Many years ago, when I was just starting out as a youth pastor, I thought I had a very successful year. The student ministry doubled in size, students were coming to Christ for the first time and I was asked to speak at different events. I was riding high when one of my mentors directly asked me, “Are you creating a group of people that will lead, or are you simply gathering a bunch of people that just follow you?” This hit me like a ton of bricks.
After processing the question, I knew my leadership style had to change. Being a leader no longer meant simply growing the group but raising up future leaders that would begin to lead beyond my own influence.
In Exodus 18, soon after Israel left the slavery of Egypt, Moses learned this lesson as well. At the time, Moses was the only real leader of a group that might have reached up to a million people. They were country-less, wandering in the desert, with really no court or government system. If someone had a dispute, they would take it directly to Moses, and he would hear each case, which took all day long.
Moses’ wise father-in-law, Jethro, saw this and knew this was unsustainable. So, he gave Moses this advice: “You should continue to be people’s representative before God…but select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God…. Appoint them as leaders over other groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty and ten” (Exodus 18:19-21).
Moses was to appoint these men to be leaders who handled the more local or smaller matters, and he would handle the biggest ones. It’s one of the first examples of a leadership hierarchy, and it sets up a process of leadership development. Each leader is responsible for their group who in turn reports to a leader above them. This makes the work more manageable, speeds up the process and provides accountability. All things needed to develop leaders.
One person can’t and should never try to do everything. A responsibility of every leader is not to think the people beneath him or her are their followers but rather future leaders, and they are to equip them to be leaders as well. That is the best way to grow and sustain the ever-expanding impact of the kingdom of God.
USMB Youth, the national leadership of youth ministry for Mennonite Brethren churches, has a passion for leadership development. USMB Youth provides:
- faith growing experiences for high schoolers through ASCENT, our annual summer camp held every June.
- connecting opportunities with our National Youth Worker Network through online cohorts or in person gatherings.
- equipping future leadership opportunities through the development of a new Leadership Pipeline for interns and apprentices looking for real ministry opportunities.
USMB Youth sees the value in investing and impacting second and third level leaders—volunteers, part-timers, age-specific pastors and everyone else who helps under head leaders. We are excited to be announcing an exciting national leadership programs soon. In the meantime, you can visit usmbyouth.com to see what is brewing for investing in the next generation of leaders and even the generation after that.