Keith Butler attends Community Christian Fellowship in Detroit, Mich., where this summer he worked with a program for community children that included mentoring, hands-on activities, empowerment workshops and conflict resolution classes. Butler was one of ten young adults from the Great Lakes region who participated in MCC's Summer Service program, a leadership development program where young adults of color serve their local communities through churches or related organizations.
1. What are three verbs (actions) that describe what you usually do in your current placement with Summer Service? Explain them.
Love – Here in Detroit, where we’re from, we see a lot of kids with the issue that they’re smart, they’re intelligent, all of that, but no one has gotten ahold of them and showed them any love. The very first thing that I tell my kids is that when you enter the program, the first thing we’re going to do is learn to love each other. We may not always agree with each other, but no matter what, we have to display love to one another. The kids really got it and grasp that concept.
Live – This is the spirit of the program. Outside of the program we deal with a bunch of stuff, and I tell them that’s what I’m here for - if you need to talk about it. I have other things going on, but when I get here I need to live in the moment. We’re going to live in the moment and not live in all the stressful and crazy things going on around us. They really appreciate it and hung onto it. That really helped us get through things.
Learn – We’ve learned a lot from each other and learned a lot from sharing experiences. And of course we learned a lot of new things that have come through a lot of different speakers. We tried to give a hands on program this year in the ministry. A lot of the boys are into music and video production, so we taught them the media arts side of the ministry that we’re in. They are able to sit with me and learn the sound system and record services with video. We’re working on trades – we talk about everything. The program is for kids in the community, and we’re working more on the mentoring and tutoring sides of things to develop life skills.
2. What is one story from your Summer Service experience that is especially memorable, meaningful or one you just think should be told? (Please use details)
I had a 16 year old kid who came in, and he had just lost his father. So he was really down on life at 16. His father had been there all his life, and then it was kind of sudden. When he came in he was just kind of down on life. He was speaking in the language of not wanting to live anymore and that sort of thing. By the end of the program, he’s doing much better. Before the program he wasn’t into church, now he’s coming to church besides just for the program. He’s ready to go back to school for the fall. He’s living again. He’s still dealing with different things, but his whole morale is very different. It changed my perspective on things.
3. What has surprised you about your experience or about yourself so far? Explain.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve been working with kids for a little while now – that is my passion. But I didn’t realize how powerful my testimony and my experiences could be. I didn’t realize that so many young people had gone through what I went through. I learned that your testimony is one of the biggest things you can ever use to help other people.
4. What have you learned about leadership through your Summer Service experience?
Sometimes it’s important to lead from the back. I picture when a shepherd is leading his sheep. When you see that illustrated, the shepherd is not walking in front of the sheep, he is behind the sheep. When you’re in front of the sheep, you can’t fully know what the sheep are doing. You can’t go and get them when they go astray. When you turn around you’d just see some of the sheep are gone. If I’ve learned anything about leadership, I’ve learned that it’s important that you humble yourself and that you’re willing to lead from the back. I think that’s much more powerful than being in the front and forefront can ever be. And you can also build leaders up. They have to obtain some type of responsibility for what’s going on.
5. Describe the impact of your work with Summer Service. (To the community, your church or a person)
The community: we did a lot of things and a couple of events this summer. We have one more back to school event. We made everything community based. We opened up the summer program with one hour power with community prayer. The church is in the middle of one of the most dangerous areas as it pertains to crime. The area is impoverished and undereducated. We were able to go into the community and take the church and ministry outside of the four walls and take it into the community. We would pray with the people and share our testimonies to the people in the community. Young people who had left church or were not interested or were hurt – it allowed us as a ministry to go out into the community and reconnect to those people. This is how we do ministry and what our goal is in the community. Without the community there is no us. God has commissioned us to go out in the community. It even helped the church with membership and the community. The church has a couple of pillars who stand out in the community
6. What role did your faith play during this assignment?
The role that it played is the foundation – it all comes from our faith, it all comes from what we believe in. With everything else that is going on, I wouldn’t even have the strength to go on. I have a four year old, I have a lot of other things going on. Sometimes you get caught up in everything you have going on and you forget your purpose. Faith reminded me that through Christ we can do all things. The strength doesn’t come from us, but it comes from the Lord. It just grounded me. It pushed me to be bigger than the stuff that I have going on – to be bigger than myself and pour myself out to people that need me.
7. Advice for future Summer Service participants.
My advice would be to let God lead whatever it is that you believe He is leading you to. Let Him take over and take that into consideration when you’re working for the summer program. Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t want to overdo or overpower things with what I believe God told me. It worked hand in hand. Whatever God has given you as your purpose, follow that and incorporate it into what you’re doing with the Summer Service program. It’s much more impactful than just following the curriculum or plan. God will lead you to be able to be productive and life-changing. It’s not just having a program in a certain spot at a particular time, and then just going home. Let God lead you and use you in everything.