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So Iran is building nuclear power plants, or are its leaders really working on nuclear weapons?

Believe it or not, the answer to this question has a loopy relevance for your youth ministry. If you enrich uranium a little, you can use it to fuel a power plant. If you enrich it a lot, you make it “weapons grade.” The world is worried that Iran is like a toddler who wants to play with guns. In youth ministry, we want “weapons grade” leaders—ministry partners who have what it takes to influence lasting spiritual growth in teenagers. And you have plenty of “uranium” sitting right there under your nose, because weapons-grade leaders are simply teenagers waiting to be “enriched.”

Some time ago we at GROUP Magazine conducted a massive survey of Christian kids. We wanted to know what factors led to their current faith commitment, and what’s helped them mature as Christians. When we asked what one thing has helped them grow in their faith, kids’ #2 answer was “a relationship with a Christian peer” (second only to “participating in spiritual retreats”).

Peers have the power to permanently, positively impact our teenagers’ faith growth. Yet so often we fail to harness this power. Why? Well, it’s often easier in the short-run to train adults to run our youth ministry show. It takes longer to train kids in peer ministry, and most of the rewards for that hard work are down the line.

But the truth is, your group members are eager to learn from each other and have grown a great deal from peer influence. Doors that are shut to adults are sometimes open to peers. And a great place to begin training student leaders is in your small-group ministry. Small groups are the perfect testing ground for budding leaders.

Youth ministry pioneer David Stone once used a simple training progression to show youth leaders how to raise up student leaders—it goes like this:

  • I do it.
  • You watch me do it.
  • We do it together.
  • I watch you do it.
  • You do it.

Focus on this progression in your small-group leadership training and you’ll end up with a weapons-grade ministry.

Rick Lawrence is editor of GROUP Magazine.

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