Saturday, February 22, 2003

Mentorship and Leadership... Just a couple of topics that have been on my mind lately, what with the outset of the University of Waterloo Chinese Christian Fellowship elections subcommittee...

Signs of age -- discussions of the fellowship: the future direction of the fellowship, how we are to carry the vision out, and with what resources would we employ to fulfill the vision...

Resources, undoubtedly, being people.

It never ceases to amaze me -- the talent with which God has blessed our fellowship. It is somewhat mindboggling to fully grasp the extent of manpower that the fellowship requires and utilises to complete the many initiatives that it establishes. To name a few, weekly Friday night programs that cater to 100+ people, a number of various small groups that meet weekly, once a term productions including refreshments for upwards to 400 people... all on top of our normal academic careers and personal lives. Incredible. Definitely, nothing could happen without the strength of God; we would not be able to accomplish anything.

Practically speaking, however, it would be impossible to start everything from scratch. I mean, whatever learning curve we pick up should be transferred to the next generation -- a sensible concept whether it be explained in terms of the environment (reuse and recycle!), management efficiency (eliminate non-value-added and redundant activities), economics (reduce fixed costs), or whatnot.

Anyway, my point is that as a fellowship, we are continuously in training, equipping the future leaders of the fellowship. Which brings me to my main topic: Who is a leader? What makes a person a leader?

Sure, a gesture such as the undertaking of an initiative rings a clear message. What about age? I know that age itself does not necessarily say anything in particular. Nonetheless, I think it is a reality [whether you choose to accept it or not] that "seniors" (i.e., 3rd year and on?), at least, are automatically perceived as leaders. The question is, then, do perceptions of someone affect how he/she chooses to *be*?

As always, extremities are never desirable. On one hand, we are not to be as callous as to go about our own ways without regard to what people think at all. On the other, we are not to be as easily influenced as to lack any personal conviction. The balance? "...make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." —Romans 14:13. It would be ignorant to avoid perceptions of oneself; at the very minimum, one should examine one's conduct, that it not cause others to stumble. However, what people perceive and thus take as examples of leadership will be retained and carried on. Ultimately, one must think hard of the question of choosing to accept these perceptions, and resultingly, choosing to adopt the role of a leader. I do not think it is a question to be ignored -- ignorance is unacceptable.

On a recent car ride home, we were challenged to think about people who have made us up -- those who have spent time to mentor, influence, and nurture our growth. I know that who I am today is greatly attributed to their time and care. Although it is easy to just be grateful for them, the next logical question is, For whom have you had the honour to mentor, to influence, to nurture *their* growth?

I know that my mentors have been a true blessing in my life, and I have learned much from them. As with all of God's gifts, however, I think that they are to be used. The parable of the talents [Matt. 25:14-30] / ten minas [Luke 19:14-27] illustrates that we are to invest with whatever God has entrusted us; it would only be selfish to receive his gifts for ourselves and keep it at that.

Now that I'm in my last year, at times I have been regarded as "ancient" in the fellowship [but I still challenge anyone to DDR anyday! =p], I think I have more or less adopted a role as a leader. As much as I have tried to challenge some of the younger ones in the fellowship, it has been a two-way street, which has been cool. =) I do not agree that only mentors can influence us; I think any number of people can challenge us and make us think, and I have learned much from many people younger than me.

Notwithstanding the pragmatic issue of training, I think mentorship stems out of love, that we want to expend the energy to build up a fellow brother or sister. Indeed, it is a privilege to be allowed into someone else's life, to know that they honestly consider my opinions and advices... and most gratifyingly, to the point where I can reach out to the person, not "below" me as a mentee, but alongside as a peer -- a beginning of a lifelong partnership to carry on the good work until the day of completion.

Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.

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