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Jesus as a Model for Leadership Ministry

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In searching for an appropriate model for leadership, we cannot do better than to consider the life and ministry of Jesus. As the minister par excellence, Jesus was present and attentive to the needs of those around him while always pointing past himself to his God. His stories and teachings directed his listeners to set their hearts and minds on God (Matthew 5: 16; 6: 9 – 10; 12: 50). In his miracles and his healings, Jesus deflected attention from himself, giving thanks to God (Matthew 9: 8; John 7: 16; 9: 3 – 4; 11: 41 – 42) or praising the faith of those who sought him (Matthew 15: 28; Mark 5: 34).

We can recognise a number of distinctive characteristics in Jesus’ life and mission:

Jesus was always present to those around him, and his words and actions were directed by his awareness of God’s presence.

Jesus’ ministry began with a call to conversion and was marked by continuing conversion.

Jesus’ ministry was grounded in and guided by scripture.

Jesus offered each person a genuine and compelling invitation, an invitation that evoked a genuine response.

Jesus was faithful to his religious tradition while always critiquing and challenging it.

Jesus’ ministry focused on and identified with those at the margins of society.

Jesus ministry embraced the whole person, body and soul.

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The Church & Society Need You

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Pope Francis said that he hopes preparations for World Youth Day in Panama and the Synod of Bishops in October 2018, ‘will move forward in tandem,’ since the topic of the Synod will be youth, faith and vocational discernment.

‘Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history, your history and that of many others,’ Pope Francis said. ‘With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world’.

At the Synod, ‘we will talk about how you, as young people, are experiencing the life of faith amid the challenges of our time,’ Francis said. ‘We will also discuss the question of how you can develop a life project by discerning your personal vocation …’

In discerning the plan God has for our lives, we can look to Mary, who was very young herself, as an example of the gift of faith lived out, he said.

‘The genuine experience of the Church is not like a flash mob, where people agree to meet, do their thing and then go their separate ways’, Francis said.

‘The Church is heir to a long tradition which, passed down from generation to generation, is further enriched by the experience of each individual. Your personal history has a place within the greater history of the Church’.

Even young people should be mindful of tradition and the past, he said, though this is not the same as being nostalgic or remaining stuck on a certain period of history as being the best. One of the gifts of youth is questioning and dreaming about the future, Francis said.

‘God came to enlarge the horizons of our life in every direction. God helps us to give due value to the past so as to better build a future of happiness … When God touches the heart of a young man or woman, they become capable of doing tremendous things’.

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How Do We Lead by Serving?

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Principle #1: Humble your heart

Servant leaders humble themselves and wait for God to exalt them. (based on Luke 14: 7 – 11). This principle comes from Jesus’ story about choosing places of honour at a banquet.

Principle #2: First be a follower

Servant leaders follow Jesus rather than seek a position (based on Mark 10: 32 – 40). This tenet comes from James and John’s request of Jesus that they sit on his right and left when he came into his glory.

Principle #3: Find greatness in service

Servant leaders give up personal rights to find greatness in service to others (based on Mark 10: 45). The other ten disciples did not appreciate James and John’s boldness with Jesus. The best example of this principle is Jesus’ own life.

Principle #4: Take risks

Servant leaders can risk serving others because they trust that God is in control of their lives (based on John 13: 3). Only when you trust God with absolute control of your life can you risk losing yourself in service to others.

Principle #5: Take up the towel 

Servant leaders take up Jesus’ towel of servant-hood to meet the needs of others (based on John 13: 4 – 11).  Jesus took up the towel and washbasin to model his mission and show his love for those he recruited to carry out his mission.

Principal #6: Share responsibility and authority

Servant leaders share their responsibility and authority with others to meet a greater need (based on Acts 6: 1 – 6). Jesus equipped his disciples to carry out a worldwide mission. He shared both responsibility and authority with them to make disciples of all people.

Principle #7: Build a team

Servant leaders multiply their leadership by empowering others to lead (based on Mark 6: 7). Leadership of a team is the highest expression of servant leadership. Servant leaders serve best when they team with others to accomplish the mission.

Young People, Faith and Discernment

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In preparation for a meeting of the Synod of Bishops on youth, the pope wrote a letter to young people, saying the church wants ‘to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith, even your doubts and your criticism’.

‘Make your voice heard,’ the pope told young people. ‘Let is resonate in communities and let it be heard’.

The pope’s letter was released along with the preparatory document for the synod. The document includes a series of questions to be answered by national conferences of bishops and other church bodies. The responses, along with input from young people themselves, will form the basis of the synod’s working document.

Pope Francis chose ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment’ as the theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018.

Young people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by submitting reflections ‘on their expectations and their lives’.

‘A better world can be built also as a result of our efforts, your desire to change and your generosity’, Pope Francis told the young people. ‘Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master’.

The synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young people in today’s world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral activity.

Through the synod, the document said, ‘the church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognise and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to communicate the Good News today’.

The church, it said, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living in a rapidly changing world where globalisation, technological dominance, as well as economic and social hardships pose significant challenges to discovering their vocational path.

By accompanying young people in their personal discernment, it said, ‘the church accepts her call to collaborate in the joy of young people rather than be tempted to take control of their faith’.

Pope Francis Speaks to Young People

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‘I am reminded of the words God spoke to Abraham: ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your parents home to the land that I will show you’. (Genesis 12: 1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to ‘go’, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfillment, a future towards which God accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit’.

‘When God said to Abram, ‘Go!’ what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation,

a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this ‘new land’ for us today, if not a  more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?

But unfortunately, today, ‘Go!’ also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many young people are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Exodus 2: 23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: ‘Teacher, where are you staying?’ He replied, ‘Come and see’ (John 1: 38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan for your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend a hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And you shouted: ‘Yes!’ That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a ‘throw-away culture’ nor give in to the globalisation of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where God sends you: ‘Do not be afraid, because I am with you to deliver you’ (Jeremiah 1: 8).

Be a Proactive Leader

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‘Leadership is making a difference for good –

Seeing some opportunity for good and doing it’.

Leaders do a variety of actions that influence others to accomplish a goal. Many people can lead at the same time.

Leaders get things started (initiate, invite, create, dream, envision).

Leaders keep things going (encourage, affirm, challenge, solve problems, remember).

Leaders make other people feel valuable (listen, understand, affirm, value differences).

Leaders get people to work together (promote teamwork, resolve conflicts, build a shared vision, dream).

Leaders describe a goal and a way to get there (rally people around a cause, make things seem possible, help people feel committed to something).

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Pope Francis Speaks to Young People

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‘Young people, build a better world, a world of brothers and sisters, a world of justice, of love, of peace, of fraternity, of solidarity’. (Pope Francis, World Youth Day, 2013)

Do you know someone suffering from injustice? Do you know someone in pain or deep loneliness? Are you affected by scenes of violence and poverty in other parts of the world? What is one practical thing you can do this week to build a better world? Now, do it!

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Walking the Journey Together

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As a Church, we are asked to travel with today’s young people. The process of ministry to young people is best described within the Gospel story of Jesus walking with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We meet young people in the midst of their questions. We walk with them and present the fullness of the faith. We stay with them. Together, we break bread and experience Jesus in our midst. Transformed by his presence, we walk with young people as they journey to the upper room and spread the message of their experience of the risen Christ.

To be a Church with young people means that we help them fully participate in the community that is gathered in Christ’s name. We evangelise young people and share the Good News with them in the context of their life and relationships. We catechise young people and help them grow in active faith. We include young people in worship and sacraments. We empower young people to minister to others and to witness to their faith.

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Welcome to ASCEND

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Hi there, thanks for checking out our website of leadership resources for ministry in Catholic schools. The ASCEND team is committed to providing challenging, fresh and contemporary resources that will assist in fostering the formation of effective student leaders. Leadership is essentially about building effective relationships and ASCEND is centred on the servant-style leadership of Christ found in the Gospels and modelled through present-day examples.