iLead: downloads on leadership in youth ministry


I recently finished reading a book given to me a few months ago by a friend (who actually wrote one of the chapters).

It is a collaborative effort by a group of 12 youth leaders from all across the country. Each come from a diferent backgound, context, age, and type of ministry. But what unites them all is their passion for student ministry and belief that we all have a great deal to learn about leadership.

What I appreciate the most about this book is that each author uniquely contributes his thoughts, expierences, reflections, struggles, questions, and more.  Each author isn’t well….an author.

And this is a very good thing!  They are not paid to write books that will read and sell well.  They are still very much in the trenches of ministry and not sitting behind a desk and monitor thinking back to a time when they were ministering to students. Unlike most youth ministry “experts” and authors, these guys are real, approachable, honest, and are not trying to sell us on any particular style, philosophy, ideal, or model.

I can relate to these men, learn from them, and find inspiration from their stories and journeys.

What I will attempt to is offer a very brief overview of each section with what I consider to be the best “nuggets” and helpful tools and thoughts. Naturally, I don’t want to give too much of the book away, because I really think it is worth the buy and read (although I did get my copy free)  The book is comprised of several “downloads” about leadership (hence the title of the book)

Download 1:  iBreakaway:  learning from the divergent leadership of Christ.

In order to be a divergent and dynamic leader like Christ, we must be willing to take risks and shatter expectations.  The divergent leader is not for the people, meaning that we cannot allow people’s expectations to drive the vision and ministry. Rather, we must take time to discern God’s will, make the rights plans, and then dive into action. This type of leadership will always lead to change, and while the change may be difficult at times, it is always necessary.  “There’s nothing wrong with change, if its in the right direction.”

Quote:  “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.” – Robert Jarvik


Download 2–     iFast-Forward:  Leading like Paul when you feel more like Timothy.

This was an excellent chapter for young leaders and youth pastors.  The author shares some honest and humbling moments in his career that helped mature and develop him. We should have confidence in our calling, seek counsel and advice daily, listen and learn from those with more experience, and approach everything in humility. I was especially inspired with the challenge to set the bar high. We are to live out 1 Timothy 4:12 and set an example that out students, parents, and volunteers will look to regardless of our age and experience (or lack there of).

Quote: “If you actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Download 3–    iBalance: balancing grace and truth in leadership

A good summation of this would be that grace and truth leadership consists of boldly leading with a constant awareness of a transcedent call, and offering the pursuit of that call to all who will follow- while never compromising the call itself.  The author proposes 3 basic steps in implementing this in ministry:

1. Establishing goals and core values

2. Guiding the ministry towards fleshing out these values

3. Ongoing communication of the consequences of choices without either condemnation or compromise.

Clearly, there will be moments in our ministry when we are faced with the harsh reality of disciplining students.  We need to prayerfully consider our attitudes and actions and then implement consequences that will reflect both grace (love, kindness, forgiveness, compassion) and truth (responsibility, discipline, setting an example).  Hopefully by doing so, reconciliation, restoration, growth, and maturity will develop in the student and entire youth program.

Download 4–   iMultiply:  the farm system approach to leadership

I liked this chapter especially because it relates ministry to baseball. As youth pastors, we should look at our ministry as places for equipping students and not just entertaining them. (Amen to that!)  Students are no longer satisfied with pizza filled lock ins playing chubby bunny (although I think that game is now outlawed in like 20 states).  Students are looking for risk, adventure, and to be part of something bigger than themselves.   Now, back to the farm system analogy…

Single A= discipleship- teaching and training our students about the Bible and how to study it for themselves

Double A= serving- finding opportunities to engage students in serving others more than just a once a year mission trip.  Try to find some regular and local ministries to be actively involved in.

Triple A= leading ministry- eventually students will be ready to lead ministries themselves.  Give them a sense of ownership and allow God to use their unique contributions to mold your ministry. 

As youth pastors, we can then invest in these students, as they then invest in their peers and younger students. ” More time spent with less people equals greater Kingdom impact.”  I believe that statement to be true. 

Quote/Question:  “How well did we do in passing the baton to the next generation?”

Download 5–  iPartner: even the Lone Ranger needed Tonto

The basic premise of this download is that we cannot and should not approach ministry alone.  Failure to bring others alongside us will hurt the ministry and students. We must acknowledge and recongize that we simply are not the best at everything, nor do we have enough time to do everything needed.  We should partner with volunteers in our church and also partner with other youth leaders in the area. We will have to face and get over things such as pride, envy, differences, and jealousy, but ultimately it will lead to our own growth and maturation as a leader and follow of Christ.  I personally have experienced the value of this and want to thank the many ministry colleagues in my area who I now have authentic friendships with.  It is well worth the time and effort.

Download 6– iPaint: four steps to practical creativity in leadership

This chapter really challenged me to think outside the box and be more creative in my ministry.  We were created to be creative and that reality should have a profound impact on what we do.  Creativity comes through Christ, through crisis, through cultivation, and through collaboration.  

Through Christ- we should spend time alone with Jesus, spend time with new people, and spend time in unusual and different places. This will help spark creativity.

Through crisis- every time we mess up in ministry (which happens often it seems) we should reflect on what happened and what we did wrong and the redesign our stategies.

Through cultivation- it takes perspiration (hard work), preparation (planning) and persistence (time) to creatively change things around. 

Through collaboration- we should make it a priority to partner with students, parents, youth leaders, and community organizations in order to get new and fresh ideas that will be helpful and be a blessing to those involved and impacted.

Quote: ” The things we fear most in organizations- fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances- are the primary sources of creativity.” – Margaret J. Wheatly

Download 7–   iElevate: humbling yourself to raise others to Greatness

Quote-” When we become aware of our humility, we’ve lost it.”

A very thought provoking question is asked in this section, “would we be okay with someone being a better leader than us?”

Many of us struggle with the need to always be the one doing everything. We also think that we are the most trained, equipped, and passionate and so should be in control and in charge. 

But are we allowing others to step up and take leadership and ownership,even if it means they might succeed more than us?  We should be ready, willing, and wanting to give away our position, authority, perfectionism, and praise in order that others may thrive and grow as leaders. We are called to equip God’s people and sometimes that will mean putting our personal (and often selfish) desires and goals on the shelf in favor of others. 

I will give you a brief example from my own experience. Over the past 7 years at my church, I have had the privilege of mentoring and working with numerous interns from the youth ministry department at Nyack College.  To be honest, everyone of them was more talented, skilled, or passionate in certain areas than me.  While it was great for our ministry, I needed to quickly get over the reality that many of them could teach better than I could, could plan creative events and games better, etc…  In fact, our students seemed to like them over me!  But God revealed to me that this was necessary and very beneficial for our program, for these interns, and for my own growth and development. This ministry was not about me, and that was a good thing. I have been able to watch these young men and women thrive in leadership at our church and go on into full time ministry. We now have at  least 5 of them serving as full time youth pastors and I honestly hope each one far surpasses me.  Former envy and pride has turned into great praise, admiration, and respect.

Download 8–  iTeach: leading through teaching

The author suggest that as youth leaders, we need to grow in four areas of Biblical knowledge in order to make the Word of God more prevalent in our ministry

Direction- the knowledge of the Bible

Discernment- the difference between the Bible and culture

Defense- the credibility of the Bible (apologetics)

Desire- The wonderfulness of the Bible (the Gospel)

I agree that we need to find a healthy balance between these four.  Generally, I have steered away from traditional apologetics beliving that Christ needs to be promoted more than defended. The author  writes, “thoughtful apologetics are essential for reaching post-Christian, American teens.”  I suppose arguments such as those advocated by Tim Keller, C.S. Lewis, and Ravi Zacharias are beneficial for students thinking about truth, philosophy, and the like.  However, in my experience, most teens are drawn to the experience and encounter of Christ.  As the author later states, “until our teens can see that Christ quenches their souls’ spiritual thirst more than the world, they will always pursue idols to their own harm.”  Therefore, as youth leaders we must unapolegetically promote Jesus and allow His very life and nature to be on display in and through us.  To me, that is the living Word of God in action.

Download 9–   iEmpower: leading servants

The opening sentence is a gold mine:  “Facilitating key relationships with God and others, encouraging service as a lifestyle, and sharing leadership roles are essential for developing teens as leading-servants.”   I especially appreciate the process of bringing students to that place:

Seekers become believers through relationships

Believers become servants through service

Servants become leading-servants through responsibility

The context that this author is ministering in is much like my own, with students coming from numerous schools and across big geographic areas.  The demographics and worldview is much the same…especially because their church is about 20 miles north of mine.  He concludes, and I agree that the reality is that this teenage population is best reached by teens that are equipped to meet the needs of their peers.  Furthermore, this multiplication of teens reaching teens is dependent upon the development of teens as leading-servants. And of course, this was Jesus’ multiplications approach to ministry as well, and i think it was fairly effective!

download 10-  iPlan: leading through planning

This was a wonderful chapter comparing and contrasting two very different styles of leadership in youth ministry. On the one hand, a very flexible, relational, spontaneous, and outgoing type of person/approach. On the other hand, a rigid, structure, detailed, and ultra organized person. Basically, there are pro’s and con’s to both types of people and approaches and we must do our best to find the happy medium between those two extremes.  But in the end, we must lead out of who we are (and try to be as organized as possible so you don’t get fired!)

Download 11–  iBundle: discovering your unique leadership bundle

As youth leaders, we must be keenly aware of the type of person God has made us, and lead out of that.  Additionally, we must development a vision statement that will steer the ministry.  We must also build a leadership team, be as prepared as we can for everything while still remaining flexible, and lastly (and probably the best point and most important) “think about what you would like to see in your students and leaders, and then live it out yourself.”


So there you have it. A brief review and reflection of iLead.  I really encourage you to pick up a copy. This can also be a good resource and tool to work through with your leadership team or to hand to someone new in youth ministry. You can purchase it on Kent Julian’s page



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