Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Passing The Baton

My Husband Steve and I have been jointly leading Children Worldwide for 14 years! 
But last weekend, during our team conference we handed the baton of leadership to others.
What we looked like 14 years ago
(I had no grey hair... actually - not much hair at all!)
Those 14 years have been a long journey. 
They have been filled with many emotions, many stories, more than a few hard decisions, but lots of laughs too. 

We leave the role with a whole host of friends and colleagues up and down the country, 4 lovely God children, lots of memories and it seems (according to the members)… a job well done.

We took the role on in fear and trepidation, and over the years as rules have changed and we have merged with FFT, the role has changed beyond recognition. 

It hasn’t been easy, and we haven’t taken the role lightly. Leadership is a huge responsibility and we have felt the weight of that mantel. But within that there has also been joy.

Before we handed over the leadership along with some rather unusual gifts(!) I spoke about the ‘words’ we were given when we were voted in as leaders, and the fact that “The joy of the Lord has been our strength”. We played Rend Collective’s ‘Joy Of The Lord’, as the lyrics to this song summed it all up.

The two ‘words’ we were given all those years ago were:

“Look into the Father’s face”. This was given with a mental picture of a child looking into his father’s face, but when the child could look no more, the father lifted his child’s chin so he could continue to look. The old Chorus “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” came to mind! 

To keep looking to God is the only way to lead well, so this has been a vital and life giving message that has stayed with us.

The other word was “Give it away”, something we have always lived by personally, but something we have strived to do under the name of Children Worldwide too.

We both believe these are still valid words that need to be passed on with the leadership of Children Worldwide.

We felt it right to speak to the team about caring for their new leaders, and spoke with huge vulnerability about the toll leadership can take, in spite of the joy and the friendships involved.

The leaders of our council of reference, Chris and Sharon Leeson were there and lived up to their reputation of doing things somewhat differently! They used Hebrews 12:1 and in the absence of relay batons, Jenga bricks were used to physically hand over leadership, but done by getting us to pace out the race, with Sharon reading out our achievements as we walked, whilst the ‘cloud of witnesses' (aka, the team) cheered us on. It was incredibly moving.

Having passed the Baton, the next bit took me even more by surprise, as our speaker - the previous chair of Children Matter, came to the front clutching another Jenga brick (Baton!) so he could hand over the baton of my new role (Yep - Chair of the Children Matter exec group).

Another momentous moment was when the children handed over their individual thank you cards. The messages in those cards were so, so precious. I had to read them back in my room because I knew I would cry, and I didn't want to upset any of the children.

It was a memorable and great weekend. (I only have room to write about the leadership handover!)

We have been blessed beyond words by the generosity of gifts and the kind words in a memory book. Within that memory book is a drawing of us by a member, filled with words she felt described us. We honestly had no idea how many lives we had influenced over the years…. The way of many leaders is to remember the ones we couldn’t help…

But, we leave feeling content.

Many have asked if we have mixed feelings about it. But we don’t - we have huge confidence in the new directors and are happy to put ourselves under their leadership in the coming years. 

The New Leaders
We will remain members of the Children Worldwide family. We believe in what the organisation stands for, and we want to stand with them in that. As we said to the team: We are standing down from leadership.... not friendship.

Steve will remain a trustee of FFT - the overall charity, but I will step down as a trustee at the March board meeting.

As I’ve already said - my new role is chair of the Children Matter exec team. This is a lovely group of folk who work really well together and I’m looking forward to now having the time to serve and facilitate those in that team properly.

I will also continue to: 
Be part of the council of reference for Home for Good 
Serve on the Evangelical Alliance council 
Be an advisor for Spring Harvest on additional needs and disability.
And of course, carry on equipping those who work with children who have additional needs/disabilities - as part of the Additional Needs Alliance.

As a couple, we will carry on doing grassroots children’s work, especially the schools work we do locally. We’ll also continue training, equipping and doing consultation work for children’s workers, churches and organisations.

Thank you to all who have prayed for us over the years, please continue - there's much to be done!

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