Building a NextGen Leadership Culture 

Youth and Young Adult ministry is wonderful but anyone at the helm knows it is a daunting, demanding task. Spiritually and relationally, yes. But it also involves the practical brick-building things like service, small groups, social media, games and supplies, campus outreach, pizza/ coffee (because lets get real: possibly the biggest difference in youth and young adult ministry is whether we’re serving pizza or coffee…I’m kidding. . . sort of 😉) and to accomplish all this we need help. You’ve heard it said ‘recruit some volunteers,’ but I say one of the greatest things we can attain as youth and young adult leaders is a leadership culture. 

Culture is so powerful. Culture is the thing that is all around us. Culture is what is caught regardless of what’s taught. Culture is what is taking place when nothing planned is taking place. Culture is the language, communication, style, cause, and atmosphere that keeps driving the ministry when there’s no microphone, no meeting, no platform, and no branding. Culture is as real as the walls of our buildings and the logo’s on our instagram account. Culture keeps working when we, pastors and leaders, aren’t. 

Because Culture is such a powerful thing, it’s important for every young leader to take heed how we might be building our culture and fleshing out the vision of our house into the atmosphere for all to catch and flow with. Certain questions emerge: What kind of culture do I want our youth to have? What is the atmosphere and temperature I want our young adults to acclimate to? 

A culture of Excellence? A culture of Honor? A culture of Prayer? Purity? Exactly what our culture looks like will be different for every local Church, with different specifics, but the heart of the culture should always be guarded, tended to, and cared for. A leadership culture is your friend in nextgen ministry. And it’s very different than a volunteer culture. Here’s how: 


And the cool thing is: leaders do everything volunteers do as well. 

Many nextgen pastors struggle every year to re-recruit volunteers but a thriving, growing sustainable ministry almost always has, at its center, a leadership culture. Leaders walk differently, think differently, act differently. It’s the difference between the good shepherd and the hireling. Many volunteers are happy to help, but they don’t carry the burden or burn with the cause of the ministry. Leaders will outwork volunteers and raise up volunteers and be, themselves, volunteers. 

If this is true, then one might beg the question: “Why don’t more ministries get leaders rather than volunteers?” When Jesus called some of his own disciples he said to them, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The reason is simple: Volunteers can be recruited, but Leaders have to be made. 

To have a leadership culture, you have to raise up leaders, and to do so takes time, attention and tenacity, but oh is it worth it. When you have a leadership culture, your nextgen ministry will catch fire as your leaders LEAD. Lead people to Jesus, lead discipleship groups, lead campus clubs, and more. They’ll lead students to Christ, to Church, and then to serve as volunteers and, ultimately, to be leaders themselves! This is why it’s so valuable to have a leadership culture. 

At this point you might ask, “Well how do we get a leadership culture? “ 

A great place to start might be joining, and inviting your team to join, the Destiny Youth & Young Adult Ministry forum on Facebook. We’re having a blast in it and would love for you to join the party. But even if you do, you’re still going to have to do the work: 

First, you have to make some leaders. You do this by investment. Giving what you’ve got to who you’ve got. Leaders always start by being followers. They follow you in discipleship. This may take place in a small group or service or one-on-one. 

Next, they take the step of serving. Long before Jesus gave the disciples authority, he gave them responsibility. Youth and Young Adults need a sense of purpose and ownership in the ministry and this often comes by greeting, setting up, running sound or even running errands. Get your students in the game! 

Third comes education. This may take place by way of a summer internship, a weekly Leadership class, or a great in-depth program like Destiny Leadership Institute. Your track will be different depending on your Church’s vision. 

Finally, comes authority. When you’re leaders-to-be are of age and maturity, let them lead! Help them find their place in a small group, a campus club and beyond. Over time let them take over parts of the services and systems, and eventually even parts of the ministry! Ownership is what will set leaders apart from volunteers and when they buy in, your stock will go up! 

Once you have leaders, It’s time to sound it out! I believe we should plan, speak, and display the value of ‘being a leader’ in our culture. Always talk to your college students about how awesome it is to be a leader. Let your high schoolers know how great the intern track is. Do exclusive leader hangouts and meetings, and take pictures and post and promote to showcase just how great, and FUN, it is to be a youth/young adult leader. When you have exclusive, intimate relational interaction with your leaders and your students see it, many will long for that same opportunity and begin to dream of the day they can ‘be a leader.’ 

And when your nextgen students start thinking and talking like that, congratulations student pastor: You have a leadership culture 

Jarred, along with his wife Evelyn, currently serve their home church, The River, in Searcy, AR as the Student Pastors. Jarred is a DLI graduate as well as an intern graduate of Bethany Church in Baton Rouge, LA. Evelyn is an intern graduate of International House of Prayer University in Kansas City, MO. Together, they have beautiful young daughters: Addi-Drew (4) and Ella (1), and are expecting their thrid daughter this fall. Jarred served the Destiny staff as a resident intern 7 years ago, and has since helped with various staff roles, currently directing Destiny’s Youth Ministries and producing the Destiny Leaders Podcast. Jarred and Evelyn have a great desire to see the youth ministries of this generation embrace their local church’s vision, celebrate their unique callings, and fulfill God’s purpose for THEIR generation.