Lessons learned – and learned well

By Annette Bender

In my former job, we underwent an exercise called "Lessons Learned" any time something went wrong. That is, we went back and systematically studied what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how we could keep it from happening again. Yet, we never practiced this exercise when something went right. I recently observed a Lessons Learned from Holston youth when something went right – and we could all learn from the experience.

During a hectic Resurrection weekend in January, I was working in the Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) office in Gatlinburg Convention Center. The CCYM members were in the hallway, selling their ever-popular beads as a means of raising funds for Youth Service Fund. The idea is that youth purchase the beads, then give them away to friends, leaders, even total strangers. The more beads you have hanging on your neck badge, the better.

As one CCYM member returned to the office at the end of a long night, she set the huge box of beads on the counter. She turned to put the money they had collected into the office safe – and accidentally knocked the box onto the floor. The tiny beads went everywhere!

Without a word, she knelt and began picking up the beads and putting them back into the box. I stopped what I was doing and knelt to help her. The task seemed impossible. Beads, beads, beads.

But within a minute, two other youth came into the office, and then a few minutes later, more arrived. No one spoke. They each just began helping. Someone grabbed a broom, while another youth made a dustpan of a cardboard box and started scooping beads. Within six or seven minutes, all of the beads had been collected and returned to the box. During that time, not one single youth said, "What clumsy person did this?" or "How did this dumb thing happen?" or any other question that might be considered demeaning. They simply pitched in and helped.

Our CCYM members have learned their lessons well: "Love one another." "Bear one another's burdens." "Do not judge, lest you be judged yourself." "Treat others the way you would like to be treated." "There is no 'I' in team." And many other lessons about how we work together with each other.

If our churches reflected the same Lessons Learned that our youth exhibited in these seven minutes, think what meaningful, worshipful work we could accomplish. And what a peaceful place our churches and world would be.

For the past 11-plus years, Angee Woody served Holston Conference as our coordinator of youth ministries. She has been a huge part of the lessons learned by our youth, but Angee has decided to spend more time at home with her own children. We could never count the lives that have been changed under Angee's guidance, and we will miss her leadership. Grace and peace, Angee, and thank you.

Travis is Holston Conference director of connectional ministries.


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