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Discipleship From the Hip

Amanda is one of our new middle school leaders. She’s a sophomore with a heart for ministry and a love for middle school girls. Last Wednesday I saw her chatting with two girls who were not in her small group, but wanted to be. I did not know what their conversation was about as I approached them…

Me: Hey girls, tonight was awesome, right!

Girls: Yes, we had so much fun!

Me: Is Amanda your leader?

Girls: NO! But we wish she was!

Me: Who’s your leader?

Girls: Jenna.

(Amanda blushing and waiting for me to give the girls some sort of lecture on cliques)

Me: Jenna is a great leader, one of the best! And I’m so glad you like hanging out with Amanda—she’s awesome and super-fun! I’m always laughing when I am around her. Look at the bright side—you get to be in a small group with Jenna, and you get to hang out with Amanda. You girls get to connect with more leaders!

Girls: YEAH! That is awesome!!!

After this 120-second conversation these girls, who were complaining about their small group, were pumped. And Amanda was clearly encouraged that I’d built her up in front of them.

As the big “L” leader of the ministry, it’s easy to keep the spotlight on what I’m dong, or to stand in the “balcony” and watch ministry happen as volunteers carry out my orders. I’ve seen that approach a lot over the years, but I think there’s a more effective way for pouring into and growing leaders. Here are five things I do to grow leaders in my ministry. These things have little or nothing to do with one-on-one discipleship, mentorship, meetings, or a formal “program.” These ideas are all organic and custom-delivered.

1. Get in the mix—I make sure I’m in the ministry mix with my leaders. Sure, there are certain things that I do myself, and there are certain things I decide to delegate, but mixing it up in the trenches with my leaders is important to them. I’m not standing on the sidelines  giving orders; I’m doing what they’re doing.

2. Offer genuine encouragement in front of others—I write encouraging notes to my leaders from time to time, but they experience no greater impact than when I offer them public praise. All encouragement is important, but there’s something uniquely powerful about encouragement that’s delivered in front of others. I’m not suggesting that we feed our leaders’ narcissism, but I want to be great at showering them with love and appreciation.

3. Make things fun—Honestly, this is the secret sauce of ministry. If you’re not able to relax and have fun, I get it—don’t put the pressure on yourself to be something you’re not. But find someone who can be fun in your group. I don’t mean someone who loves to be the center of attention—I mean someone who can keep Jesus at the center of everything but give themselves to the joy of the moment.

4. Enter into hard conversations—You’ll help your leaders mature in their discipleship journey much faster if you refuse to ignore the tough things that need your attention. Bad things rarely fix themselves. Keep in mind, you’ll need to thread specific encouragement into your constructive criticism. I’m a direct person, and I always need to remind myself that a leader’s words weigh a thousand pounds. Speak directly, but speak wisely.

5. Repeat—Our ministry is stronger because these four practices are habits, not gimmicks.

No one ever drifts toward success—getting to a desired destination takes work. Add these habits to your playlist, and put them on repeat. You’ll see a difference in your ministry, as well as in the people who are following your lead.


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Discipleship From the Hip

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