I’ve said it before, but one of my favourite topics to discuss is leadership.. I have had the absolute privilege to have some incredible leaders around me. I have learnt and gleaned from so many of them. In this blog, I want to specifically talk about Youth Leadership. Now, let me be clear, I do not have any title or formal designation. But what I can do is break down what I’ve observed over the many years of my life. I share some practical things I have experienced in my own capacity as a leader.
If you’re a youth leader in any form or have the desire to be one, this is for you. This is going to be raw and from an honest heart, I hope you glean in.
Here are some keys from me in Youth Leadership…
Vision & Anointing
This is a no-brainer. It is really important to grab a vision from God for your life. For some, it is crystal clear. For some others, like myself, it’s a little hazy. While there are some that are still looking for that picture. Wherever you are in this spectrum, get a Word from God and run with it!
I very specifically remember when I was 17 years old visiting a Bible college getting this vision of scattered young people on fire across the map of India. I realized that God is preparing young people in different parts of India. Through these young people, He’s building His Kingdom for greater glory in this generation. I got hold of that picture, and from that moment it has given me direction and perspective in everything I do.
When you get a picture, big or small, you better be sure God has anointed you for it. He will place the grace upon you to accomplish in time. We need to walk into it boldly, without any doubt. I have seen the hand of God in my own life and I pray you will receive this truth with full confidence.
But now, this is what the LORD says- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
— Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)
Be what you want to see
Once you get a picture from God. It is so important as a leader to realise that you have to take the first step. You may have many dreams, visions, prayers about what you want to accomplish. But a great leader takes the initiative. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “I wish…” statements, complaining about what you don’t have. The truth of the matter is you need to be the initiator to bring about change. Especially if you’re trying to lead, build culture, it is YOU that has to act it out or be a representation of that to people around.
The word “Pioneer” comes to mind when I talk about this. A pioneer is a person that is the first to explore or act on something. Here’s what I’m trying to get at, before you want to see something, be that person and lead in a way that will bring about what God wants to accomplish.
When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord!
— Judges 5:2 (NIV)
A Leader that is Loved
Youth leaders can get a lot of criticism from young people. Well, that’s the world we’re living in. A lot of times the expectation is not matched. At times, they want a different kind of leader with a certain gift or ‘cool’ quotient. You may be a leader that is facing some sort of negativity or strife. But I want to encourage some leaders today to be loved by your people, to be respected, to be adored. And it’s possible by God’s grace.
How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.
— 1 Kings 10:8-9 (NIV)
I love this portion of scripture, the context here is the Queen of Sheeba is visiting King Solomon and she recognizes the kind of leader he is. She notices how happy King Solomon’ people must be. A leader that was loved and adored by his people.
We are in the business of building young people. It is in that process as leaders to have a culture of loving people and in return be loved. You don’t want to be the kind of leader people resent or don’t relate to. For some, this can be difficult. But we need to ask God to fill us with wisdom and grace to empower us to be that kind of leader.
Leaning on God in changing seasons
God works in seasons, our life is conjured up into the many seasons we journey along as we see in Ecclesiastes 3:1–11. It is important to realise this truth. Especially in today’s age, generational gaps are getting more diverse. We need to be aware of what’s going on.
These days, young people are way more informative than ever and their needs are constantly changing. There are newer problems to be addressed, it is in this time we need Jesus clearer than ever. We will be responsible to communicate God’s heart to young people. It is so important to have Jesus as our anchor.
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
— Isaiah 33:6 (NIV)
Now let’s get practical. As leaders, we shouldn’t be afraid of change. The word “flexibility” comes to mind. Just because we grew up to something or some way that not does mean it may be the most effective today. As young leaders, there has to be a sense of oversight. With the age of technology and social media, we need to think about how we can effectively use it to reach young people.
This does NOT mean we compromise. I love how Jentezen Franklin, a general in God’s Kingdom today once said to a young leader in a podcast — “Go out of the box all you want but stay in the Book!”. Let’s be crystal clear about this — No matter the time, season, the principles of God do not change. However, we need to sensitive, open to methods that could be relevant to our context and setting.
Faithfulness, Consistency, Endurance & Legacy
I remember sitting at my grandfather’s brother’ funeral service. He served the Lord for over 60 long years. His eldest son was giving the tribute; he mentioned a conversation his father had with an affluent man in the US. The man had asked what was the greatest need in Church today? To which he replied — “We need faithful workers today!”, not once, but thrice.
The need of the hour is faithfulness. We are living in a world of short stints. Short bursts of energy for a little time that gets vanished after a while. As young leaders, we experience big wins and losses, endurance is the key to going through it all. We need a bunch of tenacious young leaders that will go the long haul.
Our role may change, but our calling remains eternal. Stay faithful to the calling, endure the process, your reward is in heaven.
The word “Legacy” simply means to leave something behind. What we do today will determine our destiny. What are we leaving behind for others to carry and take forward to newer heights? We need to remember that the God we serve is a generational God, He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He has a purpose for each generation and its people. This is such a privilege and high calling for each of us.
In Hebrews 13:7 — it says “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” When we leave this place, we need to ensure that we have a rich legacy for people to learn, look up to and carry. We may be young, but it’s important we build now to this end.
I end with this
To all the Youth Leaders reading this…
Through the sands of time, many great leaders have come and done their work. The baton is being passed… NOW is the time to rise up and take your place.
If not us then whom?
I hope you’ve been encouraged with this short read. My prayer is that every young leader reading this, wherever you are, is stirred up from within to run this race to the destiny God has for you. You can get in touch with me to have an extended conversation on the topic.
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– Sam D. Mathews
Very well written Sam. Keep it up. The Lord is indeed looking for young and energetic leaders today who will faithfully discharge all that he has placed on their hearts.