This might be too much information….so if you don’t like disgusting things, skip to the next paragraph. A few months ago I was sick. I mean sicker than sick. I mean, I couldn’t keep anything in. Oh, did I mention it was a Wednesday night? It was, so what did that mean for me? It meant that the only way I was going to youth group that night was if youth group came to my house and watched me be sick on the couch.

What that lesson reminded me was about how glad I was that I had folks around me that I could count on to step up in my absence. I called one of our leaders and asked her if she could run with the night for me, and she did, and everything went just fine without me.

And not only did this remind me of the need for leaders around me, it reminded me that the ministry I get to serve in is one that isn’t built around me or my personality. That is a humbling trip to think about.

I think it’s very dangerous to build our ministries around us for those two very reasons:
1. A part of our charge to disciple should be to build up leaders around us, not to be a one-man show.

2. When a ministry focuses itself on one person, it takes Christ out of the center of the picture. How dangerous of a thought is that? We should want kids to see Christ first and us last. For as powerful as the “relational ministry” can be, it is only as powerful when Christ is at the center. If kids are coming only because of us, what happens when we leave or when the worst sin happens by us? (yes, sadly that happens)

Think with me about the pattern of leadership that the scriptures shows us – Eli and Samuel training a generation to be the next leaders

  • –  Paul prepared Timothy for leadership
  • –  Moses and Jethro
  • –  And for as much as the Great Commission is about evangelism, it is also about making disciples, which means there is an aspect of it that is passing on leadership
  • –  Think about how Jesus spent three years equipping the twelve for ministry
  • –  Think about how Jesus sent the 12 out in groups of two to serve

How different would your ministry be if….

  • –  Rather than spending all your efforts to a wide audience, you spent a part of your time discipling a smaller group who might be future leaders?
  • –  You built a team of leaders around you?
  • –  You saw your ministry as something you gave away to others?
  • –  You saw ministry as the task of working yourself out of a job (and creating new opportunities to work yourself into)?I’m not suggesting I have this all figured out or that I have perfected this at all. I have dreams for what my leadership team can look like. I am also looking for new leaders to one day step in for the ones that have been doing this for decades in my ministry. What I know though is that I love being a part of leading a team of leaders as opposed to when I was the solo staff pastor who couldn’t get anyone to step up.

    And in addition to the fact that there are some strong biblical reasons to affirm others, there are some great fruits from it.

    When others step up around you in ministry…

    • –  it frees you up to excel in other areas or to get taken away for some reason without worry if things will be OK without you there
    • –  it gives others an opportunity to step up and use their gifts
    • –  it could actually be the catalyst that someone needs to see that they have gifts and perhaps that leads to them stepping into other ministries or even staff ministry
    • –  it allows students to hear from God’s word about things that maybe we aren’t seeing. I will quickly admit that I don’t have all of God’s word figured out and that someone else might be able to say something about a passage that I haven’t said and for that very reason I am willing to give ministry away at timesSo, what suggestions would you give to the person who is content being a one-person team or to the person who doesn’t have a team?
    1. Pray for leaders to rise up around you
    2. Invest in student leaders, and maybe the long-term answer to the question is that they become the next generation of leaders
    3. Advertise your leadership needs
    4. Share your need for leadership with students, parents, your pastor and any other key leaders
    5. Ask others around you for suggestions and help
    6. Build an application and make known your expectations of your leaders

And when you sense you’re ready to build a leadership team, what might be some great steps to take?

  1. Get your team together, dream, share, pray and talk about what God might be doing
  2. Hold regular meetings to keep them in the loop, to give away ministry, to plan, to pray and to train
  3. Affirm your team, offer any resources you can to them, and watch out for them
  4. Guard against burnout in your team members
  5. Pray for them
  6. Give them meaningful tasks to do built around the gifts that God has given them
  7. Encourage them towards a relational ministry with students
  8. Communicate regularly with them
  9. Give them the rest they need
  10. Let your church, the families you serve and your students know who they are
  11. Establish rules and boundaries for your leadership teamIE: I don’t let leaders go anywhere with a student of the opposite gender
    IE: I tell my leaders not to make themselves available ALL the time to students in a hope they guard against obsessive relationships
  12. Keep looking for new leaders
  13. I give my leaders the summer off or at the least encourage them to come as they are able as for us the summer slows down
  14. Publicly thank your leaders
  15. Consider investing in mature students as student leaders
  16. When appropriate, encourage leaders to possible future new roles in leadership or the pastorate
  17. Look for someone you can lean on in the event of an emergency/absence as the leader

I would love to hear what ideas you have for developing and training leaders and to hear even where you struggle or wish you were with your leadership team

Please feel free to contact me to or to drop a comment about this post. I am convinced that I am missing many significant pieces but I hope this gets the conversation rolling to say the least.

I pray that God would put on your heart the plans He has for you and your ministry and that new leaders would rise up around you and you students.


Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.

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