“Did you hear about the new Government Decision?”

“They are going to separate Pre-degree from colleges and start 11th and 12th standards in schools. This will surely change the whole Jesus Youth movement.”

The year was 1997, and this active Jesus Youth leader told me in detail how the new Kerala Government order will deeply affect the movement. College Campus ministry is a very active segment of the movement. In Colleges the initial two years were Pre-Degree, and although those in that age group would usually be the most troublesome lot, when they get touched by the Lord and became Jesus Youth, they were the most dedicated and creative. With the new move this section will go to schools and they will come under strict control of teachers. In Colleges the tone and dynamics of the ministry will change.

“I think we have to begin a new ministry in the movement,” he suggested. Of course, this led to a meeting of the Jesus Youth team and a series of other meetings. After a number of steps a new ministry was born in Jesus Youth, the Teens Ministry.

Of course, raising this problem, the discussion that followed, and the final decision, together formed a big leap in the movement. When we think of it, the journey of the movement is a series of such decisions by so many different groups and teams. So, it is so very important that the groups learn the ‘how’ of making decisions in groups.

How you decide, builds or kills a group

As we already discussed in the last part, in the life of any group opportunities for a variety of decisions will come and though ‘what’ we decide is important, perhaps more important is the ‘how’ of a decision. We also discussed the attitudes the members should have to reach a proper decision. May be Jesus put it so beautifully, ‘if two of you agree upon earth about anything they ask . . .” (Mt 18:19).

May be decisions will be quick and easy if one senior and efficient person decides and others obey, or if we go and ask a ‘gifted’ person to pray and tell us what to do, or even a higher team always tells us what our plans should be. But none of these will help a community advance in maturity, learn to take responsibility, and grow steadily as the body of Christ. It is extremely important for a group to realize that each person in the group is a special child of God, variously gifted by the Holy Spirit and are called to walk responsibly in the path of the Lord. So, each group should learn to take decisions together.  And how do they go about taking decisions?

Steps of taking a group decision

A Jesus Youth group is always in the process of growing as a loving community. When we talk of the steps of taking a decision in a community, we are not thinking of some rigid ‘one, two, three process’ of how a machine works, but decision-taking should be ‘love in action’. Yet most decision-making processes proceed through some similar path. For example, in the Acts of the Apostles the leaders of the early Church gather together (15:6) on the face of a serious conflict. There we see how the problem is presented, a detailed discussion takes place, they listen to one another as well as to the Lord and finally reach a decision. They also make plans for its implementation. So, we can also talk of certain sign posts in the path of decision-making in a Jesus Youth group.

So how does a group discernment process or collective decision-making process happen?

  1. An issue is raised: Firstly, someone brings to the group a suggestion, an issue, or a problem and some people feel that the group must do something about it.
  2. We listen to the details: Different aspects and options relating to the problem in question are presented.
  3. We discuss: Now, people in the group respond to the suggestion. Different voices are raised and sometimes there may be arguments. As St Paul puts it, “speaking the truth in love we are to grow up” (Eph 4:15).
  4. We bring it before the Lord: This can be done in many ways depending on the issue at hand. We may take a few minutes in silence or pray together. At times, an adoration or even a few days of prayer will help us enter into the Lord’s view of the matter.
  5. We listen and share insights: This is a time of sharing at a deeper level. Group members speak out the messages or insights they received. Very often at this time the matter will take a new direction, even people will change their previous stances.
  6. Group reaches a decision: Finally, one who takes the lead asks everyone to speak their mind on the issue. A consensus on the matter is a clear indication. If there is serious disagreement very often we decide to postpone the decision. So usually the decision is a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ or ‘we will take more time’.
  7. Plan the follow up: It is important that the steps to implement the decision is also discussed. The planning will include what, who, when and how in some details. Sometimes we may also need a time of reconciliation at this stage because our sharing of views may have hurt others.

Taking decisions together is an excellent path of personal growth and group building. As St Ignatius warned, there is “no greater mistake in spiritual matters than to force others to follow one’s own pattern”. Our journey of growing in holiness and selflessness is learning to be in this process without ‘anger’ and ‘fear’ and to say from the bottom of our heart that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

Dr Edward Edezhath, one of the pioneers of pioneers of Jesus Youth gives us a glimpse of the growth of the movement