'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?' Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there) Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." (John 6:9-12)
I love reading the feeding of the five thousand. The miracle where Jesus fed his people with such a small offering of food always makes me stop and think about what we can offer. We all have unique gifts, some are more obvious than others, but sometimes we have an idea that might just be a little risky or out of our comfort zone. Leadership can certainly feel like this, especially as a young person. We become just like the boy in the story, our hands out in front of us, offering up to Jesus what we would regard as something small and possibly insufficient. We start to think about what we are offering, our thoughts turn to why we might not be good at leadership; I haven't been part of church that long; I'm the youngest person here; I'm not sure anyone will listen. Jesus looks at us and takes what we offer, he sees past our worries, blesses our offering, and transforms it into something amazing.
After the crowd is fed, what really strikes me as comforting, is the collection of the pieces that are left over, Jesus says, "let nothing be wasted", telling us here that our experiences that we bring either from school, from our jobs, from church life, from our whole life, are never wasted.
Skills we have grown outside of formal leadership structures bring such diversity into the church. Being part of a band or a team creates an environment where leadership can grow and thrive, Jesus sees all these skills and gifts and brings them into his church. We always have something to offer, from being an excellent tea maker (this is how I started!) to being able to give someone the space to be listened to. Sometimes past struggles and difficult situations become just as useful as positive experiences. I didn't believe that the negative experiences in my life would be useful, but Jesus uses everything, he calls us loud and clear, "Let nothing be wasted".
It's important as young people to take this message as an invitation to offer up our gifts, our experiences, and our leadership skills. Congregations are becoming older and the need to reach out to younger people is a necessity. Jesus did not turn the boy away with his offering because he was young. He shows us how that boy helped him to feed five thousand people!
Jesus has faith in you to feed his people, he will take you, your talents, your gifts, your experience and turn them into something that maybe you had never even realised you could do before.
Written by Amy Sheridan, who is church warden and part of the leadership team for family worship at St James A-U-L. She recently completed a Journalism degree and is currently discerning a call to ordination whilst being a busy wife and mum to five children. Follow Amy on Twitter on @and1moremeans5 and read her writing online here.