The Greg Stier Youth ministry Podcast
episode 22 | October 2022
Radical Redirection Back to What Matters with Doug Holliday
In this episode, Greg sits down with long-time friend and President of Sonlife Ministries, Doug Holliday. They discuss Sonlife’s radical redirection back toward youth ministry and how the current model has to change. Greg and Doug also speak with youth leader, Nathan Smith, to follow up on the discussion.
0:00:06.9 Greg Stier: Hi, and 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. And I wanna encourage you to subscribe to this podcast, to rate it, review it, to spread the word to youth leaders that it’s time for a revolution in youth ministry that will result in every teen everywhere hearing the gospel from a friend. And today, I’m super excited because we have a good friend on with me, Doug Holliday. He’s a 30-year plus veteran of youth ministry. He served on local church staff in three different states. He is currently the President of SonLife, has also served on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, now known as Cru. And he’s a speaker and a trainer with Dare 2 Share. We’ve been working together for many, many years. In addition, he’s the president of Open Door Haiti, has launched youth leader training opportunities in Haiti and throughout Africa. Doug and his wife, Jennifer, live in Lake Mary, Florida. They have six daughters, Marisa, Jacqueline, Anna, Edline, Mary Faith and Edith. And super, super excited to have Doug with us here today. Doug, welcome to the podcast.
0:01:25.2 Doug Holliday: Greg, it’s great to be on the podcast with you. This is fun.
0:01:29.5 GS: Yeah, and we’ve known each other for a long, long time. Just think back what… You kinda contemplate back us first meeting. Where was it? What was your impression?
0:01:44.0 DH: Yeah, I was the Southeast Regional Coordinator for SonLife back in the early 2000s, and there was a Youth Specialty Conference in Tampa. And so I was there repping SonLife, standing at a table, passing out whatever to try and lure in unsuspecting youth pastors, but looking for… What are some of those breakouts, the tracks that might spark some interest, fit with a passion of mine, and for a long time, deep passion for evangelism, sharing the gospel, sharing with students, and so I saw that there was this break out called Outbreak, and I was like, alright, well, I’m gonna check this out. And I think there was two different sessions, and I connected with you in between the sessions and introduced myself, and you had heard of SonLife and knew some of the things that SonLife was doing, and I said, “You know, SonLife and Dare 2 Share, we should find some way to work together, this stuff… This could work.”
0:03:04.5 DH: And at that point, as a regional coordinator, I didn’t have a lot of power to make those things happen. I could just make recommendation suggestions, but who would have imagined that a dozen years later, I would be in the position sitting in this seat where we would be able to make a partnership like that happen. So yeah, but I just remember, oh, what was the… The movie Outbreak, and you had written a book on Outbreak and the gospel growing virally as students are reaching students and being disciples who are making disciples and reaching more students and just the spread of the gospel among this generation. And to use the Jerry Maguire line, “You had me at hello.”
0:04:00.1 DH: It’s like…
0:04:01.7 GS: That’s right.
0:04:03.7 DH: I’m all in.
0:04:05.1 GS: And I felt the same way about you. I remember us talking about the gospel, and I was like, Man, I’d love a partnership with these guys, I gotta make sure they’re clear on the gospel, and you were. And it was just like instantaneous. Just unity and synergy. It took a while, ’cause I think you had really worked hard on getting a meeting with me and Dann Spader, who started SonLife. And that first meeting, I remember it did go super well, it was like West Side Story a little bit, because Dann was talking about the model of Jesus, and I was kinda talking about Paul, and I was like, cha chi cha, like we were in a West Side Story movie, is like battling against each other a little bit, but over the years, I think SonLife has had a deep impact on Dare 2 Share and on me personally and how I’ve thought about disciple multiplication. And it’s been really great just working together, figuring stuff out. I know one of the big impacts it’s had, and we’ll talk about disciple multiplication strategy in a minute, but one of the big impacts it’s had on us was the whole global vision, and I remember when you invited Debbie Bresina and myself to join you guys at the Global Youth Initiative, I think it’s called Concentric now.
0:05:36.0 DH: Concentric now. Yeah.
0:05:37.8 GS: But Israel, and just that journey, just tell everybody a little bit about what happened seven years ago in Israel, just that… What did you do? What was the purpose of it? Who did you invite? And how did it impact everybody?
0:05:53.9 DH: Yeah, I remember you and I, each of us flying there directly from, I think it was a St. Louis tour event, Dare 2 Share tour event. And because we were there, we ended up missing the first half day of that I think 10-day conference in Israel, and kind of… There were leaders from 53 different Countries, almost 200 people gathered there in Israel looking at Jesus, Jesus is our model, and how… The bold moves that Jesus made to create a movement that would change the world. And looked at five specific bold moves, and I remember we were up on Mount Arbel and listening to some teaching from Bill Hodgson, who at the time was the National Director for Cru in Australia. And as Bill was talking about the great commission and going everywhere, and just looking out kind of in all directions from Mount Arbel in a location where Jesus likely gave the great commission to go into all the world to make disciples of all nations. And I know at that point, Dare 2 Share was specifically focused on the US and resources and energies pointed in that direction. But I remember, you pulled Debbie and I together in the midst of that up there, on Mount Arbel and just felt like, you know, I think our bold move for Dare 2 Share is going everywhere, that it’s not just about the US, but that it would be…
0:07:50.1 DH: Not every teen in the US, but every teen everywhere, equipped to share the Gospel with their friend, and to hear the Gospel from a friend. And we put our hands in a pile and we prayed, consecrated that moment and, okay, let’s do this, let’s figure out how we, in partnership together, SonLife and Dare 2 Share, can be a part of a movement that’s gonna bring the Gospel to teens across the globe.
0:08:25.5 GS: Yeah, and it’s been great. I still have that picture under key moments in my phone, and that’s the first thing that pops up, is our three hands just in the middle saying we’re in this together, and man, the Lord has opened up some amazing, amazing doors. So I’m very grateful to SonLife, personally, for your friendship. And you’re a guy, we talk every week to try to keep each other accountable, pray for each other, encourage each other, and I talk about having somebody who’s on your red phone like the old Batman, you know, you could always get batman through the red phone, right? That you and Zane Black, Dave Gibson are three guys in my life to keep me accountable and who I’m able to keep accountable as well, and I appreciate… Iron sharpen an iron, man, so it’s been great and then…
0:09:17.1 DH: For sure.
0:09:17.9 GS: Not only the impact on me, but the impact on the ministry and how that trip really opened up for us to grow globally and work together with evangelism and discipleship. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but tell us about SonLife. I mean, SonLife has been around a long time, and recently SonLife went through a narrowing of focus, which I’m super excited about, but I don’t wanna give away the story, why don’t you you tell us a little bit about SonLife?
0:09:40.3 DH: Yeah, my first introduction to SonLife was late ’80s, as new youth pastor had graduated from Bible College and was planning to be a church planter and kind of backed my way into youth ministry, ’cause I was gonna get my feet wet and kinda learn the ropes. And about a year in, I’m thinking, well, I’ll just do youth ministry until I can be a real pastor, and then realizing, you know what, this is as real as ministry gets, because this is the age… When people are making decisions for Christ, 80-85% are gonna make that decision to trust Christ before they walk across the platform for a high school graduation. And so I had been through youth ministry classes or whatever, and in Bible College at Liberty University, but I remember being invited to a SonLife Training at Moody Bible Institute, and went and just… My eyes were opened ’cause it wasn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking or new, as much as it just gave me the tracks to run on, in terms of figuring out what Ministry would look like and…
0:11:09.2 DH: Yes, the goal is to make disciples, but how do we get there? What are the tracks we’re gonna run on to see that happen, what’s that pathway? And just laid out real clearly from the Son’s life, from the model that Jesus has given us with His own disciples, how to do that. And at that point, SonLife was about 10 years old, it was still… It had started in the late ’70s as the Youth Ministry Division of Moody and Chicago, and then probably early ’90s, it broke off and went independent from Moody as its own organization. But SonLife, in those early days, its primary focus was youth ministry, disciple-making youth ministries, probably the mid-80s, started an event for high school students, bringing them into the city of Chicago and very much like Lead THE Cause with Dare 2 Share.
0:12:31.0 DH: Training them in evangelism and apologetics in the morning, sending them out on the street in the afternoon to share their faith, coming together in the evening to celebrate the stories of what had happened that day, and just incredible numbers of students whose lives had been impacted by that. But as SonLife continued to grow through the years, a lot of those initial youth pastors ended up becoming senior pastors or discipleship pastors or executive pastors, and they wanted to bring SonLife to their whole church, and so SonLife made a pivot there in the mid-90s and started to offer their disciple-making training still to youth ministry, but then started a division focused on the Church.
0:12:57.8 DH: And that continued to grow and develop. When I stepped in as the Executive Director, the president of SonLife in 2013, we had that full spectrum of ministry, the whole church that we were focused on, but just over a year ago now, actually at Lead THE Cause there in Denver, and it was on the last night up in the mountains, and just this incredible night, and I know you remember it, but you and Zane and Gerard all speaking and everything orchestrated and planned, but it was like the students took over the night from the testimonies that they shared. One of the girls who was on the worship team, the prayer that she prayed, it was like Holy Spirit-anointed fire coming from heaven prayer as she prayed over her peers to share the Gospel. And then the student from one of the youth groups who came up at the very end as you were dismissing everyone, and she basically ripped the mic out of your hand and said, “Hey, when our youth group ends anything we do, we end like this, and can we do this?” And I was like, “What is going on here? This is crazy.”
0:14:27.5 DH: And I just came away from that, and I just had this deep sense in my heart that we’ve gotta double down on this generation, double down on youth ministry. And I came back from that, and a year ago on our SonLife team retreat in the fall, I shared with the team that we were returning to SonLife’s roots, that youth ministry would once again be our primary focus. Yeah, where we’ve got relationships with churches with senior pastors, those relationships will continue, but as we’re strategizing, as we’re praying, as we’re dreaming about where we’re going as a ministry and advancing our mission of equipping leaders in relational disciple-making, we’re thinking about it through the lens of youth ministry, and how do we raise up this next generation?
0:15:23.5 DH: And we’re so excited about the potential of what we see God doing with youth pastors in youth ministry. It can be easy as leaders like we are to be discouraged or to lose hope. So many Christian colleges, their youth ministry programs, they’re being downgraded, cutting staff, cutting programs, eliminating youth ministry degrees, whatever. But more than ever, this generation is hungry for hope, they’re hungry for… They don’t realize it, but they’re hungry for the Gospel, and we need to equip a generation of leaders who are passionate and equipped to reach them, and so…
0:16:22.3 GS: Amen.
0:16:22.7 DH: I’m all in, man. Just like seven years ago, there on Mount Arbel, when we put our hands in the pile together for global, I’m putting my hand in the pile with you for this generation and for youth ministry. Let’s do it.
0:16:42.8 GS: Yeah, amen. I remember when you sent Debbie and I kind of a long email explaining kind of your turn back toward youth ministry, and Deb sent you a nice long email, and I just sent you two words: “Welcome back.” And I was so happy because this is a big job, and there’s no way one ministry can do it alone. And you know, we work together. Evangelism and disciple multiplication is like nitrogen and glycerin. So, let’s talk a little bit about that relationship in just a moment, but first of all, I think it would be good for those who are listening who are not familiar with the discipleship strategy from SonLife, which is actually from Jesus, it’s just rooted in the gospels, could you quickly just explain that discipleship strategy?
0:17:37.5 DH: Yeah. So just looking through the gospels and starting with the end in mind, so Matthew 28, Jesus commissions them, Acts 1, the Church is birthed, it’s launched. How do you get there? You go back to the beginning of Jesus ministry and look over a 3 1/2-year ministry, what did Jesus do year one, year two, year three, year four, to see the results that he saw, to create a movement of multiplication.
0:18:14.3 GS: Which, just by the way, let me just interrupt, it’s almost like from ninth grade to 10th grade to 11th grade to 12th grade. So you could overlay this, in a sense, over the high school years of the typical teenager.
0:18:29.6 DH: And particularly when you consider the fact that most of Jesus initial disciples were teenagers, and we could get into some evidences for that, but suffice to say, Jesus choosing teenagers as the ones he would invest in, unschooled ordinary men, these young guys that he’s gonna change the world with, so what did that look like? And so we kind of got what we call the 4 Chair Discipling process, and so that initial chair, chair one, what did Jesus do there? He was reaching them when they were not yet believers. They didn’t yet know that he was the Messiah, and so he was inviting them to come and see, see who I am so that you can place your faith in me, that you can believe in me. And so it begins with those who are spiritually lost, and then bringing them to the place, chair two, where they become a believer, where they’ve put their faith in him, and the invitation then in that second chair is to follow me, and begin to pattern your life after me.
0:19:49.1 DH: Journey with me, walk with me, learn from me. My character, my priorities, let them be your character and your priorities. To the place then where they would see who Jesus was, the way that he was ministering, the way that he was interacting with people. And if they were going to be like him, it meant that they were going to have to minister the way that he ministered as well. And so that third chair is where they become workers, and now they are going to be equipped to fish for people. So that’s that third invitation, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.
0:20:29.5 DH: And so Jesus is beginning to equip them how to fish for the spiritually lost, and then when those spiritually lost put their faith in him, how to help them continue the journey and follow. So focusing that chair three, the worker chair, focusing on the lost in chair one and the believer in chair two. And then just before he goes to the cross, John 15, Jesus says, “Here’s my desire for you that you would bear much fruit, fruit that will last.” And so it’s this idea of living a fruit-bearing life, and from a disciple-making standpoint, we bear fruit when we reach others and see them become disciples as well, and they reach others, helping them to become disciples as well, who reach others helping them to become disciples as well.
0:21:24.7 DH: And so you’ve got this multiplication effect, and so that fourth chair is the chair of the disciple-maker. That’s the goal all along, that they would become disciple makers, but he’s gonna take them on a process to get there. And honestly, we don’t even really like the word discipleship because it has a connotation with it that you have two separate things, you have evangelism, and you have discipleship. And when we look at Jesus model, those two things are intricately linked together.
0:22:05.3 GS: Yes. Matter of fact you have a…
0:22:05.8 DH: Biblical discipleship begins with evangelism…
0:22:08.1 GS: There you go.
0:22:11.8 DH: Biblical discipleship begins with evangelism and ends with evangelism, right?
0:22:16.6 GS: That’s right.
0:22:16.7 DH: Begins by being reached and growing to the place where you are multiplying, where you are reaching others, who will reach others, who will reach others. And so, that was Jesus intent from the beginning, but how did he get there? What was that process? And then as we train youth leaders, and this was the training that I received as a young youth pastor back in the late ’80s that kind of gave me those tracks to run on, it’s, as a youth leader, what am I focused on? Well, first you’re gonna win the lost, then you’re gonna build the believer, then you’re gonna equip the worker, and then you’re gonna multiply disciple makers. And so following that pathway, what are the events, the programs, the emphasis that you have in each of those buckets that’s going to help to advance your ministry toward multiplying disciple makers? And just transformative to look at the life of Jesus and how he did this.
0:23:23.3 GS: It’s all about Jesus. I love it. And I love the simple visual of four chairs, because what we have discovered is it’s a simple way for youth leaders to evaluate which chair their students are in. Some of them just use an Excel spreadsheet and list all their students, they put who’s in chair one, chair two, chair three, chair 4, what’s that next step to get them to the next chair, what’s that next event, program, discipleship step. And it just gives us a process for the disciple multiplication. So, with all this in mind…
0:24:04.7 DH: Yeah, the great way to evaluate your students, but also to evaluate your programs and to say, “Alright, we’re doing this. Who’s the primary target of this? Is it… “
0:24:13.9 GS: Yeah.
0:24:14.8 DH: We’ve got this upcoming fall retreat, who’s the primary target? Is it chair one, is it chair two, is it chair… Who is it? And let’s design everything to be really effective at accomplishing that.
0:24:28.4 GS: I love that. So just based on your experience, how would you think that the typical youth group in the United States anyway, is doing when it comes to disciple multiplication?
0:24:46.8 DH: We’re not doing well. And I think we wanna do well. It’s not for a lack of desire. I think if you talk to most youth pastors, youth leaders out there and say, “Do you wanna make disciples?” They’d say, “Absolutely, yes.” But it’s the how, how do you get there? And so it’s the lack of knowledge or lack of training or equipping. Years ago, SonLife, we’ve done a study of youth ministries, and we found what we call the 87% problem, that for the ministries that we evaluated, 87% of them a 100% of their programming was geared toward chair two students. So, how are you going to make disciples who will make disciples if you don’t have a balance across all four chairs? And I think probably a lot of youth ministries, maybe they’re not all chair one, probably a lot of them are chair one… I mean, all chair two. Probably a lot of them are chair one and chair two, they’re doing things to reach lost kids, but your typical youth ministry when it comes to evangelism, it’s gonna be a “Come to the youth group and hear the youth pastor share the Gospel, and the youth pastor will lead you in a prayer to receive Christ,” and everything from an evangelism standpoint, it’s the youth pastor who’s doing it, and there’s not an equipping of the students to reach their friends, to share the Gospel with their friends.
0:26:45.0 DH: And so you end up having youth ministries where if you’ve got a really dynamic youth pastor who’s an evangelist at heart, you’re reaching kids for Christ and maybe they’re taking some initial steps in growing, but it’s never advancing beyond that. So the ministry, it might look good on paper because there’s lots of kids and growing in numbers, and they’ve got budgets and they’ve got programs, and they’ve got… It’s exciting stuff that’s going on. And so what are we evaluating when we evaluate success? How do we know that we’re really successful, from a youth ministry standpoint? And I think a lot of youth ministries, they’re gonna base it on their numbers and are we growing in numbers, and are we keeping kids and parents happy? And so…
0:27:50.2 GS: Yeah, I think… This is really good, Doug. I think it also helps me understand kind of the role of Dare 2 Share has really been to get kids to chair three, and that’s kind of what Dare 2 Share live, our curriculum, our summer events really… How do you get to chair three? Of course, we want kids to get to chair 4, but I think ministries like SonLife have more resources and tools to get students there all the way to chair 4, and that’s why it’s a great partnership. Speaking of resources, so if a youth leader’s listening to this right now, and they’re like, “This really resonates with my soul. Where do I start?” what resources do you guys have at SonLife that you could point them to right away that they could begin down this process of putting this disciple multiplication strategy in place in their youth group?
0:28:51.4 DH: Yeah, so our team leads disciple-making cohorts, and so if there’s someone listening who wants to take some initial steps to figuring this out and beginning to implement, picking up a copy of the 4 Chair Discipling Book or our training material on that and jumping into a cohort with one of our team members who then can not only provide some training with that, but also some coaching in terms of how do you actually implement that? What does this look like in your ministry? ‘Cause there’s obviously great resources that you can pick up and read, but actually to be able to have a conversation with a person and explain your specific scenario and to have them help you diagnose what’s going on and what those next steps are, is so valuable.
0:29:58.7 DH: So we’ve got… In regards to 4 Chair Discipling, we’ve got a 4 Chair Inventory, a simple tool to be able to share with your ministry, your volunteers, your students, to help them identify exactly where they’re at in that discipling process. We’ve got our 40 days of disciple-making journal, which ties all of those things together kind of in a format for students to engage maybe in a small group context with Jesus, with his life, with his ministry, in that process of moving toward being a disciple who makes disciples, and built right into those 40 days, every day, there’s a discipling challenge for that student. Here’s something to do today to put this into practice.
0:30:51.6 DH: And having two other friends who are gonna be going through that with you and you each sharing the spiritually lost friends who you’re gonna be praying for in that process, and getting together with the three of you and holding each other accountable to those relationships with spiritually lost friends and to those daily discipling challenges. So, some simple tools. But really, I think the coaching is where the greatest impact is gonna be felt for a youth leader, is actually having someone to talk to, process…
0:31:28.6 GS: So if they just go to SonLife.com, they can get access to all of that, is that right?
0:31:35.3 DH: They can, yeah. And they can go on our team page there and find someone who might be near them, although a lot of our cohorts are on Zoom, so location doesn’t necessarily matter. But if there is someone near you, then having them be on location, maybe coming to your youth group one evening, maybe bringing them in and they teach, but also they’re able to see things and then meet with you and say, “Okay, so you did this, and this, and this, and let’s talk about that. What are you looking to see happen?” And just a fresh set of eyes. And so if there’s someone who’s near you, that’s helpful.
0:32:15.5 GS: That’s great. Well, I really encourage every youth leader listening, as soon as you’re done with this podcast, go to SonLife.com and go to that team page and get… Order 4 Chair Discipling, read it. It’s kind of the primer on this, but lots of free resources on SonLife.com to help you with this process and coaching consulting, which is what we need. So Doug, we’re not done, but I’m gonna bring somebody into this conversation, an actual youth leader, one that we both know and love, Nathan Smith.
0:32:47.8 DH: Yeah.
0:32:48.1 GS: Nathan, his history includes being a pastor’s kid, I love that he puts that on his bio, a church planner, a church planner’s kid, a landscape designer, and a student pastor at First Baptist Church in Roswell, New Mexico. His passion is training leaders to reach people for Jesus, as well as seeing students stick with their faith after high school since moving to Roswell and implementing gospel advancing values into SonLife’s strategy. He’s seen God grow the group from 15 to 80 with at least 10 students each year putting their faith in Christ. Nathan has served in two churches, creating Gospel Advancing Disciple-multiplying Ministries for the past 18 years, along with his amazing wife, Kendra and their four kids. Welcome, Nathan Smith.
0:33:36.3 Nathan Smith: Thanks. You guys had no idea.
0:33:38.0 DH: Landscape designer.
0:33:38.9 NS: Yes, sir. That’s where my degree is in. That’s where I started all this, was this Bible guy or this volunteer guy, actually, in youth ministry, going. So as a youth pastor, I’ve done it from the volunteer side, I’ve done it from the full-time side. It’s a lot of work. And I’m gonna tell you guys, I am so incredibly humbled to be on a podcast with two of my spiritual heroes. It’s kind of ridiculous to think about this as just to be a part of this. And I appreciate this opportunity, guys. I really, really do.
0:34:09.1 GS: Alright, man.
0:34:10.1 NS: Go ahead.
0:34:12.0 GS: We love you, Nathan. We love you. And I wanna give you an opportunity to kind of comment or ask the questions or things that kind of bubble to the top as I was interviewing Doug, just to talk about so that the youth leader listening or watching this can say, “Man, that that’s very helpful for me, or that’s an insight I needed right now.” So anything bubble to the top as Doug was talking?
0:34:39.7 NS: Well, the first thing I remembered was when I met both of you, like really got to know each other at a Lead THE Cause event, the summer thing Dare 2 Share does, and Doug coming in with the SonLife perspective, I was desperate, I needed help. And between the Gospel Advancing Ministry training at Dare 2 Share and the 4 Chair stuff with SonLife, my kids walked away from that, my students walked away, going, “Okay, I now know what my next step is. I am chair two or I am chair three, and I want to be chair four by next year.” They had no idea how much work that was gonna take, and none of them actually succeeded getting to chair four in nine months, but they understood, and it put practical language on this whole idea of, “I wanna go from being a baby believer to what it means to be a mature believer.” And so I think that was the most inspiring part of that, and sitting in my office, I can’t count how many times where students and adults that I’ve been able to say, “Okay, let’s identify where you’re at, and then let’s identify the steps you need to take to get to where you want to go.”
0:35:51.6 NS: And I know it’s really easy for kids to burn out on evangelism, because if they’re in love with evangelism, then it’s not gonna work. But when they fall in love with Jesus and see how that Jesus discipled and modeled it for his students, his youth group, his disciples and then we get to see in the Book of Acts how they took what they had been trained to do and they did it again, and how we can do the same thing, it just… It’s so exciting to me. And so appreciate being able to be able to put words on it and put my common language for us not superly scholarly people, to say the least, so.
0:36:32.8 GS: I do think… I think the simplicity of 4 Chairs is its brilliance. And I don’t know if you remember this, Nathan and Doug, you may remember this. We had our own disciple multiplication strategy for several years called Deep and Wide, right? It helps teens go deep as you help them go wide, and we were excited about it and had a paper on it and curriculum around it and all this stuff. But when I went through 4 Chair Discipling, I’m like, “This is better.” I think it’s clear, I think it’s easier to understand and apply. And around that same time, Andy Stanley came out with the book, Deep and Wide. We actually own the trademark on Deep and Wide. So we were able to let them use the trademark, and we just… Our default disciple multiplication strategy now is 4 Chair. We just recommend youth leaders go to sonlife.com and figure it out, ’cause that’s what you guys do, and you do it so well, so.
0:37:35.4 NS: Well, and Doug, I noticed this this time maybe more than I had, and I’ve been kind of struggling with this, but would you say, based on kind of what you said, that curriculum is great, but you would much prefer people to be a part of one-on-one with somebody else? ’cause I know you guys… You pushed on this podcast a whole lot more, getting involved in one of the cohorts than, say, reading a book. Is that super important? Is that what I… Did I hear that correctly?
0:38:06.1 DH: I think that’s where the transformation really comes for most leaders. Some people are… They’re able to figure things out on their own. Pick up a book, read it, take it, implement it, and that’s great, but for most of us, having a sounding board, someone to share thoughts or something that we’re wrestling through, or I’m not really able to figure this out, and have another perspective and someone on the outside, and then particularly from our SonLife training standpoint, someone who has implemented it in a youth ministry context. Every person on our team has done that. They’ve cut their teeth on this, just like me all those years ago as a young youth pastor going through SonLife training and finding the tracks to run on, and then beginning to run on those tracks and implement it and see fruit as a result.
0:39:09.7 DH: And so these youth ministry coaches have implemented… They’ve hit the bumps in the road, they’ve come to the road blocks, they’ve faced the different challenges. Maybe being in a scenario where you’re trying to do this and you’ve got leadership in your church who is putting up road blocks in front of you because, “That’s not the way we want things done,” or “We’ve never done it that way before,” or whatever the road block might be, and how do you navigate through those challenges? So I think the coach is critical for most of us in terms of taking those next steps.
0:39:55.2 GS: Just to jump in, Doug, I think, as I think about Nathan, your question, and, Doug, your answer, I think the gravitational pull of just going back to our default mode of traditional youth ministry is so strong that if we don’t have personal accountability and encouragement, we just go back to default, which is traditional Western meeting-driven youth ministry. It’s not disciple multiplication, it’s more meetings. So I do think that is a very, very good insight, Doug, about the need for coaching and consulting and accountability.
0:40:30.9 NS: When I got to do one of those cohorts…
0:40:35.0 DH: Yeah, and I think even being in a cohort where you’ve got some other youth pastors who are trying to implement and wrestling through this, and you’re hearing some of the things they’re dealing with, and there’s just that peer learning that goes on. But to your point, Doug, I think that there is a reality that if we’ve only seen it done one way, it’s hard for us to envision how it could look different and how it could be successful or impactful, and so I think having a coach helps to lift us above to be able to see beyond what’s right in front of us, to see what it can be.
0:41:13.8 NS: Well, and it’s cool because as somebody who’s been coached by both SonLife and Dare 2 Share, I’ve been a part of one of those cohorts, and now out coaching others, it’s fun to see the empowerment and the discipleship passion and the multiplication as being able to reach people in other areas of the country that there’s not a lot of Dare 2 Share or SonLife influence, and to be able to encourage others, to me, it’s fun to be a part of that, and it’s fun to be able to see God at work. And just this landscaper who gets to do youth ministry now, having the opportunity to be able to influence and encourage others for the gospel, and to become gospel-advancing was a heavy dose of discipleship, which… I was one of those guys who came in going, “I don’t see how discipleship and evangelism are the same.” And that quote of yours, I quote it all the time, “Discipleship begins and ends with evangelism.” I use that all the time because if we’re just educating Christians, we’re not truly discipling, ’cause that means we’re not reproducing ourselves. And so I love that and I appreciate that. And I appreciate what SonLife does for my ministry and for what’s even happening here, as the guy who’s been doing this for a while now.
0:42:30.7 GS: And it encourage… It’s encouraging. I can speak for Doug. I know that you’re kind of the result of two ministries working together, and this is why I love the partnership with SonLife, and this is why I’m so excited they got back into youth ministry, because… As their primary focus because you’re walking, talking, living, breathing example in your youth group of the impact of evangelism and discipleship synergizing to make and multiply disciples. So you say, “Hey, I’m honored to be with you guys.” We’re honored to be with you, Nathan, because you’re actually living it out.
0:43:08.3 DH: Absolutely.
0:43:09.3 GS: You’re grinding it out in real life, and so we’re very, very grateful for you and your ministry.
0:43:13.0 NS: Well, it gets messy.
0:43:16.6 DH: You’re one of those guys who’s taken the training, taken the equipping, and actually you’re doing it. And, yes, it’s messy, but you’re seeing fruit, and that is so exciting.
0:43:32.4 NS: Well, it’s fun when 50% of your students that are being discipled are being discipled by other students. It freaks out church leadership, but it’s exciting to see how that that can happen, and it’s exciting to see how these kids own it at such a different level when they realize other students are counting on them to teach them what they’ve been taught. And so that to me is such a big deal and so important that we continue to do that because that’s where that chair three and those chair four believers wanna have somewhere that they’re looking to achieve to get to, and it becomes a permanent life change as you hear from kids in college. And we’ve got kids all over the world who’ve walked through this strategy from Chad, Africa, to Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s like all over the place…
0:44:20.8 DH: That’s awesome.
0:44:22.6 NS: Where there’s just all these kids who say, “Oh, I get to own this and I get to do this, and I’m doing this because I’ve fallen in love with Jesus, and he’s amazing.”
0:44:30.7 GS: Well, and everybody’s talking about taking care of yourself and make sure you don’t burn out. I think one of the reasons youth leaders are burning out is they’re trying to do all the discipleship themselves. And when you raise up disciple-makers, actually it gives you margin to be able to get away and rest and pray and entrust the work of the ministry to disciple-makers, whether they’re students or adults. Hey, we’re wrapping up here. So I just wanna finish with this. I wanna give you and Doug an opportunity. If there’s a youth leader that’s listening to this and maybe they wanna connect with you through social media or email, whatever your preferred method is of communication, how would youth leaders communicate with you guys?
0:45:20.0 DH: Nathan, how would they find you?
0:45:23.9 NS: How would they find me? @PastorNathanS is my Instagram, and I believe… I’m looking it up, I don’t even know what my Facebook one is. Or if they’d like to email me directly, they could email me at email@example.com. But yeah, look up First Baptist Church, Roswell and not Georgia but New Mexico, and you should be able to find me there, and I love being able to care about kids. I love being able to care about youth pastors. It’s something that’s a big deal to me.
0:45:54.9 GS: So Instagram is @PastorNathanS.
0:46:00.0 NS: Yes, sir.
0:46:00.3 GS: Boom. Got it. Cool, cool. Doug?
0:46:05.4 DH: Yeah, for me… Actually, just my name, Doug Holliday. You’ll find that at Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. So I got on all of those early enough that I actually owned my own name, so. [chuckle]
0:46:28.2 GS: There you go. There you go.
0:46:28.8 DH: So I can be found there. SonLife can be found as well on those various platforms, so.
0:46:33.7 GS: Great, I really encourage you guys, get to know Nathan, get to know Doug, get to know SonLife. It is a deep, deep honor. These are two really good friends, and I am so grateful for you, Doug, and you, Nathan, for all you do for the Kingdom. And as we wrap up here, I just wanna remind youth leaders, spread the word about this and remember that a thriving youth ministry is a gospel-advancing, disciple-multiplying youth ministry.
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