Over the course of my life, I can point to certain chapters that I would consider to be “defining.” They are times where I have seen my soul awakened, challenged and changed. They are chapters that I couldn’t have wished for or even written on my own, but that have been critical to shaping my heart. Being a part of the Youth Ministry Coaching Program was one of those chapters.
I have been in youth ministry for almost 12 years at the same church, and have continued to struggle with feelings of inadequacy and fear. When I was first approached to do the cohort, one of my responses was, “What will I be able to offer?” I had no idea that in just 10 months I would discover I have far more to offer than I thought. The cohort has taught me to face my fears of failure, of the unknown, of not being good enough, and of so many things outside of my control. It’s forced me to step out even when it scares me, because I believe I have something to offer that shouldn’t be silenced.
One of the things that I loved most about this experience was that my coach pushed me by asking hard questions, and encouraged me to set risk taking goals. As a result, I have experienced some of the most incredible moments since then. I have traveled to Africa to preach in a community where women are not typically encouraged to participate, I have submitted my writing pieces to magazines, I have had some tough conversations in the work place, and I recently just finished running the Chicago Marathon on behalf of Team World Vision to raise money for clean water. These were all things that came out of “setting risk taking goals!”
The cohort experience also taught me to take care of my soul, which I am forever grateful. For far too long, I didn’t realize that silence and solitude were gifts, not obligations, and taking days off would actually prove to be really life giving. While I am still learning to make this a priority, I look forward to those days more than I ever have and I am pretty sure my family is forever grateful for that too! By taking care of my soul and putting a prayer team in my life, something that was also encouraged, I am noticing a complete difference in how I approach life and ministry.
To say participation in the cohort was a defining chapter in my life seems almost an understatement. Those months changed me and have caused me to think about what I want to spend my time on in the years to come. These days I am choosing to be a risk taker, a voice for the voiceless, a courageous leader, a confident woman, and am doing everything I can to follow Jesus wherever he takes me…no fears attached.
~ Andrea Sawtelle, 2015 Women in Youth Ministry Cohort Graduate