By Tom Virtue
With edits, additions and formatting by Stephanie Nannen and Jason Poon
What if everyone in your church had to move to a different city every four years? How would that change the nature and dynamics of your church?
That’s what we do as Epic on college campuses. We have a maximum of four years to see what God wants to do with these students. Because of this, we must always prioritize creating an environment of empowerment and reproducing new leaders. Five years from now, almost all of the students who are involved and growing with us on campus will have transitioned to the workplace and become a part of a church in their community.
We have the opportunity to help a generation of students walk through a process of discovering how God made them and learning how they can contribute to God’s kingdom. We are laboring together to build the church of the future. During the short time we have with them, we focus on their leadership development, which includes:
- Internalizing who God created them to be
- Learning how to connect with God in times of flourishing and in times of pain and confusion
- Building a vision for how they can partner with God in kingdom work for a lifetime
Not only is our window of opportunity with students small, but our movements will die quickly if we don’t empower and reproduce new leaders. It could be said that we lose leaders every year; but a better way to think about it is that we send leaders to the world every year. We want to send people who have already experienced God using them to minister to the world around them.
EMPOWERMENT & REPRODUCING LEADERS
Moses is an example of someone who walked through a process of becoming empowered. When God first called Moses to go to Pharaoh, Moses wasn’t even willing to speak himself, but relied on his brother Aaron instead. But by the time the Israelites left Egypt by walking through the Red Sea, Moses had stepped up to be the leader and spokesperson to the entire nation.
Empowering others to lead isn’t a one-time event but a process. We need to create spaces for students to lead, and continually guide and encourage them as they develop confidence that God can use them. With some encouragement from his father-in-law Jethro, Moses eventually unleashed a whole group of leaders to serve the Israelite nation. Empowered leaders can reproduce other leaders (Exodus 2–7, 12–18).
Other examples of empowerment and reproducing leaders found in Scripture:
- God instructed Moses to raise up Joshua to lead the Israelites on the next leg of their journey, after Moses’ death.
- Nehemiah mobilized all of Jerusalem to rebuild the city wall.
- God spoke through the prophet Elijah, then passed on that commission to Elisha.
- Jesus focused the last three years of his life on modeling ministry to twelve disciples, then commissioned them to carry that ministry to the ends of the earth after his death.
FOR GROUP STUDY
Joshua had followed, observed, and served as second-in-command to Moses for years. But when Moses died, a multitude of people out in the desert needed direction and leadership. Let’s look at how God communicated empowerment to Joshua.
- If you were Joshua, what two or three phrases from this passage would help empower you to lead?
- Why do you think God addresses the issue of fear? How are fear and empowerment related? Have you ever felt paralyzed by fear? What moved you beyond it? Is there anyone in your life currently struggling with fear, who could benefit from your encouragement and intentional empowerment?
- Empowerment does not take place outside of relationship. Describe the personal relationship between God and Joshua described here.
- What do you learn about empowering leaders from this short passage?
Doug Hartman, in his book Guidebook to Discipleship teaches us that “a movement only expands as quickly as leadership is developed.” If we have a desire for our ministry to expand beyond what we see God doing today or to last beyond the next few years, we need to value empowerment and leadership development. It’s essential for us to recognize the potential in people and to provide the environment needed for them to grow.
Read through the “Epic is About Empowerment and Reproducing Leaders” article and answer these questions:
- Reflect on a time you were in an environment you experienced as empowerment. What did empowerment feel like for you on an emotional level? What behaviors did others demonstrate that communicated empowerment to you?
- Invest time digging deeper into the story of Moses. Read Ex 2–7 and 12–18. What do you observe about the process of Moses’ leadership development? What roles did God play? Where do you personally identify with Moses?
- In the article “Epic is About Empowerment and Reproducing Leaders” we read: “Being an empowering leader of others is never only about the task at hand—it’s always about the person, and helping them to succeed and grow as a leader.” Would our student leaders say this is how they experience leadership development in our movement?
- If a second or third year student had a great idea for something that would expand ministry into a new arena, would they be able to identify the right person to express their idea to, in order to make it happen? Would our students say they regularly hear an invitation to bring forth new ideas?
- Is our team spending enough time investing in young potential leaders? Or are we only investing in current leaders? How do we hold the tension between those two priorities?
- What kind of unique leadership is needed for our context? What kind of leaders do we need to reproduce?
- Discuss how it would feel to be a student involved in our movement for about two months. How valuable would they feel? Where would care be expressed to them? Who would be communicating the potential they have in God’s kingdom to them?
- What kind of experiences and equipping do students need to be able to lead toward our scope? What group(s) of students can we provide equipping for in the next six weeks?
Take some time to evaluate if there is anything in your leadership environment that would hold people back from feeling empowered to lead in new ways. Determine to make specific changes to improve these areas in the next month.