Leadership qualities like being humble, hopeful and vocal leave a lasting impact. Before you read any further, take one minute and think about 3-5 memories from your life that deeply shaped you to be who you are today. What were they? When did they happen?
This probably won’t surprise you, but recent adolescent research affirms:
Nearly everyone recalls adolescence more powerfully than any other stage of life (Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg).
Why is that true about adolescence (ages 13-25 or so)? One of the reasons people have so many shaping memories from adolescence is that the brain’s last period of heightened malleability is during adolescence (Steinberg, 10). Because this is the last window of opportunity for the brain to be so radically shaped, we tend to remember things that we experienced from that stage of life. Here’s how you can make sure to leave a lasting impact in the lives of the students you are investing in…
The VISION Inductive Bible Study Method is one of the simplest Bible study tools I know of that helps you take a passage of Scripture & write compelling questions for your small group.
They key to a great Bible study and discussion with young people is helping them discover the truth in the passage. There is an art to writing good questions that will invite participation. These Bible study tools take time and effort. When you start out it can be overwhelming to try to write well-crafted questions that will help your group understand the meaning of the passage and how to apply it to their lives. That’s why I put together the VISION Inductive Bible Study method. It’s one of the simplest Bible study tools you can find. It helps you take any passage of Scripture and write compelling questions that will help your group learn its meaning and the implications of what it teaches to their lives. Here’s how…
“The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.” ~ Richard Ridgeway
I was talking with my daughter about what it’s like in her high school classes this week and she shared a profound thought. She said, “There is a girl in my class who is so funny, she always asks questions that everybody else is thinking.” We laughed out loud at some of the examples she shared. Then as I thought more about it, it occurred to me that this is a profoundly important leadership quality. People are often thinking things that they may not be comfortable voicing out loud. It helps others when we are willing to ask those questions that everyone else is thinking.
The 4 phases of youth leadership training are simply: You watch me. You help me do it. You do it, I help you. You do it, I watch you.
Leadership training for youth ministry back in the days when I started youth work was pretty simple. I was a student at the University of Arizona and I wanted to help kids meet Jesus. But I had no idea what I was doing. I was available, I was somewhat teachable, and I was wanting a mentor.
The first “youth leadership training” I got was through a very short conversation with an older more experienced leader in our area. He said, “You see that high school over there, Ashley? It’s full of about 3,500 high school kids who need Jesus. Let’s go.”
The essence of youth leadership is just as simple today. To reach the students in your area it takes leaders who are: Teachable, Available, Humble, and willing to be Apprenticed.
As I think back to the way my leader Jim apprenticed me to start building relationships with kids and sharing Jesus with them, he basically did four things. And I believe this is the essence of how to train leaders to reach the next generation, which every generation must do.
Youth ministry requires lots of leaders. If you want your church or parachurch to reach an increasing number of young people in your city, then you will need more leaders to do it. Developing youth leadership is a top priority. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, trends in youth ministry show us that it takes more leaders to reach fewer kids today than in previous generations. I talk about some of the reasons why in my recent post, 5 Trends in Youth Ministry & How to Navigate a Perfect Storm. If we want to reach more kids, then we need more leaders. But how do you recruit, train, and empower new teams of leaders year after year?
Five trends in youth ministry point to a perfect storm on the horizon
The trends I’m referring to are:
1. Youth culture is more fragmented than ever before. (Why? Because families are breaking down, young people are more fragile, broken, and have greater needs.)
2. You need more youth leaders today to reach fewer young people.
3. Volunteerism is decreasing.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up… – Ephesians 4:11-12
LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT EMPOWERMENT: BUILDING SOMEONE ELSE UP
Jesus spent most of his time building up Peter, James, and John. Three guys. And the rest of his time was primarily invested in building up the other eight disciples. Then the crowds got a little bit of his time too as he spread seeds of the Gospel extravagantly up on the masses. Things happen in a person’s life when they have someone intentionally trying to build them up. Empowerment is God’s design.
Years ago one of my good friends, Howard Baker (who is now the professor of Christian Formation at Denver Seminary), led me through what he called an “Adventure in Prayer.” It was a time of spiritual direction to slow me down and experience Jesus’ love for me in a time, as a leader, that I was being tempted a lot by performance and achievement. Howard’s guidance through Scripture nurtured my soul. He pointed me toward some passages that continue to bring life and more life as I consider them (Psalm 63, 23; Isaiah 55; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43; Hosea 11:1-4).
Mark Cannister’s well-written article, “Doing it How They Did it,” is a fantastic overview of the origins of youth ministry. If you are looking for a brief primer on where youth ministry has come from and the implications for youth work today, I highly recommend his article below as one of the best youth ministry resources to have in your library. Download a PDF of the article here.
I really believe that ministry is more “caught” than taught. What I mean by that is that young people learn more about being a disciple of Jesus by being around someone who is intentionally pouring their lives into them. Jesus spent most of his time with Peter, James, and John, and then the bulk of the rest of his time in ministry with the other eight of his 12 Disciples. Jesus was intentional about showing them day by day what it looked like to be in relationship with him. By being around him all of the time they learned by observation what his priorities were, how he spent his day, and what seemed to matter to him. They even observed what he ate, when he slept, how he recreated, how he talked to the Heavenly Father in prayer. For Jesus, it was “quantity” time with his Disciples as much or more than the “quality of time.”