Are your youth leaders being well fed?
Discipling youth leaders requires time & care, just like a home cooked meal.
Discipling leaders is all about entrusting people with the gospel and preparing them to serve, as the apostle Paul did with Timothy:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16).
There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t disciple leaders: we don’t feel up to it, we are too busy, relationships haven’t given way to productivity, or we are reacting to situations rather than being proactive in training. Below I have outlined four common ways that people go about discipling leaders. It’s a bit like how we feed people: Take Away, the Healthy Frozen Meal, the Family Meal, and Personal Diets.
1. Fast Food
The Fast Food form of discipling leaders is not great. Since fast food is quick, easy, unhealthy and requires little thought, it becomes the sort of discipleship that just asks "how's it going?" and gets the answer "yeah, I'm alright", revealing no real care or concern, and then we move on. No issues are dealt with, and so no benefit is really gained for the individual or the ministry. I'm not saying nothing gets done for the ministry, but I am saying that the leaders aren't looked after and in the long run (unless leaders are getting help elsewhere), they will be short-term, not long-term leaders in ministry. Most team leaders have been here at some point, and may even be so right now, but we need to get out of the rut and thankfully it doesn't take much to improve.
2. The Healthy Frozen Meal
The second form of discipling leaders is serving up the Healthy Frozen Meal. Like Fast Food, it is quick and easy, but it tends to have a bit more goodness in it. So it goes beyond "how's it going?" to provide some resources for the other leaders to interact with. Things like sharing books, talks and things related to the ministry – things that the team can chew on. If you've been stuck in the Fast Food mindset, then this could be a good practical place to start. It helps your team think about the issues of the ministry and the best ways to teach and train the young people in their care. Pick some resources that you know are great, but also pick the occasional one that comes from left field, the one that might challenge you to think outside the box or to make you strengthen the foundation of what you are already doing. Make room for conversations too. Whether it's a weekly meeting or chatting after your ministry time, make it happen. If you don't, it won't!
3. The Family Meal
The Family Meal is the third form of discipling leaders. I call it the Family Meal because the cooking of the meal requires more care and concern for the wellbeing of everyone. It is more likely to be healthy, but it also has a personal touch – it has love. In addition, it will be truly filling. In this regard we don't just fill our leaders with books about ministry, but we want to fill them with the knowledge of God, in and through Christ Jesus. This is the heart of discipling – whether we are discipling young kids or leaders. It isn't fancy new theories about ministry that will develop leaders to watch their life and doctrine closely, it is the Word of God. Model a Word-filled life to them, read the Word with your team, and expect them to be reading the Word privately. Let the Word shape your team. The Family Meal sounds good, but there is more... the Personal Diet form of discipling leaders.
4. Personal Diets
In a personal diet, someone has taken the time to develop a diet that is best suited to you as an individual. Similarly for ministry, this approach strives to understand where the individual leaders are at, and to some degree tailor discipleship for them. It may identify a weakness that needs to be overcome, but it could also recognise a strength that needs to be developed for the good of the Kingdom. But take note, this doesn't rule out the Family Meal or the Healthy Frozen Meal, but works alongside them to get down to the real issues of individual leaders. And, if you think about it, this is probably the opposite of the Fast Food approach, because it asks questions out of love and genuinely seeks to develop the young leader.
How are you going with discipling leaders? Think carefully about which meal you are serving up.