Being a Shepherding Leader – Shawn Naylor

Lee Lethers Podcast

What kind of leaders produce future leaders? Our guest on the podcast this week is Shawn Naylor. Shawn is a national speaker with Youth for Christ in Canada. He has a passion for young people and loves communicating to them. Brian and Shawn talk about what shepherding leadership looks like and how we can live it out in our life and ministry.

Leadership is one of the most important parts of ministry

Shawn learned a lot from watching his father lead his family, saw examples of both good and bad leadership in sports, and through sports also ultimately learned how leadership can potentially changes the lives of young people.

Shepherding Leadership:

A shepherd audaciously faces God’s plan, taking on the bear and the lion.

Shepherding Leadership includes the ability to move a group of people from one place to another, knowing that someone else will step in and continue after you.

A shepherd deals with both individuals and collective groups, communicating the same things in accordingly different ways.

A shepherd lays down his life, literally lying in the opening of the sheepfold. Nothing goes in or out without first going through the shepherd.

Shawn’s Experience:

Be aware that one style of leadership is not going to work with everyone you lead. While we all have some things in common, God made us all individuals with unique needs.


Lead your people with grace and you will know them by their fruits.

“I lead young people on the basis that I am going to have to pick up after them.” First give them the easy and fun responsibility, then add both a completely new responsibility and one you know will stretch them. This allows for the best results out of one, while stretching the weaker muscles with the others.

Our weaknesses often hold us back from using our strengths. Create a solution to grow yourself in your weaknesses enough to be realistically doable, while allowing your strengths to thrive.

For example: Shawn uses a template to organize his preaching: one that doesn’t make the message feel ingenuine but allows the Word of God to take center stage.

These systems also make possible the continuation and delegation of leadership. Someone would be able to adopt your system and keep moving forward with it in hand.

For youth leaders and ministers:

A good shepherd knows when to say no in order to keep balance. At some point you are going to have to say no to your own leadership and this will show your rising leaders how and when to do so themselves.

Shepherds also know that their time is going to come up, so they train someone to pick up where they left off.

Do you have an Indoor or Outdoor youth group? You need to be aware of which your ministry leans towards in order to start growing into a balance of both.

  • Indoor: This group grows within its own culture. Students grow together and study the Bible together.
  • Outdoor: This group grows and stretches. They might take over a church service, invite friends in, and join in partnerships with other ministries.

A shepherd moves and grows those he leads, while at the same time being ready and willing to step in when needed. A word of caution to the Servant-leadership concept: it can turn into a slave mindset, where people run over you, and you do everything yourself. In this mindset you are not developing anybody else and thus not preparing for the future. Delegation is required to develop other leaders. You need to be getting the people you lead up and moving too.

When growing your flock, ask God to reveal the rising leaders. Find out which sheep are your best, so you can discern which responsibilities to give some as opposed to others. Shawn’s best example: Some of the best future leaders he has found are the ones who, when helping out on a talent show, are willing to pretend they have a talent for the success of the event.

Identify the leaders early, because they will manifest early. Around ages 16 and 17 students will start to manifest as leaders, and around ages 18 and 19 you can start challenging them on their processes of thinking, planning, doing and being.

Teach your rising leaders that leadership is not about them, but to focus their people on God.

Closing thoughts:

Leaders are not perfect. We don’t know all the answers and its okay to admit that you don’t know what you are doing half the time.

The greatest advances in leadership come when you realize you are not the solution. Tell God in ultimate submission that you don’t know what to do. This is key in leadership, as long as you don’t stay there. Search the answer out in scripture. Remember, moving forward is good, even if you end up falling forward.

Shawn has a book entitled, “Do,” coming out soon (Sept/Oct). It is one of a four-part series.

Contact Shawn: Find him with his name, Shawn Naylor, on Facebook and Instagram or at