By Shannon Baker
MIDDLETOWN, Md.—It was a fun activity, but it had a deeper message. As nearly 20 teenagers took turns bouncing a beach ball to each other, they had to answer a question inscribed on the ball. Where was your favorite vacation? Most embarrassing moment? What time do you wake up in the mornings?
It all seemed a great way to get to know each other—until Doug DuBois quizzed the participants on what each of their peers’ answers were.
As awkward laughter erupted as most struggled to answer. Then DuBois brought home his point. The exercise wasn’t just about getting to know each other. It was about really listening—something that he confesses is hard for him to do.
The students, drawn in by the realness of DuBois, leaned in to listen. They had gathered for the May 2014 Leadership Lab retreat, one of two, which are held each year to build the next generation of student leaders to lead like Jesus.
Lately, DuBois has viewed these students as “change agents with eternity in mind.” “That is, I believe we need to take a look at our future church planters… ministry leaders and spend some time showing them what a Christ-like leader is… someone who focuses more on an eternity-focus instead of a selfish focus,” he said.
“How can they be tomorrow’s church? My challenge to them is that it needs to start today. It’s nice to say they will be future leaders, but I believe they are leaders now. The challenge is to help them fine-tune their skills and then challenge them to go forward—and go right now.”
During this year’s retreats, DuBois challenged the teenagers to come up with a ministry project they would develop, own and implement.
“You are not going to learn about leadership, you are going to lead,” DuBois told them.
Neena Rodriguez (pictured right), an 11th grader from Meade Senior High School in Ft. Meade, Md., shared how. “We spent two days in Leadership Lab talking and really getting into the purpose of our ministry. We wrote out a lot of ideas, organized them and shared them with each other.”
Rodriguez, a member of Hope Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., wanted to do something to give the homeless a head start in life.
“I want to have some way to provide water, food, and a clean place to live, while others could help with job skills training,” she said, sharing her idea about tiny houses, small dwellings that are less costly than traditional homes. “These houses would be stepping stools to get there.”
The team struggled with how much money it would take to do this project. But another ministry idea did take off. The students suggested having a trailer that could be brought into different areas to do ministry. They could stock the trailer with whatever was needed for ministry – food, tables, even a movie projector and screen – that could be used at block parties and other community events where the gospel could be shared.
To assist the students, DuBois offered use of two Amped Ministry trailers, which prompted other questions: How much is insurance? Who would drive the trailers? How can they pay for the supplies?
One student suggested they request donations from area businesses. Another suggested speaking to their individual churches for assistance.
And even though it was getting late, the ministry ideas kept flowing—as did the leadership development of these students. And the number of leaders is growing, too.
Nearly 110 high school students from 39 churches voluntarily attended Leadership Lab training sessions at 6:30 each morning during the reCHARGE summer camp at Skycroft this past summer.
Rodriguez was one of them. “Doug really makes you want to be a leader,” she said, echoing his encouragement: “You can do this with God! You can make this possible!”
She paused in thought. “I still have the idea of Tiny Houses in my mind,” she said.
Upcoming Teen Leadership Training Events
• reCHARGE is a 6-day, 5-night retreat for students 6th-12th grade, held in June
• Anchor 6:19 is a one-night girls’ retreat based on Hebrews 6:19, held in October
• Project Sentinel is a one-night guys’ retreat where guys will learn how to be a man of God, held in October
• Leadership Lab is a one-night retreat where students learn how to lead like Jesus, held twice a year (also offered during reCHARGE)
• reBOOT is a 3-day, 2-night mini-version of reCHARGE, held in December and January