On New Year’s Eve I talk on the phone with a long time mentor and friend, Neil Atkinson. When I was in high school, Neil was my Young Life leader and was instrumental in my becoming a Christian. After college, Neil prepared Denise and I to become Young Life leaders. Later when Neil left Grand Rapids to become a regional director for Young Life in Kansas City, he and I continued to stay connected.
Throughout my life, in every context my relationship with Neil took, he’s always said something that I’ve needed to hear, often when it’s been unlooked-for, as it was on New Year’s Eve.
As we were sharing with each other how 2012 had gone, Neil mentioned that he turned 70 and I responded by telling him I turned 50. As we marveled at how old we’ve become I told Neil that turning 50 was harder than I expected because I felt that I had crossed the half-way point in my productive life.
That’s when he delivered one of his unexpected perspective adjustments that I needed.
“Let me tell you something that’s absolutely true, the next 10 years of your life will be your very best. You see you’ve come to a place where you possess the highest combination of both energy and wisdom that you’ll ever have. The next 10 years will be your most productive yet.”
So, though it may be true that I’m over half-way through my life, I realized, to great joy, that I may not have yet reached the half-way point in my potential contribution to this world and to Christ’s Kingdom. So once again Neil, thank you.
If you’ve ever had someone invest in your life by helping you grow spiritually, assisting you in navigating the treacherous places where the eternal intersects with the temporal then you know the absolute necessity of having these kinds of people apart of your life.
As I look back on my life I’ve had a number of people who’ve invested in me spiritually, people with names like Neil, Wayne, Mark, Jack, Terry, and Steve. They’re all people who’ve cared for me and wanted to see me grow in the most important ways.
So as one who received such investment, I’m motivated to do the same for others. It’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen to work for an organization like SpringHill, because SpringHill creates experiences that facilitate this kind of investment by adults in the lives of children. It’s also why one of the personal qualities and professional competencies a person needs to possess to make an enduring impact on the lives of others through their work at SpringHill is what we call “Spiritual Leadership.”
“Spiritual Leadership” is the ability to mentor others, to help them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ, and ultimately guide them to a life that honors God and expands His Kingdom. Spiritual leadership takes on many forms and can be expressed in many ways, from the ability to lead small groups, to one on one counseling, or teaching before large audiences. Even though the context of “Spiritual Leadership” may differ, the outcome is the same, helping others better live out their faith in Christ.
This is why SpringHill needs people who demonstrate “Spiritual Leadership”, because it’s through spiritual leadership that our mission’s fulfilled and young lives transformed for eternity.
This is part 8 of 14 in a series of posts about what it takes to be successful at SpringHill.
My wife Denise called Tuesday my “pastor day” because I had the opportunity to hang out in metro Detroit with three dear friends who are also inspiring pastors and incredible leaders – Terry Prisk, Steve Andrews and Eric Russ.
My first stop was with Terry Prisk, a long time SpringHill partner and leader of The River Community Church. Terry and I meet every few months to share, challenge and encourage each other in our respected leadership positions. As usually happens we exchanged books we’re each reading knowing we’ll discuss their respected contents the next time we’re together.
Next I had the opportunity to have coffee with Steve Andrews from Kensington Community Church. Steve’s a former SpringHill board member and current member of our strategic planning team. In these roles, as he did once again in our time together, Steve’s spoken into my life by challenging me to think big about SpringHill and its place in God’s Kingdom.
I ended my day near downtown Detroit with Eric Russ, a current SpringHill board member, who leads Mack Avenue Community Church. Eric and I spent our time together riding in the “Mack Truck”, an old pickup truck used by the church. We toured the neighborhood where his church ministers. I’m inspired every time I’m with Eric but never more than when I see the community, people and work he’s committed his life too.
As I drove home from Detroit I thought to myself “what a great day”. I also thanked God for each of these men and the significant impact they’ve made on both SpringHill and on me. In my final thought of the day I searched for answers to this question “how can SpringHill and I better support them and their churches in the incredibly important work they do in the communities they serve?”
For over twenty years Michael Perry has made it his mission to bring young people closer to Christ through his Bible study publications, his capacity as the President and CEO of SpringHill, and his recent book, Experience = Everything. Over the last fifty years, SpringHill has changed over half a million lives—proving that it is more than just camp, or a place, SpringHill is a transformative experience.