Feature Story

It takes a Community to Raise a Leader – Growing Leaders Within the church

The next wave of Christian leaders here in WA are transitioning as we speak, from being youth group kids and campers to ministers and disciple-makers in their own right. But what kind of leaders will they be? Over the past year, we have been asking ourselves some key questions.

Are we committed to producing Christian leaders?

As Christians, and as leaders on SU programs, in our churches, and in life, we’re destined to hand over the reins to the next generation, and in fact this should be our goal as makers of disciples. Our successors will be younger, less experienced and vastly different to ourselves, but we must commit to doing all we can, as a matter of priority, to ensure these emerging Christian leaders are prepared for the task at hand – to win souls to Christ!

Imagine what it would look like here in WA if every Christian leader with a life worth emulating committed themselves to the worthy task of replicating themselves in the next generation?

How are we creating Christian leaders?

It’s easy to measure or test a person’s competence – their skills, experience and qualifications. Additionally, competence is elevated above character in today’s society, for instance the process of hiring an employee based on a resume and brief interview. Testing someone’s character is far more difficult, time-consuming and is just plain awkward. It involves doing life with them, observing how they navigate challenges, and witnessing the presence of God in their lives.

Here at SU we have tended to lean heavily on equipping and training leaders to be competent. We require particular training to be completed and encourage young leaders to gain relevant qualifications. A key consideration when appointing a Team Leader is their capacity to fulfill their job description. Whilst competency is a key aspect of leadership, we have in some ways neglected the more important matters of the heart.

What will these leaders, and the church, look like?

When faced with life’s challenges – in times of stress, when temptation rears its ugly head, when experiencing grief and loss – will the future leaders of the church be left wanting? We’ve all heard the shocking stories of prominent church leaders, both local and international, failing the tests of life with devastating consequences. When character and integrity are lacking, all the skills in the world won’t help.

Will the church grow as the world is attracted to powerfully transformed, loving, holy individuals? Or will the effectiveness of the church be stifled by qualified leaders who draw the world in for a closer look at their shortcomings and character flaws?

What is SU WA doing about this?

Despite it being more time and labour-intensive, we believe that building character and integrity in our emerging young leaders is a priority. Just as David was, we want our future Christian leaders to be women and men after God’s own heart.

SU WA has always been known for developing young leaders in their faith and equipping them with skills for ministry. State Director Kent acknowledges the significant role SU played in his own leadership development, “I owe so much of my knowledge about small groups, planning, action and reflection and sharing my faith, to the training and experience I got as a young adult with SU”. We believe there is something about SU ministry that complements the local church beautifully, and with our renewed emphasis on the heart, we believe our leadership development opportunities – combined with the experience gained through being involved in our programs – provide a substantial and significant ‘injection’ to the formation of a young person’s character and competence. Character and integrity are tested and strengthened when young people spend day after day loving and serving together. In this environment, there is nowhere to hide.

It has been great to hear church Pastors begin to testify to this: “Our whole youth leadership team went on LEAD Summer and Winter and it has profoundly impacted them personally in their walk with Jesus and ministry with young people, but it has also transformed our youth ministry with purpose and skills.”

El Holmes