much easier shape one that was encouraging and edifying, rather than one which tore down and was cynical.
3. Life is meant for the service of others.
This was possibly the last and greatest lesson that I learnt whilst on Project. The 2 weeks took a huge toll on my brain and body. As a leader, there was no down-time on the schedule for me as there was always something that needed to be done. There were many moments where the needs of others rose above my own need for rest, quiet and sleep. Those moments felt like cross-roads to me, and required me to intentionally lay aside my own preferences for the sake of others. And although I am certain that I failed in some respects, I am thankful to have learnt this lesson. It is those moments that require great sacrifice on our part that train us into better servant-leaders and ultimately better followers of Jesus, who Himself called us to lay down our lives for the sake of others.
Through reflection and constant prayer, I think God has used this Project to teach me many lessons about the world we live in, about culture and society, about people, Him and myself. For these, I am super thankful.