Youth Ministry Down the Mountain: Part 2


Maximise your Life and Leadership Stage

Do you ever wonder if you are too young to lead?  Or too old?  Somewhere in between? If there’s anything I’ve learned about leadership it’s that each stage and age of leadership offers a unique perspective and a unique gift.   

When I was 17 and running retreats in schools I was the ‘game master’; someone who could draw the crowd in, whether that be with a joke, running a game or acting in a skit.  I would jump up on a chair with loads of craziness and youthfulness, no worries at all.  Now, in my 40s, I’m not so much the game master that I once was, lol.  It would probably look a bit silly jumping up on a chair and going crazy at this point in my life. 

However, today when I run a school retreat now (yes I still do!) my ‘voice’ reassuring young person that their troubles ‘are going to be ok’ carries far more weight and comfort than the younger version of myself.  This is an example of how each stage and age of leadership brings something new and something absolutely valuable. 

It took me a while to embrace each new stage of leadership.  It also took me a while to understand that there are different styles of leadership.  Just check out The Avengers for example – all leaders but legit different gifts and styles of leadership! 

As a young adult I would often look up to mentors and role models and think I was a weaker leader than them.  I just didn't seem to be good at some of the styles of leadership that came naturally to them.  What I came to realise is that often I had a different leadership style.  When I was being led by a strategic or visionary leader I would wonder ‘maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’m not a real leader.’

I eventually came to realise that my personal style of leadership was legitimate; that I was a relational leader and my strengths were found there.

John Eldridge in his book ‘The Way of the Wild Heart’ covers some basic stages of life and leadership, particularly relating to men’s initiation into adulthood.  Although I am not a guy (lol), I found these really helpful when it came to understanding my own journey of leadership.  Now before I head into explanations of each one, let me say this - each stage overlaps.  Sometimes we are in both one and another, or transitioning into another.  They are not completely independent of each other.  However, one is often more prominent in your life at one stage than another.

Here is a super simple summary of three key stages:

1) Warrior

Where will you find the warrior? On the battle field of course! This is the young leader stage; out of the teenage/school years and into the bright lights of the world.  This is the stage where we discover a cause to fight for, and hopefully a leader (king) to follow.

This time is about learning inner discipline.  As Eldridge puts it, the warrior “lives with courage, takes action and goes into battle.” It’s important to note that in some ways, we are always a warrior.  I love this stage!  It is exciting, it is front line ministry.  The warrior is a young, passionate, ‘finger on the pulse’ leader.  As a youth ministry leader I am surrounded by warriors.  In a lot of ways it keeps me young, reminds me of what’s important and holds me accountable to staying relevant to the young people of this generation.  Good leaders (those in the ‘King’ stage) would do well to listen to their warriors; to empower them, apprentice them and mentor their warriors for Kingship.

2) King / Queen

I often like to say you will find the King/Queen not only leading their people into battle (alongside their warriors), but around the table making wise decisions for their people. This person is often seen and known as ‘the’ leader.  They are in authority of an area, or have responsibility over an area.

There is something I like to call the ‘privilege of leadership’. That is, to serve people, get to know many hidden things about them, and yet to love them despite all this.  Kings/Queens require humility – something often painfully learnt in the warrior stage.  They naturally draw younger warriors around them; a bit like King Arthur and the knights of the round table.  Kings/Queens can often act like a Father or Mother to the younger women and men they lead.

3) Sage

The analogy I like to use of a Sage is to ‘find him on a mountain’.  I often go the Sages of my life and imagine myself climbing a mountain to visit this wise, older person, as they remain the gatekeepers of the people, and attentive to the Spirit.

Sages have a wealth of knowledge and experience – gleaned from their own time in both the Warrior and King stages.  The have usually stepped down from a position as ‘the’ leader.  Although their kingship decreases, their influence increases. They counsel others. I often think of Gandalf from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as a great Sage character. Sages mentor Kings and Queens specifically; giving the leader crucial support and wisdom where needed. 

Embrace Your Stage and Age

So let me encourage you.  Surround yourself with people at each of these stages in your life! Embrace your own life and leadership stage, wherever you are at right now.  Don't ever think you do not have a place.  God calls us all, in every stage and at every age. 

Let me encourage you to maximise the stage you are at.  Don't wish it away, and don't cling onto it when its time to move on.  Instead, be courageous enough to move through the stages, to embrace each one and let God work in you, in every stage and at every age.