Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders 4.5 Questions with Duffy Robbins

4.5 Questions with Duffy Robbins

As often as I can, I will ask someone to chime in with their thoughts on leadership. I asked my good buddy Duffy Robbins to be my first guinea pig for my new blog. Many reasons I chose Duffy: (1) he’s smart, (2) I respect his life, (3) we are in New York together right now (with our wives), and (4) he was willing.

Duffy is a prolific youth ministry author (see some of his books here), an incredible communicator, and a professor of youth ministry at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.

1. What is your definition of leadership?

I like Howard Gardner’s definition of leadership: “Leaders are individuals who significantly influence the thoughts, behaviors, and/or feelings of others.” It reminds me that influence is not about a title; it’s about impact. Some people lead from the front, some lead from the back, and some lead alongside. But leaders are people who invest and influence.

2. What’s an important tip you have to share about leading others?

Christian leadership is about shepherding, and shepherding is about care. That means being willing to lay down one’s life for the sheep (cf. John 10:10-15). I once heard a leader complain that he had to leave a congregation because the people were “just moving too slowly; they weren’t ready for change.” It sounds radical and visionary, but it also sounds like really bad shepherding: “I had to leave the sheep behind because they couldn’t keep up.” When we’re no longer willing to shepherd, we’re no longer suited to the task of Christian leadership.

3. What’s your biggest failure/weakness as a leader?

Lack of patience! I’m like the guy I just referenced in question #2. I’m neither radical nor visionary; I just find it inconvenient to lay down my life! I have a hard time allowing God to do the slow work of maturity in others, especially when it costs my time, my plans, and my stress. I want people to be ready to serve, ready to learn, ready to move forward, and fully engaged. But, of course, anybody could lead a group like that. It doesn’t require a leader; it just takes someone willing to get out of the way. A leader is someone who is willing to nurture, develop, grow, and cultivate people who are not yet ready to serve, lead, or move forward. And that takes patience. Of course, at the heart of my lack of patience, if I’m honest, is ingratitude, because it overlooks the fact that all the frustrations I feel about shepherding others are precisely the frustrations and obstacles God has faced in me. And not just God, but all those many people He has used (and still uses) to make me into the man He wants me to be.

4. What do you do to keep growing as a leader?

Reading is a big part of it. It keeps the mind alive and the vision clear. That’s pretty key for leaders. But maybe even more important: reading is fundamentally an act of humility. Not only is it a willingness to submit to the discipline of learning, which usually takes place away from the spotlight, but, also, at its most basic, reading is nothing less than a willingness to sit at the feet of another person (the author). And whether washing (John 13) or learning, that’s almost always a good place for those of us in leadership.

4.5 What is your favorite __________?

Fast food: Chick-fil-A. Music: Up-tempo Blues with lots of horns. Place: The beautiful low country of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Restaurant: Momma Brown’s Barbecue in Charleston, SC (close second: Palmetto Pig, also Charleston, SC).  

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Doug Fields has been in youth ministry since 1979 and former pastor to students at Saddleback Church in Southern California. He's the author of 50+ books, including the best-selling Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry & Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry. He's also the founder of Simply Youth Ministry, an instructor at Azusa Pacific University/HomeWord, and on the leadership team with Youth Specialties. You can connect with Doug through his blog at www.downloadyouthministry.com! More from Doug Fields or visit/subscribe to Doug's blog at www.dougfields.com