This week represents the end of our third season, the beginning of our fourth season of INFLUNSR. as a functional resource to and for the next generation of leaders worth following. The INFLUNSR. team cannot thank you enough for your patience with us through immense growing pains, a pandemic, our own fearless leader’s personal fight with COVID-19 and subsequent recovery, and everything else in between.
What a journey it has been thus far….
Long before INFLUNSR. became a functioning reality, it was our deepest belief and conviction that the entity with the monopoly on purpose — faith communities of every shape and size — should be the place that champions high school students most to discover how their respective purpose transposes into the real world, in real time. We — people who consider ourselves Jesus followers — have sold a less-than-inspiring story to the next generation. What has been spoken into the lives of the next generation regarding the vision and purpose for their life has been simply boring and underwhelming.
And wherever there is void, a counterfeit semblance of purpose will always fill the space.
That has happened in our culture. What has formed as a result of our less than inspiring narrative for the next generation is social media influencers who expedite their climb to the top of the social-media pyramid by purchasing followers in order to inflate their engagement metrics. In the process, what it means to be influential has been perverted and skewed. The next generation equate influence with fame. Mike Cosper, Director of Podcasting for Christianity Today, where he hosts The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and Cultivated: A Podcast about Faith and Work, articulated this best recently when he said:
”“What we have today is not just fame without virtue, but fame without action. We have a culture where gathering a following and broadcasting yourself is a skill set…. Being famous is a skill set.” Coster also said adds, “… in a secular age, celebrity itself is the closest thing we have to spiritual transcendence. It’s the one place where people last. Icon is a sacred term.”
Influence and those that lead means something completely different than what it should to the next generation. Being iconic seems to be the deepest desire of so many. But here is what is true: the most convincing sign that someone is really living their best life is their lack of desire to show the world they’re living their best life. That is what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 23:11-12 (The Message) “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”
And that is why INFLUNSR. exists.
We want to help high school students develop a world view that doesn’t see culture as an enemy but a platform for doing good in the world. We want to challenge high school students to inject themselves into highly challenging roles and scenarios on their respective campuses, in their communities, with their peers, and yes: in their faith communities. We think high school students assigned to short-term, high-importance task teams will help them understand the nuts and bolts of being a difference maker, allowing caring adults an opportunity to give real-time feedback as they experience and learn.
We think mentors that believe in the next generation and their desire to be influential can offer them relevant and practical principles and truths that help shape their world-view and leadership capacity. Our vision is that every senior graduates out of their respective faith community youth ministry with at least a personal mission statement and three next steps towards the best version of the person God created them to be. We think we can help the next generation start connecting the dots with their passion, gift set and their purpose for existence.
That is what beats in our hearts: to see students forsake archaic and religious ideas of what it means to be spiritually influential and develop a Kingdom worldview that enables them to be culturally relevant and influential for the name and renown of Jesus.
We want to help the next generation of leaders worth following be great at the things that should happen a lot: integrity, humility, courage, excellence and grit. We want teenagers to understand and exemplify the reality that you cannot follow Jesus well if you see no difference between someone’s value and your opinion of them. Everything that is small isn’t necessarily “kingdom” and everything that is big isn’t necessarily “empire.”
Simply stated: Leadership is a privilege. It’s also a responsibility. When we build others up and develop potential in others, we are acting on our divine responsibility. The true measure of influence is not the authority you command or the number of followers you have. Your success as a leader — an influencer — is how much good people do thanks to your presence. Your legacy as a leader is how much good people keep doing in your absence.
It’s not the position that makes you a leader.
It’s the leader that makes the position.
And it will never matter what that position is.
So as we start our fourth season of INFLUNSR., may we all circle back around this profound, life-altering truth: leadership begins the moment you are more concerned about others’ flourishing than you are about your own.
Be anxious to matter.
STUART HALL | DIRECTOR