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NAMB to participate in joint venture to develop Christian leaders of future

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–A leadership training program for Christian youth founded by evangelist Jay Strack will be joined by the North American Mission Board next year in its efforts “to enable, empower, and equip students to conquer the future with confidence.”
The Southern Baptist agency will sponsor two weeklong sessions of Student Leadership University, which combines behind-the-scenes experiences at Orlando’s Sea World and Universal Studios with intensive classroom-style training. The NAMB sessions will be targeted especially for students considering the ministry and student leaders in First Priority campus clubs.
“We want to do everything we can to be involved in building the next generation. And (Student Leadership University) is doing a great job in being one of the building blocks for that next generation,” said Bob Reccord, NAMB president. “Jay is an outstanding leader among young people. … And for me anyplace we do a strategic alliance, the people we do it with have to have a track record of credibility and integrity.”
Student Leadership University, a subsidiary of the Orlando-based Jay Strack Association, grew out of Strack’s experience speaking at the Air Force Academy on a number of occasions, according to Rafael Luciano, director of development for Student Leadership University.
“He really received a burden there for students,” Luciano said. Strack’s impression was “if this is the best of the best, then we are really in trouble, because many are really lacking in core values. … What about the thousands of other students who are of this caliber of leadership but do not have a sense of direction?”
Beginning with 36 students, the program has expanded to five week-long sessions this year of the basic SLU-101 session, which offers concentrated training in leadership skills from a biblical perspective and biblical apologetics. Other sessions now include SLU-201 in Washington, which combines further leadership training with political awareness and training in public policy issues, and SLU-301 in Israel, which addresses similar issues from the Holy Land setting.
Luciano said NAMB’s involvement in the Orlando SLU-101 program especially will bolster SLU’s evangelism emphasis. The two weeks sponsored by NAMB will include one additional day that will allow the introduction of comprehensive evangelistic training coupled with a hands-on missions/evangelism experience, he said. And the remaining weeks of the standard SLU-101 curriculum will include an added evangelism component with strong NAMB involvement.
“We feel like we’re going to fulfill our mission and come full circle with what we’re trying to do with students,” Luciano said. “Now they’re not going to be limited to just leadership skills that only relate to them in a workplace and church environment, but we’re teaching them to share their faith.”
Len Taylor, director of student evangelism for NAMB, said discussion of some form of partnership with Student Leadership University has been in the works at least since the agency’s founding last year.
“We see a big need to train leaders among our students — junior high, high school, and college — in the area of evangelism,” Taylor said. “Our hope is that we can be more proactive in evangelistic strategies in local churches, and we feel like the best way to get that done is start training the leadership that will be pastors later on.
“That’s part of what this conference does,” he continued. “It’s not for every person in the youth group. It’s for the cream of the crop, the sharpest people in the youth group, those ready to handle that type of leadership.”
Such synergistic partnerships have become an integral part of NAMB’s strategy for fulfilling its goals of reaching North America for Christ. In a related example, NAMB formed a strategic alliance earlier this year to work hand-in-hand with First Priority in its mission of helping facilitate Christian clubs in public school campuses. The week of specialized leadership training through SLU for First Priority leaders is one of the fruits of that alliance.
In a development that points to the need for such advanced leadership training, Reccord said one of the biggest changes he has seen in recent years has been an increased level of Christian maturity among junior high youth.
“When I go and speak, the questions I get from junior high blow me over,” he said. “They are amazing. They are insightful. They are focused. They are thinking. And part of that is they are growing up so much faster. And so on the front edge and at an earlier age, junior high (youth) are getting to understand they can make a difference.”
He said it is a tribute to churches and improved LifeWay Christian Resources Sunday school curriculum that students are being seriously challenged in their Christian discipleship at an earlier age.
“I don’t think there’s hardly anything I could do more important than what I did here,” he said after leading a day and a half of one SLU 101 session. “Because maybe I can help add a building block here or there for young people who have a whole long distance in their run to make a difference.”

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  • James Dotson