Want to develop people as leaders? Throw them out of the boat.

Want to develop students (or anyone) as leaders? Throw them out of the boat.

I had the privilege of being in a church on the weekend where the service was led by children and youth. My heart was overflowing as I was led in worshipping Jesus by those much younger than me. They sang the songs with such gusto, they read Scripture with authority, and put their whole selves into acting and storytelling.

Jesus gave real authority to His followers. When the disciples tried to stop the children from coming to him (Mark 10:14-16), he got mad and in fact said they are an example about how to receive the Kingdom, we need to be more like the children, not less like them.
Children are leading the way to the Kingdom.

Our children, youth and young adults need to be given real authority.

Jesus gave real authority to His followers:
• He sent them out two by two, giving them authority over evil, authority to preach, authority to invite people into the Kingdom, authority to heal the sick, authority to call people to repentance, authority to call more workers for the Kingdom (e.g. Mark 6:6-13, Luke 10:1-9)
• Jesus told them, whoever listens to you, also listens to me, whoever reject you is really rejecting me (e.g. Luke 10:16)
• Jesus told them, what you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven (Mt 16:19)
• Jesus stated those who believe in Him will do even greater things than He did when He walked this earth (John 14:12)
• And Jesus gave His followers the authority to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19-20)

Now that’s real authority. Real trust.

And you and I are afraid to let someone make the coffee because they might not make it “right”?
We’re afraid to let someone be in charge of small groups because they might mess it up?
We’re afraid to let someone be in charge of service opportunities for families because they might do it differently than us?
We’re afraid to let someone try something new because they/we might look bad? It might fail?

Give people real authority.
This is how we learn best.

Know how my Dad got us kids swimming? He’d row the boat out to the middle of the river, and say “jump out”.
We often learn the most, when we are thrown in.

I take comfort in the fact that Jesus was a carpenter. I’m guessing he had a few sore thumbs and deep cuts. And I’m guessing only His Mom loved the first chair He made. And His Heavenly Father loved it too, because He was being faithful. He was learning by trial and error, growing in skill and wisdom. Some of you have experienced my errors as I’ve tried new things and learned, sometimes painfully slowly, by trial and error. Let others jump out of the boat and learn by trial and error too.

Watch what happens when you put a middle schooler in charge of a group of their peers in a small group! They learn pretty fast how to get their group talking and praying. They start asking you how to deal with the “squirrels” in the conversation and what to do with the deep questions.

Watch what happens when you say to the high schooler, “You’re in charge of park ministry for the whole summer.”

Watch what happens when you invite them to lead a devotion.

Watch what happens when you put them in charge of an aspect of the mission tour or the whole entire mission tour altogether.

Watch what happens when you say to the young adult, “You’re going to mobilize other young adults to serve our city/town.”

Watch what happens when you trust people with the same authority Jesus gives to them.

Watch what happens when you ask, “What kingdom dream is God putting on your heart?” And then say “Let’s follow that!”

It’ll be messy, but it’ll be worth it!

Now, don’t leave them all alone. Throw them a life jacket and pull them back into the boat regularly, to debrief with them, tune their skills, reflect on what God is teaching them, give them feedback and give them lots of encouragement.

Who do you need to talk to and say “jump out here”?


-Renée @r_embree



  1. Natasha · June 15, 2015

    This post has been much appreciated this morning as I sit and wrestle with the possibilities of ministry for my student this summer! It has allowed me to sit and reflect on my years as a summer student and what really pushed me out of the boat and out of my comfort zone but ultimately allowed me to be a better leader! Thank you for your words and for your leadership! 🙂


    • Renée Embree · June 15, 2015

      Thanks Natasha! Excited for your leadership and for your summer students!


  2. Anonymous · November 20, 2014

    Well said, especially the last paragraph. It’s been my observation that many times young people respond to their peers in some of the examples you’ve given, more readily than in a structured, mustn’t “mess up” environment delivered by adults. Seems like a middle of the road milieu might be required, with heed to your closing paragraph.


    • Renée Embree · November 20, 2014

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, trust others to lead, but makes sure they know your full support and encouragement. Stay with them as they (and we) learn and grow.


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