5 Methods to Ongoing Development

Steve Cullum
March 8th, 2021

Leaders are learners, right? You have probably heard this saying many times. Maybe it’s a cliché, but it still rings true. If we are going to lead well, we have to keep learning and growing. 

My wife and I have often said we’d love to go back to college and experience that again: Constantly being in a state of development with professors pouring into us. Maybe that’s an option for you, but for most of us, it isn’t. Not only is it expensive, but also requires time that many of us do not have. 

Ongoing development doesn’t have to be that difficult or costly. In fact, it is much simpler than you might think. 

Here are five simple ways to keep growing:


When I think back to my days as a volunteer leader, an intern, and a resident, one of the best aspects was having a leader who I could go to almost any time with questions, ideas, and more. You don’t have to say goodbye to that once you graduate into a part-time or full-time role. There are a number of ministry coaches that can provide that kind of care, encouragement, and more. If your church does not naturally provide this for their staff, I highly recommend looking into hiring yourself a coach. You can get a one-on-one coach, or you could join a cohort with a handful of other youth workers. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend checking out The Youth Cartel, KMC Coaching, Ministry Boost, or LeaderTreks.


One of my favorite ways to grow is going to a conference. In a way, it gives me a similar feeling to when I was in college, but for a shorter time and much less expensive. Not only do you get to hear first-hand from some amazing leaders, you can also chat with others to see what they are doing, learning, and experiencing in their ministry. Conferences often bring people from all over the world, so while you’re attending, take advantage of the perspective you can gain. Even in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are online conferences you can attend from the comfort of your own home, which also makes them much less expensive. One of the best events is YS’ own National Youth Worker Convention. I also recommend The Orange Conference.  


We cannot do this alone. In addition to our dependence upon God, we need each other. Not only does networking allow us to gain encouragement, accountability, and prayer from other youth workers around us, but it also gives us a place to sharpen each other. If you are not involved in a local network of youth workers, you need to change that right away. One of the best resources for those in the US is the National Network of Youth Ministries. They have lists of current networks. If you cannot find one in your area, they also have resources to help you start a network. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  


Some of you do not like reading. So here is where podcasts come into play. Similar to blogs, there are plenty of podcasts out there. Some are strictly teaching-style, while others focus on interviews or discussion among the hosts. They all have their place, so I recommend checking out a few different styles. I especially like listening to interviews and discussions, as it helps me when I hear others processing things out loud and digging into a particular idea or question beyond what you would in a sermon or lesson. While I do have my own podcast, and I would love for you to subscribe, I want to also highlight some of my favorites: Rethinking Youth Ministry, Carey Nieuwhof’s Leadership Podcast, Free Refills, and Youth Ministry Sherpas.


I know what you’re thinking. Really, you’re going to tell us to read? Yes. While this method might be one of the oldest on the list, it still rings true today. The field of youth ministry has been brimming with amazing books by excellent leaders and thinkers. Some of the best research has been coming from the Fuller Youth Institute. But don’t stop there. Read commentaries, leadership, and business books too. And then there are blogs. You already have this one down at some level, since you are reading the YS blog. There is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom at our fingertips. And for those who have less time, blogs are much shorter than books. If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, I recommend reading other blogs like this one, which contain posts from a number of different youth ministry leaders. A few you should add to your list include Orange Leaders, Download Youth Ministry, and The Youth Cartel. I also recommend reading books and blogs that both challenge you but also help you reinforce what you already know. A balanced approach will help you become a more well-rounded ministry leader.

If we want to continue to develop as leaders, we need to continue developing, learning, and growing. As US President John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” So let’s pursue coaching, attend conferences, network with other youth workers, listen to podcasts, and read in order to continue to develop as disciples, leaders, and youth workers.

Steve Cullum

Steve Cullum is the student pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, CO, where he oversees their ministry to sixth through twelfth grade students and their families. He also hosts The Student Ministry Podcast and volunteers for the National Network of Youth Ministries. You can follow him on Twitter @stevecullum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.