Fifty-six Iowa (and beyond!) teenagers are ready to take on the world today, inspired to be ambassadors for Christ by The FAMiLY LEADER’s first ever LEAD program.
LEAD challenges teens with a week of Christian worldview and leadership training, then culminates in hands-on experience as part of a mock legislature at the Iowa Capitol. But LEAD is far more than a “government camp,” for its primary focus is on encouraging and equipping young people to be Christ-like leaders in whatever field God places them.
“I loved the intensely practical, yet discipleship-focused ministry that happened this week at LEAD,” said Greg Baker, TFL’s vice president of church engagement. “This may be one of the best things The FAMiLY LEADER has ever done.”
One mom even brought her son and a friend all the way from Eugene, Oregon, to attend.
“We’ve been to a lot of camps, and LEAD has reset the bar,” said Oregon mom Julie Stream, who also observed throughout the week. “The teens are charged to be the difference, to go out and influence the world. … And the LEAD staff have such a heart for the students. They’re strong, solid leaders that you want to teach your children so that they will have that same inspiration and influence.”
An organization called Student Statesmanship Institute pioneered LEAD in Michigan 25 years ago and helped TFL bring the program to Iowa for the first time this summer.
The 56 LEAD students spent the week on the campus of Grand View University in Des Moines, learning from a variety of instructors, including Dr. Del Tackett of The Truth Project, Pastor Todd Stiles of First Family Church in Ankeny, football Chaplain Chris Barr, and more. Then at the Capitol, teens worked with actual Iowa legislators and registered lobbyists to develop speeches the teens eventually delivered in the Capitol’s former Iowa State Supreme Court chambers.
Iowa State Rep. Chris Hagenow of Urbandale was one of the legislators who led the students in a mock committee meeting, where the students discussed and debated actual bills that have come before the Iowa Legislature.
“LEAD is a great program to help get the next generation of Iowans more involved in the process, understanding how to have a better civic dialogue,” Hagenow said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”
“I appreciate this process for how realistic it is for our students,” echoed Iowa State Rep. Kevin Koester of Ankeny, who also led a student committee meeting. “They get a good taste of action at the Capitol and of the divisiveness of important issues. They did an excellent job of preparing, and I’m impressed just to be a part of this process with these kids. They’re good!”
The LEAD staff also came away thoroughly impressed with the teens.
“You hear too often discouraging headlines about today’s youth,” said TFL Multimedia Director Glen Cornell. “But I was so encouraged by this group of teens. This LEAD week revealed they have much more to contribute than we realize and represent so much hope for our future. They’re amazing!”
The FAMiLY LEADER welcomed this opportunity to engage students with LEAD because of TFL’s commitment to inspiring Christ-like leadership in the home, the church, and the government.
“These kids are the future,” explains Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER, “and it means a lot to invest in them in every way that we can, especially counter-culturally to what they receive elsewhere, with a program that is Christ-centered.”
Bob was particularly grateful for a question one of the students asked during a Q & A session, wondering how to live out the biblical example of servant leadership as a senior on his high school football team. The young man wanted to transform the “privileged senior” culture of his team’s locker room into a “building others up” mentality.
“That kind of leadership is a tangible way to not only impact a football team, but also to impact your school, your church, your family, your community,” Vander Plaats said afterward. “These students have a lot of ways to make an impact, and I think what you’re going to see here is 56 kids who are going to be ambassadors for Christ.”