Keeping mission vision alive and growing A quarterly publication of Mission Data International

Empowering Partnership

When Mike Let the Youth Lead the Meeting

By David Armstrong

The word “empowering” immediately draws to mind one of my youth leaders years ago.

Mike expected us to brainstorm and plan our weekly meetings, line up speakers, prepare everything, and make it all happen. And we did. We had never done these things before, but, because Mike said we could, we did.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know. But through regular and constant interaction, questions were asked and answered and we figured out ways to learn what we didn’t know and do what we had never done before.

We didn’t know that most youth groups were run by the leaders, not the youth. We just assumed that was our role since he said so, and we went to work on it.

I doubt that our ideas and ways were better than his, but he heard, weighed what we said and encouraged us on. We knew we had the freedom to think, experiment, and even fail. That was all just part of the process. Looking back I realize he expected us to make so many of the decisions that I don’t recall him making decisions at all, though likely he did.

Empowering also means letting go and losing control. It means allowing someone the freedom to fail coupled with being willing to stand by them whether they fail or succeed. For example, I like the idea of a family-oriented church, where kids are involved and take part and help out. Then I noticed that it bugged me when the lyrics on the screen didn’t match where we were in the worship songs we were singing. Encouraging the kids to run the worship slides was empowering to them but ended up being frustrating to me. It was then that I realized one of the inherent tensions in empowering.

If I release control and empower, it might not turn out the way I imagined. Empowering partnering involves losing control. It involves the freedom to fail. And it involves us graciously standing together when the outcome doesn’t meet expectations.

Empowering partnership. That’s one of the seven key standards of excellence in short-term missions. Excellent short-term mission trips require these kinds of empowering partnerships with the folks who receive us and our teams. Excellent long-term work does as well. Are you ready for that?

» To learn more, see The Seven Standards of Excellence.

An excellent short-term mission establishes healthy, interdependent, on-going relationships between sending and receiving partners, and is expressed by primary focus on intended receptors, plans which benefit all participants, and mutual trust and accountability.


“As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence…
When the best leader’s work is done, the people will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”
(Chinese philosopher Lao Tze)


M-DAT helps people make it to the mission field. Explore our websites:

About M-DAT | Help People Make it to the Mission Field | Donate