Importance Of Team: Christian Leadership Lessons From Jim Rayburn


“[Jim Rayburn] was one of the greatest Christians I ever knew, and he had a profound influence on my life.” – Billy Graham

I recently finished From Bondage to Liberty: Dance Children, Dance, a biography of Jim Rayburn Jr., the founder of the international para-church organization Young Life (YL). The story of his life and of how Young Life began was completely fascinating to me. I highly recommend it.

What intrigued me most about the book and about Jim was that in Young Life circles, at least the ones I was involved in, Jim was talked about very little. I was involved with Young Life for ten years and on staff for four, and yet all I knew about the man who started this organization was that he was a likeable guy who had a big vision. 

When speaking about the book, a good friend who worked on staff at one of his flagship camp properties for a long time asked me, “Was it his ghost that wandered the halls at night asking for ice cream?” Very little is known about the man, who seems more of myth than of reality.

A big reason why he isn’t discussed, I discovered, is because Jim was removed from leadership of the organization and not asked back. There were complicated issues surrounding his leaving, but in short, he was left behind with very little transition. Though this happened nearly fifty years ago, we at VSG hear stories like Jim's quite often. 

Here are two simple Christian leadership lessons that can be learned from Jim’s story as you think about your own ministry:

1) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Towards the end of his time with Young Life, Jim’s speaking schedule was nearly unbearable, coupled with some medical issues that needed time to recover. Seek help from others who can either carry some of your load or help you organize your team to take some of the load. Though Christian leadership is a long and tough road, it doesn’t have to be taken alone.

2) Continue to build up Christian leadership around you.

One of the questions that Jim wrestled with after his own Young Life ministry was, "How have these people with whom I have shared ministry turned a cold shoulder?" Because you are in a position of Christian leadership, you need to be continually building into the leaders on your team with the vision and values of your church or organization. Take time to mentor and train your ministry leaders. The time investment will be well worth it!

When you're in the trenches of Christian leadership, it can be difficult to find the time to slow down, reevaluate the health of you and your organization, and intentionally build into the people around you. However, your lack of doing so may burn out your team and be the death of your ministry.

We'll be talking about how to practically begin buildling healthy Christian leadership teams at our coaching event Take the Lid Off Your Church with our friend Tony Morgan in Houston on February 28th. You can register here. All are welcome. We'd love to see you there!