By Holly Culhane
We prayed. At all the regular intervals – the beginning of a Board meeting, before sharing a meal, and as a benediction to our time together fulfilling the responsibilities to which we’d been called. Never perfunctory, always genuine. But like many teams focused on a goal, often lacking a deep mutual trust and personal transparency regarding our non-ministry-related lives.
Then, one Board meeting it happened. One Board member took a risk. Amid polite and what some might call mostly superficial prayer requests, he dove right into the deep end of the pool. Without warning. Without pretense. “Well, I don’t think many of you are aware of this, but our son is in prison. I’d like you to pray for him and for us as we navigate this situation with him.”
The room went silent. He continued with a short, logical progression of what had preceded his son’s sentence.
The proverbial pin dropped, and we all heard the thud. Silence. Then an outpouring of love and support. A gamble among the brethren. Transparency beyond what we had ever witnessed in this group. Men and women who loved Jesus deeply and were fully committed to leading this national ministry of staff and volunteers to connect with 11 to 19-year-olds, no matter their circumstances, and help them find a rich and fulfilling life in Jesus, had never before gone together into the deepest end of the prayer pool. We were now being challenged to shepherd each other more deeply than we expected.
Over the nearly 16 years that followed, this one Board member’s gamble led us to truly, genuinely, and with great love for each other – do life together. Often with prayer as our focus. For and with the President, our one direct report, and his wife; for other team members after each Board report; for committee liaisons after their Board commentary. And, with each other.
Within a few meetings of our colleague’s authentic request, an entire evening was set aside during our triannual times together, specifically, and only for fellowship, sharing, and for prayer. We invited spouses, and we prayed for the relief of our kids’ addictions, the salvation of loved ones, the return of wayward family members, for the healing of a struggling marriage, for physical and emotional battles, and for family reconciliation. We prayed against unjust accusations and the enemy’s attacks, and for a better understanding of parenting adult children, discipling grandchildren, and navigating business difficulties, personal hurts, deepest desires, and individual needs. Sometimes in a circle, sometimes on our knees, sometimes with hands laid-on another. Always with tears, hugs, and joy. Always with the sacrificial heart of a shepherd.
Early 2021 brought a timely and well-planned transition in senior leadership. A good and godly changing of the guard that required authentic conversations with each other and the Father. Our Chair led us in scheduled times of focused prayer via teleconference, dedicated to the recruitment, announcement, and orientation of a new President and CEO.
The decision was made. The transition complete.
But dedicated prayer continued – for all that surrounded the initial 90 days of this new leader’s presidency. Weekly we convened electronically for 30 minutes of prayer. All Board members available joined, with no judgment for those who could not. The shepherding of the organization – and each other – had deepened to shepherd the CEO at a level none of us had anticipated.
As the 90-day commitment was nearing an end, we were drawn even closer to the Father. And, so, as He led, the 90-day commitment expanded to the new President’s first year.
Now, six months into that additional nine-month commitment, those of us available continue to gather electronically from across the country weekly to pray. Every Monday, 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. PT. To pray for and over his weekly schedule, the needs he and his wife choose to share, their children and their parents as they support them in this journey, for difficult decisions he must make, for his walk with the Father, to shepherd well his family and the organization, his continued commitment to diligence, integrity, perseverance, and endurance, for strength from the Father, to hear the Holy Spirit clearly, for his efforts toward an organization that is truly interdependent, for national and local staff and volunteers, for local Board members, for the body of Christ to rally around today’s teens.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.
Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
It didn’t happen overnight. It was an evolution that began with a risk. One unadulterated, transparent, and authentic request for prayer. And, to date, it has deepened our spiritual journeys, developed an indescribable trust in the Father and each other, and allowed a Board room of like-minded men and women to partner together and shepherd well the journey of Youth for Christ USA.
To God be the glory…