The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast
episode 19 | December 2022
Empowering Students through Diverse Experiences - featuring Jeff Wallace
In this episode, Greg sits down with CSO of Student Leadership University (SLU), Jeff Wallace. They discuss the amazing programs and experiences offered through SLU, as well as the need to empower and educate young people with a Gospel Advancing mentality. Greg and Jeff also speak with youth leader, Wes Jones, to follow up on the discussion.
Jeff currently serves on the Student Leadership University Team as the executive director of the LIFT Tour and Youth Pastor Summit. Jeff is also the founder of FrontLine Urban Resources, Inc., which equips leaders to engage an evolving generation of families and teaches them how to reshape their traditional views of urban ministry and urban culture. He also spent 23 years as a youth development pastor and then executive pastor at Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. Jeff has authored or co-authored a number of books and resources, including Urban Ministry from Start to Finish, Everybody’s Urban, The Skinny on Communication, and 99 Things Every Guy Should Know. Jeff enjoys doing life with his wife Quovadis and three boys, Jeffrey, Christopher, and Cameron.
0:00:04.9 Greg Stier: Alright, welcome to the Greg Stier Youth Ministry podcast. I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teens, and I also believe that the best way to get teens to grow is to get them to go. So excited that you’re here with us today. I really encourage you, rate this podcast, subscribe to it, review it, get your youth leader network in on it, spread the word, because we believe in the power of the gospel to transform teenagers’ lives. We also believe the best way to get teenagers to grow is to get them to go, and we want you to help us spread the word. I am super excited about our guest today, Jeff Wallace. Excited. He’s a personal friend of mine, known him for a long, long time. He currently serves on the Student Leadership University team as the executive director of the LIFT Tour Youth Pastors Summit. He’s also the founder of Frontline Urban Resources, which equips leaders to engage an evolving generation of families and teaches them how to reshape their traditional values of urban ministry and urban culture. He’s 23 years as a youth development pastor, then executive pastor at Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia.
0:01:14.3 GS: He’s authored, co-authored a number of books and resources, including Urban Ministry from Start to Finish, Everybody’s Urban, The Skinny on Communication, 99 Things Every Guy Should Know. He enjoys doing his life with his wife. Oh, man, I am not… How do you pronounce her name?
0:01:31.9 Jeff Wallace: Quovadis. Everybody calls her Quo.
0:01:35.4 GS: Quo?
0:01:36.8 JW: Yeah, like Q-U-O, like quotation marks.
0:01:43.2 GS: Quo. And three boys, Jeffrey, Christopher, and Cameron. Quo. What a cool, cool name. Jeff, thanks so much. Thanks so much for being a part of this.
0:01:49.6 JW: Man, well, thank you for having me, man. I appreciate it. It’s an honor that the Greg Stier ask the old little youth pastor from Atlanta to come and be on this podcast, man. So I’m excited to be here with you, brother.
0:02:04.8 GS: Yeah, and you were, for years, a youth pastor from Atlanta, and you were involved with Dare 2 Share early, early on.
0:02:17.8 JW: Yep, yep. I served, man. It was cool, Greg. I got a chance to see three groups of sixth graders graduate from high school in my youth ministry. So that was fun, man. So Decatur is inner city Atlanta, maybe I would say about 30 minutes from the city. Well, depending upon what time of day in Atlanta you’re driving, that can be an hour, but without traffic, 30 minutes. But yeah, man, I was there for 20 plus years, got a chance to do Dare 2 Share. Man, we use Dare 2 Share in a lot of different ways in our student ministry, especially when it came to doing outreach and evangelism campus ministries in our church. I mean, it’s anything evangelism based, man, in our student ministry, we definitely use Dare 2 Share.
0:03:05.1 GS: You know, you once told me, I’ll never forget that you said kind of two things forged and formed your youth ministry philosophy. It was a purpose-driven youth ministry by Doug Fields and then Dare 2 Share. And it’s I think the first four purposes are so, so important, but that fifth purpose Doug’s own admission, it’s the weakest. It was the weakest when he was at Saddleback, it’s the weakest in a typical church. And so that’s a good balanced purpose-driven and then Dare 2 Share to strengthen that evangelism effort. And I remember those days, man, were you at the World Congress Center or the Civic Center? I don’t know if you were there with them. One time we went…
0:03:50.2 JW: Yeah, it was World Congress Center. It was World Congress Center. Yeah, Georgia World Congress Center. Golly, that was a throwback.
0:03:58.6 GS: Throwback.
0:04:00.2 JW: That’s when it was the Georgia Dome and it was the Omni. I think it was the Omni before they changed it to State Farm.
0:04:04.3 GS: Yeah, it was the Omni. Yeah. I remember we did it there, I don’t know if you were there the one time we did it at the Civic Center down there.
0:04:15.4 JW: Uh-huh. No, not the Civic Center.
0:04:17.5 GS: I mean, that was real old school.
0:04:22.3 JW: Yeah, I didn’t make the CIV.
0:04:24.6 GS: Oh man, that was dangerous, a little dangerous down there. That thing was broken up. Just kind of like, ah.
0:04:25.7 JW: People, I mean, unless you’re from Atlanta, Greg, or you’ve done like you guys at Dare 2 Share have done as far as doing events all around the world, you talk about it, unless you’ve been there, you just don’t know how hood it could be. And especially back there.
0:04:43.4 GS: That’s a different… I was raised in the Denver hood, but it’s a whole different level of hood. I tell you what, you know what was crazy? Johannesburg. That, in South Africa, I was there, I was like, “Oh, my goodness! This is a whole different level.”
0:05:01.2 JW: Yeah, it’s different. Johannesburg is even… It’s worse or I guess it’s different… I’ll say it this way, than South Africa when you go down to the south I mean, even a little further south and it really…
0:05:14.9 GS: Cape Town is pretty nice.
0:05:19.4 JW: Yeah, Cape Town. That’s what they did, the Safe House, Denzel Washington filmed the movie Safe House there in Cape Town. I didn’t know that until we were there.
0:05:25.4 GS: Oh, I didn’t realize that. Oh, wow.
0:05:27.5 JW: Yeah, he did. And the arena, the arena scene that he’s in there was there in downtown Cape Town area. And so, yeah.
0:05:38.4 GS: Well, that makes Cape Town even cooler right there. That’s awesome.
0:05:39.7 JW: Yeah, man. Yeah, yeah.
0:05:44.4 GS: We’re getting distracted ’cause we’re talking about good old times. But I think the bottom line is, I mean, evangelism is right at the center of your heart. I know. And leadership is at the center of your heart. And I think it’s really good to ask the question, how is evangelism central to helping students become effective leaders in your opinion? Yeah.
0:06:12.4 JW: Well, I think it’s twofold. Number one, obviously, evangelism is the pathway in which we see students experience death to life moments, right? You Those who were saved, or assuming those who were lost become saved through evangelism. So obviously, as a Christ follower, as a leader, as someone who wants to see the gospel preached to the four corners of the earth, evangelism, in my humble opinion, is essential to that. And so, but it’s the first pathway. It is one, again, to see death to life experience. But then also, the evangelized in turn, Greg, should become the evangelist, right? And so I believe that we’ve all been saved to be sent. And so as the Lord allows us to have those death to life moments, and we’ve been saved, and we’ve experienced the gospel for ourselves, may in turn, there should be an hunger and a passion and a desire for everyone that you come in contact to experience the same thing that you’ve experienced. And I think, as a Christ follower, as a believer, Greg, I think evangelism is essential. And I would say a non-negotiable, in my humble opinion. I think it is.
0:07:29.2 GS: Well, and you know, as you think about what I’ve noticed, you know, in doing Dare 2 Share, I actually find urban youth leaders much more in tune with the strategic importance of evangelism than suburban youth leaders for whatever reason. We’ve done trainings. I remember going to the Bronx and doing a training with, and they’re all volunteer youth leaders. I don’t think there’s a full time. They were there taking notes, asking questions, how do we implement? Because for them, it wasn’t, youth ministry is not at all about the fun and games. It was about saving lives and giving hope. And I don’t know if that’s your experience as an urban youth leader.
0:08:16.3 JW: Yeah, a 100%. We always say as urban leaders that our students are in what we call survival mode, man. I mean, students in my context, where my church was, many of them, Greg have never been out of their zip code, their block. All they know is their hood, their area, their context. And for many of the students, that came through my youth group, graduated from high school, for many of them it was like getting a PhD. And so when you have single family household, low income families, a lot of truancy issues, gang, drug, violence, man, I mean, we want our kids to just survive. Now it’s not all of them, but there are many in our context who, man, we’re just trying to get them to experience hope and to see life through a different lens.
0:09:06.8 JW: And so evangelism, for me, as an urban leader, many of my colleagues, my urban ministry colleagues, man, it was an essential to survival as an urban youth leader. Man, if you’re not doing evangelism, if you’re not seeing, because if you’re not giving an urban kid hope, it’s going to be hard to help them go deeper in their faith walk. Because for many of them, man, they’re just trying to make it through the next 24 hours, right? They’re just trying to give me this discipleship track on how to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Bro, I’m just trying to eat today. I’m trying to survive today. I’m trying to make it today. And I’ve watched my brothers, sisters, family members, loved ones, be taken from me in, the most God, the most horrific way possible, man. And you want me to go through this discipleship track? No, man. And so for many of us, and especially my experience, man, evangelism was very much a part of the strategy for how we help our students in our context find hope.
0:10:20.5 GS: I think that’s so true, Jeff. I mean, I was talking to somebody the other day about lottery tickets and I said rich people don’t scratch. They don’t go it’s not rich people buying lotto tickets, it’s poor people. Cause they’re scratching for hope. And I think a lot of, a lot of urban kids, I was one of those kids that scratching for hope, not lotto tickets, but looking for it somewhere. And the gospel, man, it addresses identity, belonging and purpose. Identity as a child of God, belonging in a crew. You got a crew, the family of God, a purpose. And also destination, like I know I’m going to heaven. I’m not afraid of dying. And for me, I almost died several times as an inner city kid through various circumstances. But I was, once I knew Christ, I was not afraid to die, which is, that’s a bigger deal when you actually could die in a setting, an urban setting some high crime rate area, urban setting anyway, where that can happen.
0:11:30.7 JW: Yeah, and I think it’s important that for me, it was helping my students see themselves through the lens of the gospel, not the lens of culture, not the lens of their generational curse or just what’s been going on in their block, man. And so for me, we would always try to expose our students to various things. Dare 2 Share, Student Leadership University. We would do a lot of mission trips, even if they were like local mission trips to say, “Hey, man. Even though you feel like a castaway throwaway or give away, or you feel just dejected or like so helpless and hopeless. Can I just tell you, there’s others who are even in worse situations than you are.” And so trying to help our students, I always would say, Greg, that I would tell my team, my volunteers and my pay staff, we want to help expand every urban kid from having a single story perspective to a multiple story perspective. Meaning we just didn’t want them to see themselves as a kid in Decatur, Georgia. We want them to see themselves as a person who The Lord knew even before the foundation of the earth, before they were formed in their mother’s womb, that he had a plan and a purpose for their life and that there is life beyond what they see right now in their circumstances.
0:12:51.6 GS: I love it. There’s a universal church that started 2000 years ago. They’re part of this giant crew. This is not in our questions, but I’m going to ask it. How do we break down the dividing wall between… I just think there’s a lot of… There’s urban churches and youth ministries are suburban and it feels like an infusions 2 scenario. How do we… Have you seen that happen at all? And how can we really work together? My buddy Derwin Gray is always talking about building multi-ethnic churches where we can, where there’s multi-ethnicities. How do we build churches like that? How do we get youth leaders from the suburbs and the city like working together?
0:13:43.0 JW: Yeah. Well, I think, number one, this is going to sound like a captain obvious statement, but youth leaders need to ask themselves, do you want to stay relevant or not? I mean, because culture is evolving, Greg, it’s ever evolving and rather we like it or not, it is what it is. We have a responsibility not to just see or assess the data. We have a responsibility to respond to the data. So I think the culture at large, what I’ve seen is the culture at large has already become a mesh up society, where it’s no longer about Black, White, Latino, Native American, Asian, or Hispanic or Latino, man. It’s not about different ethnic divisions. I mean, there are some ethnic differences that yes, and cultural differences that are there, but it’s not about ethnicity as much as it is what I call common ills. There are things that every kid, regardless of their ethnicity, they’re dealing with that ties them together, fatherless-ness being one of them. When I wrote the book Everybody’s Urban, what brought me to that title, Greg, was I was telling a buddy of mine, who was a student pastor at a very affluent suburban church about the context and the premise of the book.
0:15:04.3 JW: And I was saying, man, a lot of my kids, one of the categories we’re talking about, I was talking about identity and sexuality and all that stuff, but I was talking about fatherless-ness and I was talking about the psychological impact that an absent father has brought to students in our youth group. And I talked about it from the standpoint of a girl and a boy. And I talked about, man, his presence impacts, how they see themselves and the rat, blah, blah, blah. So he sits back in his chair and he says, “Jeff, man, I have the same issues in my suburban context,” and I’m like, man, get out of here. You have folks with seven figure salaries in your church. And he’s like, yeah, I know, but the fathers in my church, they’re businessmen and they travel. And so they’re not there. So what they do is they are present on paper, but not present in spirit. And they substitute presents and gifts for presence and love. And so the byproduct of that emotionally and psychologically, some of the things that your students in your urban context are dealing with, my students in a suburban context are dealing with.
0:16:11.6 JW: And I was like, wow. And so that’s where it kind of started the concept that everybody’s urban. So I think, Greg, one of the things that we as leaders need to understand is that until we divorce ourselves from an antiquated approach of seeing youth ministry, we won’t become truly the multi-ethnic, not multicultural, but multi-ethnic youth ministry that this generation, especially the emerging generation, that’s not just Gen Z, but the generation that’s coming behind Gen Z. That’s in children’s ministry right now, man, we got to understand we need to update our curriculum. We need to update our strategy. We need to update our resources and books and our approach to ministry because culture is changing. We just need to keep up with the time.
0:16:58.9 GS: Yeah. That’s really good stuff. And I think it’s really important. I’ve always said, yeah, I never had a dad. I didn’t know my dad, but in some ways I think it’d be harder to have a dad who wasn’t there emotionally, like didn’t care. Like that’d be really hard. So I love that. Everybody’s Urban. That’s the name of the book?
0:17:22.3 JW: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Everybody’s urban. And so we talk about the… It’s like this mesh up society that culture is in right now where it is. And actually what’s crazy is I wrote it, I feel like I wrote it almost 10 years too early. Right? And I started seeing some like right now, if I would have wrote it today, man, it probably would be a best seller. And…
0:17:41.8 GS: Just revise and update it. Revise and update it.
0:17:49.0 JW: Oh, as soon as I finish my PhD, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
0:17:55.0 GS: Am I going to have to call you Dr. Jeff Wallace after that?
0:17:55.7 JW: No, man. I’ll still be Jeff, your brother. And so… [chuckle] yeah, but no, man. So yeah, it is… You’re a spot on Greg and what you’re seeing. And it’s so important that we acknowledge the truth that, if I can say this right here without getting in trouble, hey, if you’re a White dad, your daughter might like a Black boy. Right? And they don’t see color, they see common connection. You know what I mean? And I think that is the thing that as we see culture evolve in student ministry in particular, man, we’re going to have to be honest about the times so that we can respond accordingly.
0:18:39.7 GS: Yeah. Amen, Amen. Well, let’s talk a little bit about student leadership and LIFT. And I mean, you guys just have so many, I mean, it’s like so many ways to really help teenagers and help youth leaders help teenagers and build student leaders. Tell us a little bit about Student Leadership University and LIFT and what you guys do and offer to serve youth leaders.
0:19:07.8 JW: Yeah. So as we were talking about evangelism, and so strategically, the basis of what we do at Student Leadership University is we take students on a discipleship journey, because fundamentally and strategically, we believe that leadership is synonymous to discipleship, right?
0:19:24.0 JW: Most of the students, if not all that go through the SLU journey, they’ve already been evangelized, if you will, I’ll talk about LIFT and the evangelism arm of our organization, but student leadership university as a whole, we want to help students tell a different story with their life. We want to teach them how to think, how to dream, how to lead at the feet of Jesus. We’re not teaching them what to think, we’re trying to teach them how to think. We believe that there’s a lost art that many of our students don’t know any longer, that’s critical thinking skills, how to think critically about things.
0:19:57.3 JW: So we take them on a four-tier journey. So the first one is SLU 101. We do five weeks in Orlando, two weeks in San Antonio, and it’s rules, tools, nuts and bolts, intro level of leadership. So there they’re going to learn how to be excellent at all things, we’re going to have how to develop a biblical worldview session, we’ll have leadership perspectives. You’ve taught many of our leadership perspectives before on different things, and we want to talk about how to master the art of self-leadership.
0:20:29.1 JW: So we’ll do personality assessment, goal setting, time management, all these things. So we’re really trying to give them the entry level of leadership and helping them say, “Hey, if you practice these principles, you can really start the journey of becoming the best version of yourself. So then SLU 201, when they finish 101, they go to 201, which is in Washington, DC. So there, we’re going to spend a week experiencing DC, and I mean experiencing it. So we’ll stay at the Marriott Crystal Gate Hotel there, and they’re going to hear from men and women from Congress and Senate. They’ll hear from a gentleman by the name of Chaplain Barry Black, who’s the chaplain of the US Senate.
0:21:12.2 JW: They’ll go to the press club, they’ll visit a lot of the national monuments. They will go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, they’ll do a wreath laying ceremony. It’s really, really cool because we’re not trying to teach them to be Republican or Democrat, but we’re saying, “Hey, if you apply these same principles that you’re hearing, maybe the Lord will use you to be salt and light in the public square. And so there they’re learning leadership through the lens of the local government. And then when they complete that, then we take them to the next journey or next step of the journey, which is SLU 301.
0:21:48.4 JW: And SLU 301, Greg, we take them to Paris, London, Oxford, and Normandy. So they’re going to experience Europe. It’s a European trip and they’re going to learn leadership through the lens of world history. They’re going to hear a lot about CS Lewis, Winston Churchill, John Wesley. I love teaching at Pointe du Hoc and talking about the Battle of Normandy and saying to the students, because we’re out of the classroom. 101 and 201 in a lot of ways are in the classroom. 301 is very experiential, meaning the classroom are the sacred hollow grounds of Pointe du Hoc or Omaha Beach.
0:22:29.1 JW: And so there we’re saying, “Hey, where you’re standing right now, men not too far from your age, they shed their blood so that we can experience certain freedoms, and they sacrifice knowing if they jumped out those duck boats, stormed those beaches, scaled those walls, they knew they were on a suicide mission.” And I would always ask students, I wonder what those students were thinking about as they’re climbing those cliffs that literally, Greg, are right behind them. We’re right there where the 100 foot cliffs are. And I said, I wonder what they’re thinking about as teenagers, many of them are young adults.
0:23:06.6 JW: And maybe they’re thinking about their families. Maybe they’re thinking about what their life could have been. Or maybe they were thinking about the last thing they heard General Eisenhower tell them when he said the eyes of the world are upon you. And just as General Eisenhower told those brave men who scaled those walls, we’re saying to you right here right now, the eyes of the world are upon you. So it’s really, really awesome time for students to experience that. We’ll go to Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace. We’ll go to Paris and debunk a few myths.
0:23:36.2 JW: They’ll think Paris is so romantic and beautiful. They’ll see that it’s dirty and the people are rude. But [chuckle] it’s just fun to experience world history at SOU 301. And then finally at SOU 401, we go to Israel and Jordan. We start with the end in mind because we believe that leadership begins at the feet of Jesus. So that’s the SOU 101 to 401 journey. And then the Live Tour is, so if 101 to 401 is the discipleship arm of our organization, Live Tour is the evangelistic arm of our organization where it’s a 18 to 20 city like denial weekend on steroids that we do, man.
0:24:19.8 JW: I mean, we go to cities from the East Coast to the West Coast. Two days, we’re going to do three things. We’re going to engage scripture because we believe the Bible is enough. We’re going to exalt Christ. We’re going to make Jesus known. And we’re going to empower students and give them a real world walk away. So everything that they hear from stage translates through small group questions and devotions that we’ll have. And we love it, man. We’ll see 15 to 20, sometimes 1000 students experience scripture. We see so many death to life moments there.
0:24:55.9 GS: That’s awesome.
0:24:56.5 JW: So we love that because we get to preach the gospel to thousands of students between Martin Luther King weekend and the middle of March.
0:25:04.4 GS: I love it.
0:25:06.1 JW: So it’s like the Wikipedia version of what we do.
0:25:07.1 GS: No, it’s great because you guys do so much. And another thing that you guys do that I’m much more familiar with is Youth Pastor Summit, which is multi-cities and with Dallas, Nashville.
0:25:24.8 JW: Nashville, Orlando, California.
0:25:27.3 GS: Orlando, California. And you really… I mean, it’s like what? 10, 15, $20. It’s like…
0:25:36.1 JW: 15 bucks, man.
0:25:38.7 GS: 15 bucks. And you bring in great speakers and me. And then there’s Frank.
0:25:46.5 JW: Oh, no, man. No man. You move the needle big time, brother.
0:25:50.0 GS: Oh, we love it. And it’s really pouring into those youth leaders. It is so good. You guys do such a great job. And this year, we’re adding Chicago, which is pretty exciting.
0:26:05.6 JW: Yeah, man.
0:26:07.3 GS: So tell us a little bit about that. Why Chicago?
0:26:10.4 JW: Yeah. Well, one, great pizza and Garrett’s popcorn.
0:26:14.7 JW: But no, seriously, because wherever there is a need to serve youth leaders, that’s where we want to go. Honestly, Greg. I mean, it is a place that through our partnership and relationship with Dare 2 Share, as we have talked over the years about it, man, it’s such a prime area, that Great Lakes, Midwest area. And we envision for Youth Pastors Summit to be in every major market and region within the United States.
0:26:44.7 GS: Love it.
0:26:44.7 JW: And it’s just two days as a fellow youth pastor, man, it’s just two days. But we want to love on educators, Christian school educators, youth pastors, leaders, and their volunteer team, and say, “Thank you for investing in the life of this generation.” So it’s about community, it’s about soul care, and it’s about collaboration, how we come together and work together as the body of Christ to change a generation and point them to Jesus. And so we’re so grateful, man, for you and Dare 2 Share, man, how you guys have been a part of this. And there’s so many cool… We don’t have time to share them all, but I have so many cool Greg Stier, Nunchuck stories or [laughter] sermons, man, that’s just been so good.
0:27:32.7 JW: But it’s just a time, man, of love on students. And it’s a gift. We say it’s a gift, that $15, great to be completely honest and transparent. The only reason we charge $15 is because we’ve had to expand our registration process, and that just covers the cost of the software to do that. But other than that, man, it’s just a gift.
0:27:55.0 GS: It’s a huge, huge value that you guys provide. And we’re blessed to be a part of it. Looking forward to going to Chicago because we have a long history in the Midwest.
0:28:04.7 JW: Shark town.
0:28:06.0 GS: And hoping to get a lot of youth leaders out to that. Speaking of youth leaders, I would love to bring a youth leader on into this conversation.
0:28:15.5 JW: Yeah, let’s do it.
0:28:17.7 GS: He’s been listening in patiently. Wes Jones entering his 12th year in student ministry, leads LIFT Student Ministries in Westminster, Colorado, how ironic? And Family in Christ Community Church.
0:28:26.3 JW: I like that. I love that.
0:28:28.6 GS: Been married to his wife, Katie, for four years. Together they love to travel camp, adventure with the goal of traveling to every national park in the US. They crossed off four this year already. When they aren’t traveling, their favorite pastime is board gaming. And with that little free time he has left, he loves to do all things sports, watching, playing, regularly plays racquetball, pickleball, basketball, spikeball, and volleyball. And I have no idea what that is.
0:28:53.5 GS: But anyway, Wes, thanks so much for coming on. And you’ve been listening patiently. And thanks so much for being a part of this. And I just want to open it up for you and Jeff to talk. Any questions or comments you have listening to Jeff?
0:29:07.3 Wes Jones: Of course, yeah, excited to be on. Jeff, I thought it was neat that we kind of had the little match with the LIFT.
0:29:15.0 JW: Yeah, I saw that. I was thinking, Wes, I was like, “Yo,” because that looks like how we do LIFT a little bit. And it’s close to our culture. We do like a purple little triangle over the eyes. I was like, “Wes, this is profound. This is prophetic, man,” that, you know, we’re here and…
0:29:29.7 WJ: I know it was.
0:29:31.3 JW: And I was thinking, I was like, “Well, I won’t do it.” But I was thinking, I was like, “Okay, if we wanted to do like a nice little LIFT tour Beanie, that’s what it would look like.” And so man, it was really, really cool. And then, yes, ladies and gentlemen, a cool little LIFT Beanie on and it says LIFT on it. I was like, “That’s that’s real dope.” So, you know, if we had it, I would give you credit.
0:29:52.4 GS: You thought he was just kissing up to you and like, “I’m going to wear my… “
0:29:55.8 JW: I did actually, and I was grateful for it.
0:30:01.1 JW: Yeah, no, that was really cool. Yeah.
0:30:04.1 WJ: I love it.
0:30:04.2 JW: So great to meet you, brother.
0:30:05.8 WJ: Yeah, good to meet you, too. Hey, I was listening in and I loved the quote you said. Leadership is synonymous to discipleship. And I would love to hear maybe your take and in your years in youth ministry in working with students. How have you seen that that quote lived out? What types of leaders have you seen kind of evolve as they’ve gone through this discipleship process with you guys?
0:30:30.0 JW: It’s a great question, Wes. And so here’s what I’ve seen, when students have an idea and understanding of who they are in Christ, there is a natural hunger and thirst to go deeper in God’s word and also to be a leader in our ministry. And so for me, in an urban context, specifically, whenever, you know, I would have students who would come rather they were involved in some extracurricular activities chose that was not God-honoring when we met. But then they gave their life to Jesus.
0:31:06.5 JW: I would always share with them that, “You have leadership skills, man. You have leadership influence and abilities that you’ve just not channeled in a positive manner. And what would happen if you would now that you’ve given your life to Jesus? What would happen if you would channel that capacity and ability that’s in you in the ministry, man? Just think about the number of people that you can impact.”
0:31:32.5 JW: And so what I’ve seen, Wes, is that when many of my students recognize, “Oh, one, I’m fearfully and wonderfully made and I’m really created in the image and likeness of God and that God has a plan and a purpose for my life,” and they live out.
0:31:51.1 JW: We would always say we want you to live out 1 Peter 2 and 9. It says that you are chosen generation of royal priesthood, of people who belong to God. He called you out of darkness and sent this wonderful light. But when students really understand that, now they want to go deeper into their walk with Jesus, but they also want to share what they’ve experienced and what they’ve seen with others. I always give it… I always make the example, Wes, it’s almost like for me, I am a fan of the Chick-fil-A sandwich. And because I believe that the Chick-fil-A sandwich has been kissed by God and anointed, I am very, very bold about highlighting cheap copies of a great original. So for others out there who may try to have a chicken sandwich, I believe that the Lord wants us all to eat more chicken from Chick-fil-A.
0:32:46.6 JW: So I’m going to stand on the highest mountain and tell people to eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich because I believe in it just that much. I’m a Chick-fil-A ambassador. But as much as I love the Chick-fil-A sandwich, man, I love sharing the good news gospel even more and it’s like that with my students, man. When you experience the real thing, you should be compelled or have a desire to want to share it with everybody you come in contact with. But as a person who’s going through a discipleship process, that discipleship process in that way of we cultivate leaders, it helps them be bolder evangelists for the gospel, man.
0:33:27.0 WJ: Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen that lived out in the lives of many of our students. Like I very much take the approach that evangelism is a non-negotiable. You said something about like once you’re saved, you’re immediately sent. And I was like, yes. Amen. Amen to that. And I think it’s so cool that discipleship is so much of a journey of when you come to know the Lord, you seek to share Him with others and teach others how to do it. And it’s neat to watch students lead in that way because though we are not Chick-fil-A ambassadors, we are called ambassadors for Christ. And so I love that analogy. Like when you love something, you’re compelled to go and share it with others.
0:34:12.0 JW: Yeah. Yeah, man. Yeah. I think it should be a natural response, man. I mean, when you have an encounter with Jesus, I mean, let’s think about the one who had, in my opinion, one of the most significant encounters, the Apostle Paul on that Damascus road experience. It changed his life in such a way that it compelled him to send letters to churches all over. But it was that encounter, man, that just changed the trajectory of his life forever.
0:34:40.5 JW: And we see that lived out in the lives of students, man. When they have an encounter with Jesus, man, it changes their life forever. And so our job as leaders is to cultivate that in a very healthy way so that they can live out their faith in a very responsible and practical manner. And so that’s what I’ve seen. That’s why I love that.
0:35:05.2 JW: Okay. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
0:35:06.6 WJ: Yeah. As you say that, do you have any like practical tips to give youth leaders like me or anyone listening on how to cultivate that type of leadership within your students as you’ve lived it out in an urban setting?
0:35:17.9 JW: Yeah.
0:35:19.3 WJ: I mean, it can be urban, suburban, whatever. What are some ways to cultivate that within your leaders?
0:35:24.0 JW: Yeah. Well, and I’m not just saying this because this is Greg’s podcast. But I think it’s… I think I believe in partnership and collaboration. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. I believe that there are so many great organizations, curriculums, and events that are out there that, man, sometimes students need to see it and experience it and even hear it from a different voice as their youth pastor. I know my kids would hear from me every week. And so sometimes it was great to throw a video of Greg Steer on or or Brent Crowe from SLU.
0:35:58.1 JW: I mean, that, to hear, I can say the same thing, but when they say it, it just hits a little bit different. So I think being very intentional about, I tried to… Wes tried to have a purpose-driven youth ministry resource that I could share with my leaders. This is the strategy. This is the direction. I needed a Dare 2 Share to empower my students to be saved and not just save your sin. But then I needed a student leadership university to take my youth leadership council and go deeper. And then what I would do is fold those moments back into the life of our student ministry.
0:36:39.7 JW: So I would say if you are a student leader, listen to this, man, find places and organizations and programs that you can come alongside of and really help walk along you in your process. So if you’re looking to have a healthy evangelism strategy in process, then Dare 2 Share Live, you got to get to a Dare 2 Share Live. You know what I mean? Like, I think there’s just so many different things that are out there. That’s number one. But then also, in a practical way, I’ll say this, don’t look for your traditional-looking leaders, man. Be intentional about challenging those kids who are some of the quiet introverts.
0:37:24.7 JW: You need to pull… God’s calling them to be a leader. He’s calling them to be evangelists. You need to deal with some of those knuckleheads who… Because Lord knows I’m a recovering knucklehead, and if somebody saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So don’t throw away or dismiss those “Trouble kids” or loud or bad kids or whatever. You know what I mean? Like, however you label them, man, those are the ones that you need to really look deeply at.
0:37:58.3 JW: It’s not just those kids who are the deacons kids or your elders or church leader kids, the good kids. No, man, you want to find those hot coals that the Lord wants to shape into impressing and turn it to a diamond. And so I think, so don’t look for the traditional kid, but also be intentional about who you partner with. But then my last thing and probably this is the first thing, is you need to have your your assimilation process as a student leader, whether it’s discipleship assimilation, evangelism assimilation or volunteer leader assimilation process.
0:38:36.5 JW: You need to have it down in such a succinct way that you have an elevator pitch where you can in a very effective way, articulate how you want to assimilate people with… Depending upon that area of ministry, how you want to assimilate them from point A to point B. So often, we know the what we need, we just have a hard time articulating how we want to get there. But when you as a leader can have a very clear, it’s like a back that says, right division make a plane, have a very clear process that’s multi-layer and has a multiple entry points.
0:39:16.4 JW: Again, evangelism entry point, discipleship entry point, leadership entry point, volunteer recruitment and assimilation entry point, you’ve got to be able to articulate it because as the great leadership guru, John Maxwell says, he says, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.” People aren’t going to follow you if you don’t know where you’re going. So I think that’s important as a youth leader.
0:39:41.8 WJ: Yeah, one of the things I’ve tried this year, I have a student leadership team and I’ve had one for many years and I’ve been working on developing leaders and disciples and one in the same. One of the things I’ve tried this year is combining my adult leader team with my student leader team together, collaboratively, like showing, “Hey, we all have the same level of input and we’re all working towards the similar goal to make disciples who make disciples.” How have you experienced adult leaders coming alongside students? And then maybe on the flip side of it, how have you seen students lead adults in this journey of evangelism?
0:40:24.7 JW: Well, I think great youth ministry has to be for the people, by the people, meaning what is more attractional in a youth ministry is when students see other students that are on fire for Jesus and that are leading.
0:40:37.0 WJ: For sure.
0:40:38.2 JW: So what I’ve tried to structure in my youth ministry is kind of like a high level, 30,000-foot view range of adult leadership where we kind of get like a Paul/Timothy type of model where you’re always mentoring somebody as an adult leader. You’re walking alongside them, you’re discipling them, as far as my student leaders. And so we want to… We always try to create community where they do life together, but we wanted to do it where as we’re doing life, walking you through your own issues and adolescent development, we want to raise the bar and say, “Hey, we believe that the Lord can use you to lead in very high-level leadership ways.
0:41:24.7 JW: So we have what we call, Wes, high-low and low-highs roles, meaning… And then high-highs. I think it was high-highs, low-lows and low-highs. And I’ll explain it. So we had some roles that were high-commitment and high-impact, low-commitment, low-impact and then low-commitment and low-impact roles depending on the leader.
0:41:49.7 JW: Like example of a low-impact… I mean a low position, but I would say low impact. It’s not low, but like if you’re a facility, if you want to like a facility set up person, right? Some students we learn how… You had to ease them into leadership. So we said, “Hey, you’re going to be responsible for setting up the youth room on Wednesday nights. And so low commitment and it was low. We wouldn’t say low. I wouldn’t say this is a low, low, like low impact and low commitment, but I just was able to… For me, because I’m a visual learner, I had to see that.
0:42:24.5 JW: And so these are roles where I could say, if I’ve had a kid who was a little apprehensive about that and I even have an adult leader who’s a little timid in their leadership, I would pair them together and put them as your facility set up. But then there are some that is low-commitment, but high-impact, like a greeter. We had a youth ministry greeter. If you were on a greeter, man, that’s not a big thing because you’re holding signs in a parking lot or outside.
0:42:53.7 JW: But man, it’s that first impression that has a high impact in our student ministry. And so we would have an adult leader to walk alongside them. They would monitor, “Hey guys, y’all didn’t smile like that. You’re like you should,” or, “You’ve got to keep your energy up.” But then we had high commitment, high impact, anything that was on the stage, worship team, hosting, sometimes doing messages or whatever. High commitment, high impact.
0:43:21.4 JW: And we walked alongside them accordingly. So I think for me, I’ve tried to… Like I talked about having multi entry points for both adults and student leaders so that one, there’s always collaboration, but you’re meeting both students and adult leaders where they are. And so that’s kind of how we’ve done it. So I love seeing it done in a collaborative manner, but just having different entry points.
0:43:48.8 GS: So I’m going to…
0:43:50.5 WJ: That’s awesome.
0:43:51.6 GS: I’m going to, I’m going to jump in here. Wes, those are excellent questions and excellent insights, Jeff. Just because I guess I wasn’t ready for such practical, like you are a OGG, Original Gospel Gangster.
0:44:09.5 GS: You’ve been doing this for a long, long time. [laughter] And so those practical tidbits, I mean, it’s great. You know, sometimes I have my guests are very theoretical and academia. You are that and you get some stuff there, the very practical level that youth leaders can walk away with. I really appreciate that. And Wes again, great, great insights. And I am so proud of you, Wes, for really building student leaders and gospel advancing disciple multiplying student leaders. You’re helping to lead the way in the Denver area for what that can look like and change the face of youth ministry. So thank you guys so much for being a part of this and youth on behalf of the youth leaders tuning in. Jeff, if people want to find out more about SLU, Youth Pastor Summit, LIFT tours, what’s the best way for them just to find out everything that you guys do?
0:45:07.0 JW: Yeah, man, just go to our website SLU Lead… SLU, Student Leadership University, lead.com, SLU Lead and you’ll see us… You’ll find everything there. You’ll see the icons for LIFT, the icons for Youth Pastor Summit and SLU Journey. So it’s all right there.
0:45:22.2 GS: A lot of stuff. And then if people want to follow you, what’s the best way for them to follow you?
0:45:26.7 JW: My handle is simple. It is just I am, I-A-M, Jeff Wallace. So that’s Twitter, Instagram, and then Facebook is just Jeffrey Wallace. I think it’s 315. It’s a lot of Jeffrey Wallaces and that’s R-E-Y instead of E-R-Y.
0:45:42.3 GS: Great, great. Well, thank you guys so much for being a part of this. And again, Wes, excellent insights and questions.
0:45:48.6 JW: Yeah, man.
0:45:48.9 GS: And remember, just as you’re listening, youth leaders, get the word out about the podcast and remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel-advancing one. So continue to advance the gospel. Thanks for tuning in.
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