By Isabelle Ingalls
The day I flew into Colorado for staff training, it was storming.
Threatening clouds covered the airport, and the winds forced us to circle the flight path again and again. Twice, three times, four, five; I began to worry as we repeatedly had to turn away from Pikes Peak. When the pilot announced that we had only enough fuel for one more circle before being forced to return to Denver, I had an impulsive resolve that I would bus, hitchhike, walk, do whatever it took to get the rest of the way to Summit. But the storm finally dispersed and I landed in the front lobby of Summit Ministries without having to resort to any dramatic feats. Yet that first day started a cadence in my head, whose rhyme has echoed throughout my years there; that love goes further.
When I first started, I didn’t truly know what staffing was about. I assumed I’d lead a small group a few times, interact with students for a few hours, and cook a few meals. How hard could it be? My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t get my small groups of girls to talk during our meetings. Oh, naïve me. Staffing is so much more than that.
Staffing is about work.
Hard work. The alarm rings at 5 AM to get up and flip pancakes when your eyes are refusing to flip open. Your feet are sore from standing and running and climbing a dozen flights of stairs a day. Your mind reels from the sheer of names you have to remember. Finding a chance to shower is a rare, pleasant surprise, unloading heavy boxes is a bi-weekly chore, and making 200 beds is a normal encounter, while sleeping in your own is not. It’s draining, physically, emotionally, and mentally. But love goes further.
Staffing is about relationships.
Every time I interact with a student, even if it’s just passing in the hallways, I want them to know they matter. I see them. They are loved. Truth becomes legalism if it is not tied to relationships, and those relationships are something we build every moment. These students are unique and amazing, and they each have their own story to tell. So staffing is about pouring into all the student’s lives, especially your small group’s—and often that pouring looks like sitting and listening. So we take the time to hear. To sit with them, to cry with them, to hear the stories no one else has heard and the hurts that need to be healed. Because love goes further.
Staffing is about finding the end of yourself.
Because eventually, we’re going to fail. We all have those No Good, Very Bad, Terrible days, and it’s always conveniently happens right on the most important ones. Ministry can be exhausting, and it can drive us to a place of brokenness when we’re overwhelmed with “I don’t think I can do this and I’ve snapped at my team and have been too tired to invest and I just feel like a failure.” But brokenness is good because it takes us to the true Healer. Sometimes realizing your weakness is the very best thing, because His strength is made mighty in it.
And He hasn’t left us alone.
Staffing is about family in the truest sense; what the church should look like. When I fall, I have the whole staff team who can help to pick me back up. We work together, laugh together, and pray together. When we have a rough day, the rest gather round to support, help and speak the truth. And often bring coffee too. We bear each other’s’ burdens and become a family. Because love goes further.
A friend who went to Summit as a student told me, “Summit finally made me see the bigger picture, the greater Story, and even though I don’t have all the answers, I can always come back to that solid foundation.” And I think that sums up what staffing is truly about. Yes, staffing can be immensely fun, full of singing in the kitchen and hiking mountains and playing games at midnight with your new family. Yes, staffing can be immensely difficult, full of sitting up at midnight counseling, sitting alone at 2 AM drying a student’s luggage-full of clothes that got soaked on the tarmac, sitting with the rising dread of not being prepared for small group. But those things aren’t truly what staffing at Summit is about.
“These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:17)
Staffing is about love.
That’s what makes every late night, every early morning, every mountain hike and every shared meal worth it. To see a student’s eyes light up with their “Aha!” moment, to see freedom from bondage, to hear a student say they felt loved here. That’s why we do it. That’s why this is worth it because love goes further.
It’s not something we can do on our own.
It takes all of two minutes and that horrifying blank when you try to remember the name told to you just 30 seconds ago to realize that our own strength isn’t enough. But Love went further. Love went all the way to the cross. He went further and through it all to take on our sins–and He has given us His power and His righteousness. The One who went further for us calls us to do the same for others.
And love takes us further even beyond Summit.
My worldview and walk through the world has been radically impacted by staffing. Intentional discipleship has become habitual. Stopping in the midst of something to pray is common. My time staffing opened my eyes to the role I have in the Greatest Story, to the adventure and battle every day waging around me. And it gave me strength in the knowledge that I am not some bystander or involuntary participant, but that my life has purpose and meaning and influence. I’ve seen words and prayer change lives. I’ve seen laughter and fellowship influence lives. I’ve seen Jesus bring life. Staffing ultimately is about a life-long walk with the Savior, the Savior who every day takes us further.
So come staff.
You’ll be stretched in ways you’ve never before, go places you’ve never been, grow in ways you’ve never known, and maybe even have to fly in circles in a storm. But staffing is always about loving, and love takes us further. So let’s follow where He leads.