Youthwork The Conference 2015: Follow The Leader

Posted by Luke Bacon on 3 November 2015

From Friday 13th to Sunday 15th November youth workers from across the UK and beyond will gather in Swindon for this year’s helping of ‘Youthwork The Conference’. The theme for this year is ‘Follow The Leader’ and with the help of an incredible roster of speakers we’ll be exploring what it means to be followers of Christ and in so doing to be more effective youth work practitioners.

This year I have the privilege of leading worship at the event. I’m so excited about being involved in serving those who faithfully pour themselves out week after week in our churches, schools, community centres, parks and streets. In my preparation I’ve found myself reflecting on what it means to ‘Follow the Leader’, especially thinking about what Jesus models to us as we seek to lead others, particularly young people, in worship. Although whole books have been and continue to be written on the topic here are four of my thoughts:

Seek the small…
It seems to me that in Jesus’ teaching and ministry He values the small, intimate moments above the large ‘arena’ events. Of course we read the accounts of Jesus feeding thousands or attracting whole towns as He teaches, heals and delivers, but He appears to save the most poignant moments for a small, close group of friends. The transfiguration, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, His Death on the Cross, His Ascension into Glory…all of these pivotal, powerful moments happen with a small selection of His followers. I am not suggesting that we shun opportunities when God opens the door for us to serve on a bigger scale or for our sphere of influence to increase, but I am suggesting that we reassess our values and aims from time to time. Sometimes within our ministry it can feel like we are always aiming for bigger, louder and more flashy, but maybe we would be better off seeking more moments of intimacy. Maybe the most meaningful moments will occur when the arena feels like a living room and not when we are trying to make the living room feel like an arena!

Blur the lines…
One of the things I love most about Jesus is the way that He constantly includes and involves those who normally wouldn’t get a look in. He spoke to the Samaritan Woman at the well, He touched the leper, He ate with the sinners and the tax collectors and He even took the unprecedented action of calling His own disciples (it was normal practice for students to apply to a rabbi to become one of his disciples). It is in Jesus’ nature to blur the lines of what it means to be in or out and although it should be high on our agenda as His followers it sometimes seems that we are reluctant. Maybe it’s because as a society we make sense of the world through our difference and the things that divide and so we find security and identity within our divisions and compartments. As those who are called to lead within the blueprint laid down by Jesus let’s blur the lines between ‘in’ and ‘out’, between ‘old’ and ‘young’, between ‘worship team’ and ‘congregation’ and between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’. In referring to blurring the lines between sacred and secular I am in no was suggesting compromise or a lowering of moral standards but that we should expect to see God working beyond the ‘walls of the church’ and live to see His kingdom breaking through in all areas of life.

Be available…
As we read the Gospel accounts we realise that so much of Jesus’ ministry took place ‘on the way’. I’ve recently been challenged by this aspect of Jesus’ life as I often find myself too busy or preoccupied to even notice these potential encounters. Jesus was available to those who really needed Him even at times when all human wisdom would have suggested that He move on, ignore or earmark for another day. I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus was able to be available to those who needed Him because He was first and foremost available to His Father. The Gospel writers take time to show that Jesus often withdrew to be by Himself and to spend time with His Father. As we serve and lead others in worship how available are we to them? The humbling reality is that sometimes people don’t really need our songs or even our stock Christian phrases, they need us to be fully present and available to them. We will only ever be able to do this if above all we prioritise time with our Heavenly Father.

Have your feet washed…
Coming towards the end of His time with them, Jesus takes a towel and bowl and washes His disciples’ feet. Peter incredulously declares that his master shouldn’t wash his feet, to which Jesus replies that being cleansed by Him is essential to being His disciple. Jesus then declares that as He has washed their feet they must now do the same for one another. The prerequisite for being able to effectively serve others is to first allow Jesus to love, serve and cleanse us. In our life how often do we allow Jesus to minister to us before we attempt to minister to others? Do we carry that sense of gratitude and cleanliness into all the ministry that we are called to? Sometimes as worship leaders we can end up carrying frustration towards the very people we are called to serve. For me this attitude is usually typified by the phrase, ‘if only’; ‘if only the congregation were up for learning new songs’, ‘if only we had a better sound team’, ‘if only the young people would invite their friends’, ‘if only we used in ear monitors’. At these times I need to remind myself that is all starts with having my feet washed by Jesus and then faithfully washing the feet of others, the heart of a ‘foot-washed foot-washer’ has little time for ‘if only’.

It would be great to hear your thoughts, experiences and ideas. Please do comment or get in touch. My prayer is that each of us will grow in our freedom to worship alongside young people, learn from them and empower them to reach greater heights of expression, creativity and surrender as together we follow The Leader who is worthy of all of our worship.

Luke has just moved to Cambridge where he will be studying at Ridley Hall. He’ll be leading worship at Youthwork the Conference 2015 – more info at

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