Teaching Your Youth About Priorities – First Move Mondays

“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group.  These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.

It seems that I’m having this conversation constantly, mostly with myself.  We have so much trouble keeping our priorities straight.  Why is that?  I think it has to do with the fact that we lose sight of who and what we are very quickly.  As Christians, we have some pretty high priorities.  Serve God and mankind.  In the world, there’s so much tearing at us for attention that we get quickly overwhelmed and start to lose focus.  Bills, jobs, spouses, children, hobbies, TV; these are just a few of the things that vie for our attention as we struggle to keep God as the first priority in our life.  We quickly forget that when anything takes the place of God in the priority chain, this is idolatry, pure and simple.  Sometimes, our ministries even become the idol, as we seek to do the work of God and forget the God of the work we are doing.

This post could probably use a whole article, and one day it will get what it deserves, but for now here are a few thoughts on teaching our students how to prioritize.

  1. Make sure your priorities are straight.  You will teach by example, whether you want to or not, and if you don’t have your priorities straight, or if you have an idol in the place of God, your students will see that and emulate it.
  2. Help your students realize where their priorities are.  Talk about what’s important in their life, and where they are spending most of their time.  They may think they have good priorities, but they may be acting differently.
  3. Make sure that you are focusing more on your student’s relationship with God than you are the tasks of leadership.  This will help your student from idolizing their ministry later in life (or now).  Leadership development takes both.  Remember, your students won’t be able to practice Godly leadership if their own relationship with God is lacking.
  4. Let your students discover their purpose.  Talk about purpose a lot, and let them get excited about their purpose.  Let them take the personality, gifts, strengths, and leadership tests.  A sense of purpose will help keep their priorities on track (although they will need a little goading).
  5. Enlist the parents of your students to help you.  Parents are a strong ally in everything that you are trying to teach your students, and can sometimes be a major hindrance as well.  Make sure that you and the student’s parents are sending the same signal when it comes to priorities.  Your young leaders will not be able to deal with competing signals from you and their parents.  Their parents will win every time, if only because students see their parents more and tend to be influenced by them heavily, even if they don’t want to be.
  6. Have retreats and meetings that serve as “wake-up calls” for your students to get themselves centered on their priorities.  Veering away from your priorities is easily done, and sometimes it takes a good proverbial kick to the head to bring you back to center.

Keep up with this.  You’re going to be tempted to let it ride, to go with the status quo, but you can’t.  Keeping priority means constant vigilance, both with yourself (especially with yourself) and with your students.

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Ready For Every Good Work – God’s Heart For Leadership

Photo By Brandy Gooch

Photo By Brandy Gooch

“God’s Heart For Leadership” is a series of blogs where we explore biblical leadership principles.  Each installment has a short bit of exposition on a section of scripture followed by a “Teach It” section that will have teaching and activity suggestions for you to use with your leadership students.

Ready For Every Good Work

Titus 3:1

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,

One of the questions we need to be addressing in our churches today goes something like this:  Okay, we’re saved, but “What are we being saved to?”  This question is the one that Paul is talking about in his letter to Titus, and that we’ll explore a bit today.  Paul tells us elsewhere that we are saved for doing good works that are given to us by God. (Ephesians 2:8-10).  I think it’s very interesting that Paul spends a good deal of his time talking about the fact that our salvation isn’t based on the works that we’ve done, and then turns around and states that we are saved into a dedication to good works.

So what are good works?  There’s a fair amount of talk about them in the New Testament, but “good works” is rarely defined by specific acts.  Why is that?  I think it’s because good works encompasses so many things in so many different situations that it would be very difficult to pin a good list down.  The Bible’s authors mention all sorts of good works, from taking care of the poor to blessing those that hate you.

The fact is that in the moment when a good work is presented, we all know it.  Whether it’s helping out a friend or a stranger in Christ’s love, we know an opportunity to do good when it’s there.  The Holy Spirit speaks the opportunities to us as they appear.  If you think about it, it’s the same with sinning.  We know when the opportunity to do wrong presents itself, and we’re tempted.  But are we tempted to do good works, or is it just the wrong path that we’re tempted with?

Paul tells Titus to remind those that he leads to be ready for every good work.  There’s two parts to this that I think we need to address:  To be ready, and to be ready for every good work.  Both take being guided by the Holy Spirit to accomplish.

Being Ready for Good Works

First, we must be ready.  How can you be ready for something when you aren’t even sure when it will happen?  It’s not as if a list of good work opportunities presents itself on your calendar.  Most good works are found throughout the day when you least expect them, in the people that God has placed in your path.

That’s why we have to be ready.  We don’t usually get to schedule good works, so we have to prepare ahead of time for them – and here’s how:

Make Time

One of the worst things to happen to modern man has been that progress has stolen his time.  We run from here to there at a frightening speed, late to our next appointment from the beginning of the day until the end.  We schedule ourselves full from dawn until dusk, leaving little time for anything extra that might come our way.  This isn’t how life is supposed to be lived.  We aren’t supposed to be this hurried, this exhausted, or scheduled so full.  Being so robs us of one of the things we need to do good work – time

So often we don’t see the opportunities that God has put in front of us to love other people because we are so focused on our own schedules.  One of the best things that we can do to be ready for good works is stop scheduling ourselves so fully that we don’t have time to stop and see the condition of others.  When we return some sanity to our schedules we’ll be more ready to do the good works God has set out for us.

Allocate Resources

Similarly to our time, we’ve also fallen into the trap of expending our resources on ourselves, leaving nothing left over to serve others with.  When I say resources I don’t necessarily mean money, but money would probably be the best example.  Money, energy, skill, time; these are all precious resources that we have in finite amounts, but which are usually spent at work or on ourselves, long gone when a need arises that we could have otherwise met.

Focus

To be ready for good works, our focus has to be right.  In order to see the needs that are often right in front of our face, we have to stop focusing on us and focus on those around us.  It’s a major paradigm shift, and one that we’re not use to.  Even those of us who would consider ourselves unselfish have to admit that we spend most of our time concerned with ourselves.  Reading Matthew 6:25-34 it reminds me that we have been set free from worry about the things that we need – God will take care of us.  I’m convinced that one reason that He does this is so we can focus on others.

All of The Good Works?

The second part of Paul’s exhortation to Titus is to be ready for “all good works.”  This is a bold statement and one that we should really pay attention to.  Paul is saying that we shouldn’t pick and choose which good works we do, but be ready to do “all good works.”  What could he mean by “all good works?”  I think he means that we should be ready to do every good work which presents itself to us; that we should take every opportunity that comes our way to share the love of God with those around us that need it.

That’s tough, because some days it seems like these opportunities pop up from behind every corner.  We barely have time to deal with everything on our plate, nonetheless “good works” that pop up throughout the day, but with that we come to the final point:  what is it that drives us to do these good works?  What is it that drives us to drop those things on our schedule and help others?  It can be only one thing:  we must be compelled by love.

This love that compels us must be the same that brought the Son from the throne room of God to earth, the same love that drove Him to the cross, the same that seeks and saves us.  Because we’re prone to being consumed by our selfish nature, being ready for every good work is foreign to us without the love of God intervening in our lives.

 

Teach It

 

Reading and Meditation Suggestions

Primary Scripture:  Titus 3:1

Complementary Scripture:  Ephesians 2:8-10

 

Discussion Questions

Q.  What is a good work?

A.  Any deed that deals with people in love.

 

Q.  Why do we do good works?

A.  The love of God should compel us to share that love with other people.  It’s a way to share about Jesus, but it’s also obedience to what God has asked us to do.

 

Q.  Why are we better equipped to do good works after we become Christians?

A.  Because the Holy Spirit allows us to deal with people in love; we recognize opportunities for good works better and have the God-given strength and resources to deal with them.

 

Q.  How can you personally prepare to do good works?

 

Q.  What resources are you personally holding back from doing good works?

 

Q.  What’s the biggest reason that you aren’t doing good works?

 

Activity

Take some time to discuss some opportunities for good works that your group knows about and feel they should do.  These can be group projects, but try to have each individual name a good work they know they need to do right now.  When each group member has taken a turn, take time to pray for each individual and the need that they have talked about.

 

Devotional Resources

Day 27

Day 64

Day 128

Day 133

Day 135

Day 182

Day 190

 

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How To Destroy Your Leadership Team in 1 Easy Step

“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group.  These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.

Want to destroy a leadership team in a hurry?  Here’s how:  Don’t get to know your students.  It’s that easy.  Don’t learn anything more than their names, who needs to know more than that anyway?

Okay, you do.  You need to know a lot more than just their names.  Your leadership development team is going to hinge on intentional relationship building.  If you want your team to be cohesive, meaningful, and fruitful, you must get involved in the lives of your students.

What drives them?  What scares them?  What are they truly passionate about?  What can’t they stand?  These are all things that you want to know; and that they want to share.  This isn’t a shallow relationship, this is the real thing.  Know them.

I know that this is risky.  It involves emotional involvement.  Emotional involvement means possible (probable) hurt.  It comes with the territory.  Get used to it.  Remember, these relationships are there to build leadership principles on, not for your emotional health.

If you want to connect, if you want to have real impact on the lives of your leadership team, cultivate real relationships with your students.  Be real with them and insist they be real with you.  You’ll find that as you do, your group will begin to operate as a real team.  And that’s when the real learning starts.

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A Good Shepherd Is… – God’s Heart For Leadership

Photo By Brandy Gooch

Photo By Brandy Gooch

“God’s Heart For Leadership” is a series of blogs where we explore biblical leadership principles.  Each installment has a short bit of exposition on a section of scripture followed by a “Teach It” section that will have teaching and activity suggestions for you to use with your leadership students.

1 Peter 5:1-3

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

A Good Shepherd Is…

Of all the word pictures that are used in the bible for leadership, the shepherd is one of the most instructive for the Christian leader today.  And here in 1 Peter 5 it finds it’s epitome.  Many other places in scripture you’ll find examples of the bad shepherds that were leading God’s people, but in this passage we get see what to do balanced by what not to do.  Nowhere else do we get such a clear picture of a leader that serves those he leads, along with the leader’s motivation and Modus Operandi.

Peter starts this scripture with an interesting statement.  He begins by stating that he is a fellow elder (overseer, elders could be pastors or could be any of the governing body of the local church).  This may not seem like such a big deal until we remember that Peter is also an Apostle.  He walked with Jesus, and was one of three that Jesus let in close.  Peter was a fellow elder, but he was so much more.  So why is that a big deal?  Because Peter was practicing was he was about to preach.

Peter starts his exhortation by telling leaders to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you.”  In itself this isn’t an extraordinary statement, because that’s exactly what leaders are supposed to do, but there are several very extraordinary things about the way that Peter says this that should get our attention.

First, Peter uses the term “shepherd.”  It’s a term that most of his readers would have implicitly understood in that day.  These days, many of us don’t know shepherds, or have any knowledge of them beyond what we’ve studied in church.  There are many interesting things about shepherds that have direct bearing on how a leader should lead:

A Shepherd is a Guard

Shepherds had many jobs, but one of their most important was to guard.  Sheep are rather helpless animals, and are easy prey for a stalking predator.  One of a shepherds chief jobs was to secure his charges and keep them safe.  In the same way, a Christian leader seeks to secure the safety of those he leads through exhortation, oversight, and sometimes discipline.  There are many predators in the world that would have a believer as a tasty snack, but it’s our job to keep our flock safe.

A Shepherd is a Guide

Because sheep tend to wander aimlessly, a shepherd became a champion at guiding sheep.  He would guide them toward food, water, and shelter; moving from pasture to pasture as food and water became scarce.  A Christian leader also needs to become an expert at moving people from one goal to the next.  We aren’t leaders for the sake of leadership, God has given us a goal to keep in sight and guide people toward it.  So many of us are leaders for the sake of being leaders; an effective leader always has a goal in sight and is pressing toward it.

A Shepherd Lives with the Sheep

I think Peter alluded to this aspect of shepherding when he said “among you.”  Shepherds don’t ever leave the sheep.  They live with, eat with, bath with, and smell like, the sheep.  They don’t have the option of a corner office where they communicate with the sheep by email; they live and lead from among them.  This may just be the most important thing to learn about being a Christian leader:  we lead from among those we lead.  We aren’t special, don’t get to segregate ourselves from the “little people,” or lead from on high (which Peter is about to address); we live among those people we lead.  Christian leaders are in constant contact with them; they are created family.

Next, Peter talks about “exercising oversight.”  This idea probably isn’t new to you, the term “overseer” is used throughout the NT to talk about Christian leaders.  The idea behind an overseer is that we aren’t micromanagers.  The shepherd doesn’t tell the sheep what tuft of grass he should eat from; the shepherd gives parameters and shepherds the flock if they leave those parameters.  We need to remember that those we lead don’t necessarily need to hear from us about their calling everyday; they’ve heard already from God.  What they do need is shepherding:  vision, planning, and support, service, and occasionally, herding.

Peter continues by telling Christian leaders what kind of heart we should have in our work.  The attitude you carry with you as a leader shows through by the way you lead, how you treat the people you lead, and what you ultimately care about.  Peter mentions that we should be “willing” and “eager.”  Willing and eager come out of our hearts, straight from the Holy Spirit.  Willing and eager aren’t something that you can fake, and it’s not something that you can learn; either your heart’s in the people you lead and the goal that you’re leading towards, or it’s not.

I think that’s why Peter is adamant that you shouldn’t be leading under compulsion or for what you’ll get out of it.  Our heart is quickly revealed if we are motivated either way.  In those cases, you lose influence quickly, and everyone suffers.  Secular leaders are often motivated by compulsion (climbing the ladder) and by gain (a paycheck, lifestyle, and power) but we can’t be.  We have one motivation, and that’s Jesus.  He supplies the vision, the gifting, and the opportunity; and we live to serve Him and bring Him fame.  That’s the kind of motivation that makes for willing and eager.

Finally, Peter echoes an idea that Jesus talked about in Matthew 20.  He exhorts his “fellow elders” not to domineer those people that they lead, but instead be an example.  You remember Jesus telling his disciples that domination was a mark of gentile leaders, and that they shouldn’t have any part of that, right?  Well Peter was on hand for that, and the message seemed to have sank in.  Instead of domineering, says Peter, we should be an example.  In other words, Christian leaders don’t lead from the back, driving people with fear and discipline, but from the front, with service and example.  We  practice what we preach, and as often as possible, practice before we preach.

It’s just a few short sentences, but within this small passage is the blueprint for living life as a Christian leader.  It’s obviously easier to say than to do, and it takes a lifetime to get right.  But if we build our students around this verse, constantly coming back to it, reminding them of Peter’s words, and prayerfully ask God to give them the strength to live their lives by it’s words, we’ll see a young generation of Christian leaders ready to give their lives in the serving of God and of others.

 

Teach It

Reading and Meditating Suggestions

Main Reading:

1 Peter 5:1-3

Complimentary Reading:

Matthew 20:25-28

 

Discussion Questions

 

Q.  The idea of leadership being like shepherding has some positive and negative images that it brings to mind.  What are some positive images that weren’t mentioned in the reading above?  What are some negative images that it conjures in your mind?

Q.  Why do you think that Peter didn’t mention the fact that he was an apostle, but identified more with the idea of an elder?

A.  He was practicing what he preached:  that you shouldn’t lord it over the people that you lead, but lead from among them and by example.

 

Q. Why do you think God’s way of leadership is different from many other methods of leadership?

A.  God’s idea of leadership keeps it’s practitioners people focused and God focused.  Other methods of leadership focus on money, growth, and self.

 

Q.  How can viewing leadership as shepherding help both leaders and those they lead?

A.  For the leader, leadership as shepherding keeps you accountable to both God and the people you lead.  Pride can’t get in, because you lead from the front.  For those you lead, it’s better because you feel ownership in whatever you’re doing.  Your boss isn’t a tyrant, and you feel pride in knowing you are all working towards God’s Kingdom.

 

Q.  How can the shepherding paradigm help you lead better?

 

Q.  How is the Shepherding method of leadership more difficult than other, more secular forms of leadership?

A.  Many forms of leadership look on those you lead as under you, and it’s easy to look at them as tools for the job that you are doing.  A Shepherding model doesn’t allow you to take that view, and in fact, leading by example and from among those you lead is time consuming, difficult work.  A Christian leader doesn’t get to back out of the hard work just because they’re the boss.

 

Devotional Resources

Day 42

Day 53

Day 57

Day 60

Day 83

Day 101

Day 125

Day 127

Day 137

Day 167

Day 177

Day 183

Day 185

Day 195

Day 198

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Don’t Forget These 5 Things When Starting A Leadership Team

“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group.  These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.

Don’t Forget These 5 Things When Starting a Leadership Team

When we start something, most of us will make big mistakes on the most obvious things.  That’s because we take those things for granted.  We don’t even think about them.  It’s no different when we start a youth leadership team.  You know these things, and I know you know these things; but sometimes we get so excited that we forget even the simplest things we know.

 

Have a Plan.

This is one of the most important things you’ll do.  Before you tell anyone about your idea and especially before you start putting it into play, for goodness sake have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be the most detailed in the world, but at least know:

What you want to do (i.e. I want youth to start leading in the ministries of the church)

Why you want to do it (Youth need ownership in the ministries of the church)

How you’re going to do it (Through discipleship and experience)

 

Make Sure Your Pastor is Behind You.

Most every youth pastor I know is going to at least seek permission before starting a new program like a leadership development team.  But far from having permission, you want the other pastors on staff to be behind you, praying for you, helping you, encouraging you, and hopefully, implementing leadership development programs of their own.  The most successful leadership development programs are those that are part of a church-wide culture of leadership development.

 

Enlist The Help of Others.

Don’t be so delusional to think that you can do this on your own.  A youth leadership team is a big responsibility and can be a lot of work.  Suck up your pride and ask some people for help.  Chances are once you announce your intentions others will look you up wanting to help.  Look for people with leadership experience that the youth can look up to and be mentored by.

 

Communicate With Parents.

If you’ve been in youth ministry for any length of time, then you know how vital communication with parents is.  It’s even more important when you’re forming a leadership development team.  A leadership team is one more activity that students will have to be driven to, and two more trips out for parents.  It could be a financial investment.  Make sure that you are in constant contact with the parents of your leadership team.  Get to know them personally; sit down to coffee with them – know them.

 

Be Intentional.

A no-brainer, but one we often overlook.  Leadership development must be very intentional.  You can’t just throw together a lesson last-minute and hope that it has something to do with Christian Leadership.  Everything you teach and do should have a purpose and a goal in mind.  A haphazard leadership development plan doesn’t develop anything but frustration and burnout.

It never hurts to have a good reminder, especially when you’re just starting out.  Remember, lay a strong foundation and you can confidently build on it – be faithful in the small things.

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It’s All About The People

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I’m on vacation this week, so I’m posting some stuff that I have ready.  We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.  In the meantime, enjoy…

 

One thing that Christian leaders can’t allow themselves to get away from is the idea that leadership is all about people.  It’s very easy to lose ourselves in the day-to-day running of systems, learning all about processes, and crunching numbers.  If we allow it, we’ll lose ourselves in abstract ideas, reports, and figures.

Christian leadership is always focused on the Kingdom and the Church.  It doesn’t matter what line of work you may be in, a Christian leader’s focus will be on the advancing of the Kingdom whether it be in a board room of a bank or in the office of a church.  If it’s the Kingdom that occupies our efforts, it’s people.

Jesus never was about the figures, the methods, or the process.  Jesus’ heart, and I believe one of the big draws of Jesus, is His heart for the individual person.  His ministry is cratered with His devotion to people who would just approach Him out of the crowd, or who would be brought to where He was.  He was constantly interrupted by people and their problems, and He never minded, probably because people were His priority.

Can you say that you’re like this?  Do you get annoyed when your day is interrupted by needy people?  I know I am from time to time.  When I get this way I need to be reminded why I do what I do.  It’s for the people.  It’s all about the kingdom.

There’s another question that we need to ask ourselves:  “What are you teaching young leaders about priorities by your actions?  Are you teaching them that people are the most important part of our ministries, or do your actions show them that you are more interested with your schedule and processes?

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You Are More Than A Teacher – First Move Mondays

“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group.  These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.

You Are More Than A Teacher

We are more than teachers.

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking of yourself merely as a teacher; we are so much more.  As we guide young people toward being biblical leaders, we must keep in mind that as their mentors and teachers, we need to be careful not to neglect the personal lives of those young leaders whose lives we have been entrusted with caring for.

The following quote from a Tony Morgan blog haunts me, and I hope it will haunt you as well:

“At the end of Brian’s message today, he invited people to come forward for prayer and anointing.   I was one of a number of pastors and elders who were available to pray with folks.

The experience impacted me. It reminded me that the people that walk through the doors of our church every Sunday may look okay on the outside, but many are dealing with some tough stuff on the inside. Addictions. Marriages collapsing. Kid’s heading in a wrong direction. Medical challenges. Financial crisis. Lack of purpose.”

Our students are human beings, not information repositories.  Each of their lives are different.  We often (I often) make the mistake of filling them full of leadership knowledge, scripture, leadership practice, and all of those wonderful things without attending to the needs that are sometimes simmering just under the surface of their lives.

Big Mistake.

The student who is going through a personal crisis (and we all do) is not going to be able to concentrate on how to be a leader.  In fact, it’s the furthest thing from their mind.   Remember, the student who just had a fight with her mom, or who is having a fight with her boyfriend, is not going to be on her “A” game.

Remember that you are more than a teacher to these students.  You are a pastor, a mentor, a guide.  You are sometimes the person that they trust the most with spiritual matters.  Don’t neglect them by treating them like robots.

Leaders are people too.

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Stewardship – God’s Heart For Leadership

Photo By Brandy Gooch

Photo By Brandy Gooch

“God’s Heart For Leadership” is a series of blogs where we explore biblical leadership principles.  Each installment has a short bit of exposition on a section of scripture followed by a “Teach It” section that will have teaching and activity suggestions for you to use with your leadership students.

Luke 12:41-48

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.  (Luke 12:41-48 ESV)

 

Luke 12 should make every Christian leader perk up and pay attention.  It is a solemn if not terrifying reminder to the Christian leader of their responsibilities and expectations.  It reminds us that:

Christian leadership is a stewardship.

We must be about the Master’s work.

The things we are given aren’t ours, but God’s to give and God’s to take.

 

The thing that really strikes me about this passage, as it relates to Christian leadership, is that it explains how God has structured leadership, and outlines our jobs as Christian leaders.  Using words such as “household,” “steward,” and “servant,” God tells us very clearly here just what he expects of leaders, and how we should treat those who we lead.

First, after delivering a parable about how servants in God’s household must always be ready for the master’s return, at Peter’s asking Jesus turns His attention to the role of “steward,” and begins to outline a special set of warnings to them.  This passage is at once freeing and frightening, as it outlines our roles rather succinctly, but lays out a very strict warning at the end of the passage for those that abuse their position.

This idea of a steward should interest us, as it is the biblical concept of the role of the Christian leader in whatever pursuit he might take in life.  In those times, stewards were given responsibility in certain areas of their master’s estates and households, perhaps finance, or organization of the other household servants.  Though their part of the household answered to them, their authority wasn’t their own, but their master’s.  In other words, a steward is asked to oversee someone else’s resources in the advancement of their cause.

The steward is the perfect picture of the Christian leader.  God is the head of the household, and we, His stewards, have been lent His resources to manage and further His Kingdom.  In some cases, those resources may be as simple as gifts and talents that He has given to us for a specific purpose, or it may be as complex as a team of specially gifted frontiersman that pursue a specific border of the Kingdom.

This idea should elicit a couple of responses in us:

Humility

Humility that God would choose us as a steward in His household with so many more worthy people around us:  this is an example of His love, grace, and ability to bring good out of sinful beings like us.  When we realize that we aren’t in charge, but a steward of God’s resources, we’re free to be who we really are:  chosen, gifted, and sent saints with a specific purpose that God has given us.

 

Obedience, Ownership and Commitment

Being given the awesome privilege of overseeing a part of the master’s business, our next response should be to get to work.  When we are called to a stewardship, God expects our obedience immediately, not at your leisure – His timing is perfect, not yours.  We seem to forget sometimes that we serve at the Master’s pleasure, not our own.  He appoints, and He removes.  It’s not that God needs us, please don’t ever begin to think that.  That He includes us at all is just a deeper grace to us; God delights in giving us the Kingdom.

 

Respect for Resources

I hate referring to God’s people and Gifts as resources, but for the sake of ease I’ll let it go this time, and besides it fits in with the metaphor of the Master’s household.  God directs resources into the Kingdom, not us.  When we’re about God’s work, we have to remember that every person, dollar, and other resource is God-given, directed, and set apart for the task at hand.  That’s not the economy that we’ve grown up in, and often it’s hard to make the transition between society’s economy and God’s.

The view of stewardship should give us a different perspective and respect for the people that work with us and sometimes for us.  Ours is not the usual power structure that exists normally in society.  God lays out this power structure in Matthew 20 and tells His disciples to stay away from it.  We don’t get to use power and fear as our motivation; the motivation of all involved in Christian leadership is to further the Kingdom; to make the Name of Jesus famous throughout the nations.  If that feels different from going to work to make a living than good!  It is different.

Stewardship makes our working relationships different; we understand that each person that we work with is made in the image of God and that God is relentlessly pursuing them as well as ourselves; that His love isn’t just for us, but for everyone.  We see them as human beings that Jesus died for, not cogs in the endless machine of industry.  This makes being a Christian leader very difficult; it doesn’t allow us to use or abuse people the way that many companies do as a matter of policy in the chase of the almighty dollar.  We are held accountable to a different paradigm of leadership – a higher leadership.

 

Fear and Trembling

Finally, Jesus‘ description and warning should give us the chills.  The final part of this passage is one of the most frightening one in all of scriptures for a believer.  God does hold us accountable for what we’ve done with the gifts and resources that He’s given us; you can bank on it.  This is one of the most notable and clear scriptures containing that idea.  Jesus‘ warning is to those who somehow get the idea that their master isn’t watching or worse, isn’t coming back, and begin to think of the household’s resources as their own.  They eat all the food, they drink all the wine, and they abuse the other servants – the parallels to our own life and work are frighteningly clear.

As stewards of God’s work, the people we work with, the resources we’re given, even the organizations that we belong to and work for  – they are all God’s.  They don’t belong to us in any way.  The way we use them is something God is very interested in.  Remember the parables about the servants who were given talents to look after when the master went away, and don’t pretend that this isn’t related to what we’re talking about:  the one who was rewarded was the one who intentionally set out to multiply what was given to him.  The other, the guy that sat on the talent, was punished because what was given to him was meant to be used in getting more.

Jesus ends with this thought:  If you’ve been given much, much will be expected of you.  That’s a sobering thought to anyone who realizes that God has given us too much to even know or inventory.

Those of us who have been called into stewardships have been given even more.  It’s an honor, a blessing, and a responsibility that we can’t take lightly.

 

Teach It

 

Reading and Meditation Suggestions

Primary:  Luke 12:41-48

Supporting:  Matthew 25:14-30

 

Discussion Questions

 

Q.  What Stewardship have you been given?  What has God called you to?

 

Q.  What is a stewardship?  How is it different from normal leadership?

A.  A stewardship is a position of responsibility and set of resources that God has lent you for a specific purpose in His kingdom.  It differs from the normal idea of leadership because you aren’t really in charge, you are responsible but God is in charge.  He develops the vision, gives the resources and the “success.”  A steward is an overseer, an authority but whose authority is derived from God.

 

Q.  How does the idea of Stewardship change your idea of leadership?

 

Q.  Talk about the personal characteristics of a Steward.  What are they?  What does a steward look like?  Talk like?

 

Q.  In what ways did Jesus model Stewardship in His life and leadership?

A.  Jesus talked constantly about the fact that everything He did and Had were from the Father.  He also used His time to be totally about His work:  training the apostles, proclaiming the Kingdom, and striding toward His ultimate goal:  His death and resurrection.

 

Q.  What is God speaking to you through this lesson?  How can you be a better steward right now?

 

Q.  What could change in an organization when everyone in an organization realizes that the organization is a stewardship?

A.  The first change is in how their jobs are viewed:  people no longer have to see their work as just a way to earn money.  Their jobs become purpose.  People are transformed from workers or cogs in the machine to apostles, sent ones, with a mission and a place in God’s story.  People are no longer viewed as just “human resources” but divinely appointed messengers given to this place at this time with intentionality and purpose.

 

Devotional Resources

Day 19,

Day 60,

Day 166

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How Often Should My Youth Leadership Team Meet?

First Move Mondays

“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group.  These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.

 How Often Should My Youth Leadership Team Meet?

When talking to someone about starting a Youth Leadership Development Team, I’m often asked “How often should we meet?”  That’s a tough question.  Everyone does leadership development differently, based on their resources, their priorities, and time.  The following are just a few of the most popular models that churches and non profit organizations use to develop leadership.  One of these models might fit you and your ministry better than the others; the most important thing is to be intentional with whatever method you choose and carry it through.

Book and Conference

If we’re honest, this is how most most of us get our leadership development:  We read books and maybe once a year attend a leadership conference.  Even though books and conferences are wonderful resources for leadership development, this is by far the worst model if it’s your only resource.

The reason this is the only choice for so many ministers and young people is because of low support, time, and/or resources for leadership development.  This is by far the most hands-off approach, and usually the most costly (have you seen the prices of some of those conferences?).  Usually the Book and Conference model is self-initiated, though in some churches conference attendance can become a yearly ritual.

The reason I think that this model is the worst for sustained missional leadership development is very simple:  leadership development doesn’t happen in one big spurt on one weekend.  We are constantly growing in Christ, learning new things, and being exposed to new circumstances.  True missional leadership development happens during the ins and outs of everyday living and discipleship; something that can’t be reproduced at a conference.  We also know the high that accompanies conferences and the slow but steady deflation that happens the rest of the year as reality begins to overtake the vision the conference laid out.  Without a constant support and reiteration of that vision, it dies.

 

Workshop

The Workshop model differs slightly from that of the Conference model because usually the workshops are laid out by the church and include part of the church’s vision already built into the workshop.  These can be leadership retreats, morning or evening meetings, or any other longer period of instruction where missional leadership is covered, taught, and encouraged.

This model is more intentional than the Book and Conference model, where you merely show up for a conference or see what’s on the bookshelf.  Churches who will hold leadership workshops a few times a year are very intentional about what is taught at each one, and can individualize the teaching into the context and mission of the local church.  Workshops are helpful because they can target specific leaders within your church, such as Sunday School Teachers, small group leaders, or staff pastors.  The Workshop model also tends to be more missional because of it’s local nature and the obvious participation and planning of church or organizational staff and leadership.  This makes the Workshop model ideal for organizations who don’t have the resources or time to implement a more sustained leadership development program, or who want to add a very intensive, targeted element to their leadership development program.

Workshops are easily planned and executed by existing staff without a heavy time or work commitment, and can even be taught by an outside resource instead of a staff member if the money is available.

The downside of the workshop model is that, like the Book and Conference Model, there isn’t a lot of time devoted to learning, only a few times a year, and with that comes a start-and-stop mentality to leadership development; it isn’t sustained.

 

Monthly

A monthly model of leadership development is a more common leadership development model seen in churches of all sizes, budgets, and resources.  A monthly model usually consists of designated, chosen individuals meeting on a monthly basis with an intentional agenda or curriculum.  These monthly meetings give leadership teams time to teach, serve, and plan without overloading either the teachers’ or students’ busy schedules.

Monthly leadership models produce a more sustained leadership development, as students meet more often with a consistent agenda and curriculum.  These models are highly intentional, as the leader must be organized not only for individual meetings but the program as a whole.

Monthly models are more common in medium and large churches where the program doesn’t require a dedicated staff member, or large amounts of time and money.

 

Weekly or Bi-Weekly

Weekly and bi-weekly models are found in churches where a dedicated staff member can be assigned or hired to run the leadership development program or in a church where there is a member who volunteers to run the program; perhaps they have experience with leadership development or a passion for it.  As a result, most of the churches who have a weekly model tend to be larger in size and staff.

Weekly models take the most dedication and organization to run, and have to be very intentional to not lose momentum and organization.  An extreme amount of dedication must also be shown by the students to bear with such a time-intensive demand on their schedules.

These models will be the most in-depth and extensive leadership training of all the models.  Weekly or bi-weekly meetings ensure that a range of character and competency topics can be covered, making students who emerge from these program models more knowledgable and trained in Christian leadership.

The down side of this model is a direct result of it’s strengths.  It takes a great deal of time and resources to plan and run a leadership development program with this model.  Very few churches have the resources to devote to this model and even fewer churches have such leadership development in youth as a priority.

 

The last two models are different from the first four models; they are concerned less with time and more with the culture of the organization and the method chosen to transmit information.

 

Mentor

Mentoring is a wide, varied, and much written about topic in today’s leadership circles.  For our purposes, a mentoring program is one that gives one-on-one attention to leadership students.  This can be done by any leader or designated mentor in your organization, and students are usually paired up with leaders who share the same interests or visions for life and ministry.

Mentoring is very effective because of the one-on-one relationship that develops between mentor and mentee, and because of the individualized nature of the content that can be disseminated.

Some Churches will use mentoring exclusively as a vessel for leadership development, others will include a mentoring component to a larger program, or as the next-step in a program.

The strength in a mentoring component lies in it’s ability to be used in so many ways.  It’s down side is the time it takes to run a mentoring program, and the number of people that must be found to mentor a group of students; in smaller churches it is difficult to find the appropriate number of qualified mentors.

Cultural

The cultural model of leadership development is more of a mindset by a church or organization; it is an attitude that permeates every pore of the organization.  Churches who use this model spend large amounts of time and resources developing leaders within their organization, and in fact have made it a major focus of their organization.  They are set up to develop leadership daily in every meeting, activity, and conversation.

By far, this is the most intensive leadership model, and is beyond the scope of most churches and NPOs.  It requires a great deal of organization, dedication, and energy by a staff to plan and run, and must be meticulously monitored and assessed to make sure that the time and energy is being well spent.

All that being said, the Cultural model is by far the best to raise young leaders up in, as we all learn better through seeing things modeled and experiencing it.  For that reason, the Cultural model, if you have a devoted and energetic staff, is worth every bit of time and energy you put into it.

 

Whatever method you choose, remember that it must match your organization’s priorities, time commitments, and culture.  Trying to be something you’re not is a recipe for disaster.  Know what you want from a Youth Leadership Team, know your organization, and proceed accordingly.  Don’t set up a weekly model just because the guy at the church down the street did.  Remember your students.  Each and every group of students that you lead will be different; different schedules, different lifestyles, and different goals.  Plan and react accordingly, this is for them.  Setting up a weekly program when your students can only all come together once a month won’t do you any good.

Be prayerful, be intentional, and be committed.  God will lead you to the right model.

 

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A Passion For Missional Leadership Development in Youth Groups

Why do I do what I do?

There are a lot of people that I know, both friends and family, who seem to think that leadership development for youth is a waste of time, money, and resources; and some days I’m inclined to agree with them.  So what gets me out of bed every morning, ready to give the day everything that God has given me, and then some?

Why start Next in Line Ministries, and put so much time and energy into it?

Because no matter how difficult all this is sometimes, in my heart of hearts I believe that every young person that God has gifted and called into leadership, in whatever capacity, is worthy of proper discipleship, mentoring, and training.

It’s that simple.

I believe with everything that I am that we should be intentionally unleashing students from our youth groups, sending them into the world with the light of the gospel, not passively watching them go and hoping for the best.  I believe it’s in our power and purview to help identify, encourage, and equip these young Christian leaders and send them into the world with faith, conviction, and purpose.

I’ve watched a generation of students walk from the doors of our churches into the world around us with absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  I’ve prayed as they went, asking God to watch over them, to protect them from ungodly ideas, and to live a life that honored God and not themselves, knowing that I didn’t do my part to make that a reality.  I justified my actions by telling myself that I’m not responsible for them, only to them, still knowing that I didn’t fulfill that responsibility.  I’ve done that.

I’ve watched young people in our churches and our schools, struggling under the weight of a burden that God has laid on their hearts, a vision that God has given them for a lifetime of work and ministry; and having no mechanism to help them develop their God-given passion and vision.

I’ve talked to youth that have been told “stay faithful, keep praying about it, and God will see it through,” and then are left to figure it out on their own;  and it bothers me.  We owe them more.

Our churches have thrown so many resources into leadership development for college age adults and people in their 20’s and 30’s.  Entire movements have been devoted to this.

What about our youth?

What will we devote to them?

Our young people are leaving our youth ministries; they’ll graduate high school and leave.  Some will go to College, others to the job market.  Most will move away, but how will they go?  Will we watch passively as they go, praying for them and hoping that everything turns out ok with them, or will we intentionally send them as messengers of the gospel, taking it with them wherever God leads them?  Will they leave your youth group with a purpose, confident in their calling to leadership, or will they go out looking for purpose in their jobs and schooling?

In many respects, I do believe that the choice is ours.  True, you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink, but I think it falls on us, who have been given stewardship of God’s people in this young season of their life, to guide and shepherd them with everything we’ve got.

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