I was so excited. During the winter of 2007, John, the kids and I were going to downtown Cleveland’s Playhouse Square to see a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. In fact, the actor Ted Neeley was to reprise his role as Jesus from the 1973 movie Jesus Christ Superstar. In 1973, Mr. Neeley was 30 years old, a perfect age to play Jesus. In this 2007 production, he was 63 years old and perhaps a little long in the tooth to play Jesus. But no matter; I was still very excited.
The production was riveting and as the play wore on, I began to get an idea. I realized that Lent would soon be upon us, and Superstar was telling the story of Holy Week. Hmmmmm…What if I used the Superstar movie as a backdrop for a Lenten Youth Program? My kids were 14 & 16 at the time, so it would be something special for them as well as the other church youth.
An Idea Forms
My mind went into overdrive. As I listened to Mary Magdalene sing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” I was thinking of how I would organize this program, and by the time we got to the crucifixion, I had the basic format figured out. As the cast took their curtain calls, I was stoked and ready to start writing the curriculum for a four-part Youth Lenten series that would meet four Friday evenings during Lent.
OK…Let’s recap. I wanted to create a four-part multimedia Lenten program for youth with Lent only five weeks away.
Now, bear in mind, we were fairly new to this church, and I had never even taught in the faith formation program. Even so, full of enthusiasm and excitement, I bopped into our Faith Formation Director Margaret’s office to tell her about my wonderful idea. So far, I had written nothing and had only a vague idea of how to proceed. Poor Margaret! Although Margaret and I are close friends now, 16 years ago, we were still getting to know one another. I can only imagine what she thought. My inclination would have been to say, “What a great idea but, we should probably look toward next Lent to implement it. We really don’t have enough time to pull together a program of this scope this year.”
Well, it was a good thing Margaret was in charge and I wasn’t, because she immediately said, “Yes!”
She gave me complete permission to run with this idea while at the same time giving me gentle guidance and support. She worked tirelessly by my side. Although I consulted frequently with Margaret, I wrote and facilitated the whole program. In fact, during this entire time, I was absolutely on fire – spiritual fire. I was in constant prayer, especially praying that the kids who needed this program would find their way to us. My enthusiasm never waned, which I owe in large part to Margaret believing in me and giving me permission to implement this idea I was so passionate about.
Jesus Was a Fan of Permission Giving
That’s the thing about permission. The person giving permission is telling the one who is asking that they believe in them – that they trust them. Jesus too was a big fan of permission-giving. Matthew writes, “Then Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness.”
And with this authorization, Jesus then sent the disciples out to the villages and towns to proclaim the good news. Jesus believed in them and trusted them to do the job to the best of their abilities. I can only imagine that the disciples felt daunted by this task, but I suspect they also were pretty jazzed.
Being an effective leader requires so many different qualities. And certainly, one of those qualities is being willing to give permission as well as being supportive after permission is given. Both Margaret and Jesus knew that.
But what about the Lenten Youth Program? Was it a success? The quick answer is, “Yes!”
It was successful on many levels. We had approximately 10 kids attend each evening. But we also had a group of four youth who helped in the planning, so the kids were definitely engaged and felt a part of the process. Those who came were attentive and fully participating in everything we did. The atmosphere was comfortable and relaxed, as well as fun and meaningful.
As for myself, I was profoundly impacted. During those few months of planning, creating, working with Margaret, and finally, standing up in front of those kids to tell them I had been praying for each and every one of them to find their way to us, I felt intensely connected with God. It was a uniquely spiritually intense time that I have never experienced since. And it all happened because I was given permission.
For Reflection (either individually or with a group)
Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Then spend some time with the following questions with anything that helps you reflect more deeply.
- When has someone given you permission to do something that had a big impact on your life?
- When you say “no” to giving someone permission, what is it that keeps you from saying yes?
- What would you do if you had God’s permission to do it?
Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.