For many of us, spring is a time when we finally get to plant those seeds that we have been dreaming about over the long winter. Being from a state that is covered in snow for more months than most, we take great comfort in the cozy snow days by the fire planning out our gardens. Even nature likes to show off at the first warmth of spring as the crocus defy the snow and blast their purples and blues in spite of the bleak landscape around it. I am especially fond of the herbs that I can begin to grow indoors to later transfer to the garden and let them spread like nature intended. We harvest most of those herbs all summer long and even into the fall if the rain is kind or we don’t travel too much and they get watered. I blame trips to Project Timothy for some of our plant losses over the years, though the kingdom fruit is beyond worth it.

When I think about youth ministry, Heroic Leadership Institute, the Vineyard Pilgrimage, Vineyard Institute, the various discipleship tools available through Vineyard Resources and so many great churches offering internships and learning tools, I think about my garden. So often I wish I could take that sunflower seed from the packet with the beautiful picture on it, put it in the ground on a Monday, water it on Tuesday and Wednesday and have it to display for my party on Friday. But when I need flowers for a party on Friday, I am usually ducking to the store Thursday night to grab a bouquet and reap the harvest of someone who planted a seed a while ago and took great care of those seeds along the way. This is true for ministry as well. As the Vineyard movement, we have been given the responsibility and the privilege to disciple the next generation of leaders, together. 1 Corinthians 3:6 gives us a clear picture for the long haul efforts of discipleship that our movement is invited to, Paul says,

6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

In everything that you do to invest in young people, you are being a steward of that moment in their journey. You may be the one that gets to plant a seed. I have had the honor of taking many young people on their first cross cultural experience, sometimes just crossing cultural barriers in their home town, other times crossing international borders. I remember one group of teenagers that traveled with us to India to work in a orphanage that cared for orphans who had HIV or AIDS. Many of them also had other complications and TB. I will never forget the night that one of the girls in our group insisted on sitting all night with a young girl whose health was quickly fading and she needed someone to help her take deep breaths. As this young lady held her new Indian friend and helped coach her breathing, deep seeds of compassion were being deposited in her, seeds that would later shape career choices and life decisions. Shortly after we returned from that trip my husband and I took another assignment in another part of the country. I was not the one to water those seeds, nor harvest. We don’t get to control what part of the discipleship journey we play, we just get to be faithful to the part in front of us. God makes it grow.

As the HLI (Heroic Leadership Institute) team prays over the new applicants coming in each year, we are always aware of the many, many seeds that have been faithfully planted in the students coming our way. We also know that we have them with us for 9 short, intentional, greenhouse months where more planting and watering will happen, and then we pray for those that will continue to disciple them after they have graduated. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were a discipleship machine that you could put a kid in and it would produce a guaranteed kingdom world-shaker with perfect Jesus-likeness and maturity every time? Ha! Even writing that sentence kind of makes me want to throw up. Look at us, look at you, look at every leader you have ever met. We are ALL on this life long journey of discipleship. Someone has planted seeds in you, someone stuck with you when the enemy tried to destroy those seeds, someone is watering, someone enjoys the harvest, and so the cycle continues as we are becoming, every day, more like Jesus, until he returns.

So, take a deep breath. That kid you have been investing in for years that just made a decision to take a huge step backwards, it’s OK. Pray for them, reach out, plant seeds of reconciliation, love and kindness. Those seeds you planted may seem buried really deep right now, but it’s OK. With that new student that just moved to your town and has joined your group, there may be a lot of seeds already planted that you will help water. It’s not up to you to make sure they are a finished product by the end of graduation. It is up to you to be faithful to invite them into a lifelong journey of daily becoming more like Jesus.

At HLI we are committed to doing our part of the journey of discipling the young leaders of our movement. If you have a student that it looking for a full-time, intentional season to grow in Spiritual Formation, Kingdom Education, and hands-on Participation, feel free to point them our way, knowing that we are praying for you as you continue to sow, water and harvest!

Jenna Stepp
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Jenna Stepp

Jenna Stepp has been leading in the Vineyard since 2002, first as a youth pastor and then as one of the founding directors of Vineyard Heroic Leadership Institute. She serves on the Vineyard Pilgrimage team and is passionate about seeing others empowered with the supernatural reality of the Christian life to transform lives! Jenna is currently the director of development for HLI and has recently moved to Saco, Maine to plant the Saltwater Vineyard with her husband Shawn and their three children.
Jenna Stepp
Follow me!