Transforming the Culture of Youth Ministry


“Many of Christ’s initial disciples were teenagers.”

That simple statement from a college professor, along with a study of the Harmony of the Gospels and Jesus’ leadership methods, sparked the supernatural movement of Sonlife. In September of 1979, the first Sonlife Strategy Conference convened with 22 youth pastors in Wheaton, Illinois.

We’re as committed today—as we were then—to training next generation leaders in developing disciple making ministries. Over 750,000 leaders have been through some aspect of Sonlife training. Over 50 organizations globally have identified Sonlife as their training partner. Generations of disciple makers have been multiplied and sent out into the harvest field.

After years of careful study of the life of Christ, we’ve become convinced that Matthew 28:18-20 is the most concise summary of Christ’s life on earth. Our charge is to study Christ’s life and to perpetuate His life mission. Everything we have learned about Christ’s life has taught us that His purpose was about creating a movement of multiplication that would result in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.


Join the Sonlife team, who wrote this article, at this year’s National Disciple Making Forum in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is one of the largest gatherings of disciple makers in North America with 65+ workshops, 15+ speakers, and 10+ tracks. Join us to learn practical ways to make disciples of Jesus this November 9-10 (Thursday-Friday). Register for the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum here.


Sonlife trains, coaches, and mentors leaders, providing a fresh encounter with Jesus as our model for making and multiplying disciples.

Our process is simple. BE. BUILD. BEGIN:

  • BE a disciple maker
  • BUILD a disciple making ministry
  • BEGIN a disciple making movement.

When I first stepped into my current role as Executive Director, Dann Spader, our founder, asked me, “What’s our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? What’s the vision?” My response was immediate; it was something God had burdened my heart with for several years:

“I want Sonlife to be a part of transforming the culture of youth ministry in North America, restoring it to the disciple making heart of Jesus.”

Not long after that, we got more specific. What would that transformation look like? By 2025 to have 30,000 local church leaders equipped and mobilized to lead disciple making ministries across North America.  These leaders would be equipping the emerging generation in disciple making as seen in the life of Christ, resulting in a disciple multiplying movement with thousands coming to Christ each year, growing in their faith, and being sent from everywhere to everywhere.

We’re excited to be facilitating a track at the National Disciple Making Forum in Nashville, Tennessee this November 9-10. At this year’s Forum, we’ll be exploring what it looks like to transform the culture of youth ministry in North America, restoring it to the disciple making heart of Jesus, discussing questions like:

  • How can we use Jesus as our model in youth ministry?
  • What does a healthy youth ministry look like?
  • What does a healthy disciple look like?
  • How can we equip students to become disciples who make disciples?
  • What are the pitfalls and roadblocks we can expect to face if we want to transition to the relational disciple-making model of Jesus?

Why 30,000? We believe that if we can effectively impact 10 percent of the churches in North America to be fully committed to the disciple making model of Jesus, we will reach a tipping point that will result in a culture shift. Will you be counted among the 30,000? Join us at the Disciple Making Forum in Nashville by clicking here.

Written by Doug Holliday, Executive Director, Sonlife Ministries


Learn more about Sonlife here.

Forum speakers:

  • Calvin Russell
  • Dann Spader
  • Joel Zaborowski

Image Credit:

jens johnsson

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One thought on “Transforming the Culture of Youth Ministry

  1. I have enjoyed the benefit on Sonlife Ministries and Dann Spader for 24 plus years in vocational ministry. Now in Australia for over 10 years the need is still great around the world. I look forward to helping this vision be accomplished in North America when we return in 2018!

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