Coming to Summit my second year as a staffer instead of a student is a completely new and rewarding experience. I came back to Summit as a staff knowing much more about Summit but was utterly blown away (in a good way) by the completely different experience as a staff member. I’m very grateful that Summit prepared us in a three-day staff training for what was to come. But still nothing teaches you as well as actual experience. As a student I learned truth and a shortened version of community/relationships as laid out in the Bible. But as a staff member, I am learning how to be a leader and continually grow in a small community. I am learning how to apply the truths I learned last year in my small groups, one-on-ones, and to my personal relationship with God. I am learning just how much Summit is a blessing and a life-changing experience.
As a staff member I have learned and am continually learning new things about leadership. I have learned that everyone is a leader. My first small group began to open up not after I was vulnerable and shared my testimony, but after one of my small group students laid out his testimony and struggles for all of us. As staff, we are placed in a position of leadership and students automatically look up to us. Sometimes, students do not realize I am staff at first, but when they realize, they automatically begin to give me more respect and seek answers from me if they have questions about Summit. As a leader, I feel responsible that my actions not only affect myself, but also all those around me. This strengthens my pursuit of God and being a light to others.
Thankfully I have many great Christian leaders around me to guide me, be an example, be honest with me, and hold me accountable. We have staff small groups where we discuss our student small groups, how we’re doing personally, and how we can continue to grow. It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone and that others have gone through and are going through the same thing I am going through. The staff has demonstrated that to lead well you first need to learn how to serve well. Second Session was an adventure because a pipe busted in the hotel and flooded parts with water. The staff instantly sprang into action directing students outside of the hotel, retrieving trashcans to catch the water, transferring books in the bookstore to dryer areas, and doing whatever needed to be done with a selfless attitude. Staff has also demonstrated love and grace with each other through work/living together conflicts and with students in small groups and one-on-ones. Some staff leaders are very extroverted, talkative, relate well to large groups while other staff leaders are quieter, relate better individually, and are more introverted. As the body of Christ, we need every kind to function and work as a whole body in one accord.
We’re just as human and flawed as the students. I know that working in the kitchen and on dish pit can get hectic and stressful at times. Sometimes I have disagreements with fellow staff members, but I try to talk through them or focus on working on myself. I try to never let the sun go down on my anger and continually strive to grow in my relationship with God and other staff members.
As a student I came to learn truth, but as a staff I am learning to apply the truths I learned last year in my spiritual life and with the students. I am asking staff members how to best meet the needs of my small groups as a whole and each individual student where they are at in life. Each session is a learning experience as no small group/person is the same. Some small groups are talkative and some are very quiet. Both groups bring their own pros/cons and specific challenges. I am learning a lot in order to help them best utilize what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to their own lives.
I am learning that in order to give into others I need to first give into myself. I give best by balancing my time with God, Staff, Students, and by myself. I have been learning over time at Summit how to plan my time so that I do not burn out physically, mentally, or spiritually, but instead continue to emit the passion I have for Christ and others. When I spend time in the Word and in prayer, God gives me truth that I can impart in others so that they will be more open to God working in them. Sometimes I see the fruit of my strivings in my small group students and sometimes I do not. But I am filled with contentment in that I placed a stone of truth in their shoe so that it cannot be ignored and will hopefully influence them to change.
If there is one thing I learned from staff training it is that staff’s role is to place rungs in the ladder between truth and relationships.
One of these things without the other is seriously flawed. But together they can help a person come to know God better and live life fully. A big part of my testimony I share in my small group is how I have struggled in the past to live my life focused solely on relationships and later on truth. Both of these things were ultimately dissatisfying and fell short of how God meant for humans to live. I only found freedom when I started to focus on both and balance them out so that I did not settle for cheap grace or fall into legalism. Summit has continued to help me understand this balance that God has opened my heart towards beforehand.
Summit not only focuses on helping us teach the students, but also how we might grow ourselves and continue living after Summit. Living in the environment of Summit has taught me the value of community, accountability between close friends, establishing mentors, and building into others. Staff mentors have encouraged the staff to think about how we might implement all of these things into our lives after Summit if we have not already done so.
At Summit, the staff have a funny but very true statement that we “work hard and play hard.” We strive to be excellent and do all things for God, the little details and the big picture. This worldview has helped me stay consistent in reading the Bible and in prayer. I have been able to witness how that has helped me grow and be prepared to help others. I have seen what the power of prayer is able to accomplish in Summit Ministries in keeping it running smoothly and changing people’s lives.
I believe every young adult can have a life-changing, once in a lifetime opportunity at Summit.
The staff are not just friends, they are family. Summit alumni often stay in touch (if not marry each other) and have reunions when possible after Summit. The spiritual atmosphere of Summit inspires everyone to pursue truth, other people, and God with wholehearted devotion and passion. Summit empowers students and staff with the knowledge and growth to continue on without failure after they go back to their normal lives after Summit. Summit is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in adolescent/young adults’ lives, in a community environment focused on the same goal of growing in the Lord together with love and grace.
I hope this post has helped you understand Summit from a Staffer’s perspective and encourages you to become involved in the ministry in whatever way possible.
First published at https://www.summit.org/blog/student-conference/colorado/kendall-mccullough-staff/ on June 19, 2015