Insights Double-Edge

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Insight transforms ministry. But it comes with a price.

Last month, I had the privilege of walking leaders through the principles of transformational discipleship. At the start, I asked: What do you hope to gain from the Transformational Youth Ministry workshop? 

Responses varied, yet they all seemed to echo a single need: Insight – they sought insights into how to better serve urban youth.

Scriptures place a high premium on insight:

 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:  for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight … Proverbs 1:1-2

I have more insight than all my teachers,  for I meditate on your statutes. Psalm 119:99

My decades-long quest to discover how to animate (bring to life) leadership capacity among youth was in many ways a search for insight. But I discovered that insight comes with a price. Insight demands change. 

  • Neighborhood Ministries gave me the freedom to apply new insights into youth engagements. Over time the summer program evolved from a vacation Bible school, to running mountain camps, to a neighborhood children’s camp led by adolescent leaders. Insights guided us into bringing our summer activities into alignment with our stated purpose.
  • Many organizations struggle with this. Form should follow function. But what happens when insight requires adjusting our form in order to fulfill our function? Like the rich man confronted with the one thing he lacked, many walk away sad (Matthew 19:22).

The animation (bringing to life) of capacity among youth in higher risk communities remains under-valued. Many a youth leader has cried out: “I don’t know how to help them!” as s/he laments the seemingly miniscule time spent with youth compared to the enormity of negative influences youth face every day. No wonder leaders are hungry for greater insight!

But there is good news. The world stage is set for youth leaders to accomplish what God’s people have done throughout the ages: spark transformation from within hard places. Insights, embedded in principles, precepts and models, fill the pages of scripture and history. The leader’s task is to rediscover and infuse them into today’s youth ministry contexts

How do we do that? How do we discover, and then apply, insight?


Did you know we are commanded to make transformation an ongoing personal experience? We are commanded to replace the conforming influence of current worldviews with continual transformation, as God builds within us a Kingdom-of-God perspective (Romans 12:2). This means we are called to gain new insights on living and serving every day

How do we discover and then apply insight? Start with yourself. Be aware and intentional about growing as an insightful person.

Think Holistic 

It is easy, in our compartmentalized world, to view leadership as something to turn on and off, like a 9-to-5 job. But true leadership is holistic, it is not a task or job but one’s real life. This is important, because insights into urban youth development are holistic. The insight needed to transform a young life is insight into life itself.

How do we discover and apply insight? Think holistically. Search for the truths that touch all of life.

Be Proactive

Stephen Covey describes proactivity as “the first and most basic habit of a highly effective person.” 

… as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.

Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Insight into youth development will inherently be proactive. Insight will push you and the youth you serve toward renewed thinking and responsible action. 

How do we discover and apply insight? Be proactive. Prepare yourself to rethink, take responsibility and act on what you’ve learned


“They sought insights into how to better serve urban youth …” Community development veteran Robert Lupton referred to transforming youth in hard places as: “… arguably the most difficult ministry challenge of our day.”

It will take courage, to be sure. And insight. But leaders who grow their insight, think holistically and face life proactively will rise to the challenge.

Ted 2/26/2021