This week’s 5 questions is with Joel Mayward, author of The Youth Cartel’s new book, Leading Up. Here’s our interaction about his life, his new book and a little insight in leading from the middle:

Who is Joel Mayward?
I’m a pastor, husband, father, and writer currently living and doing ministry in Langley, British Columbia. I’ve been leading in youth ministry since I was 16, and have been in full-time ministry for about 6 years. I love movies, writing, coffee, drumming, reading, hiking, discipleship, and Jesus, but not in that order.

Love the idea of leading up – where have you seen this done well in your current ministry?
I recently moved from Arizona to British Columbia, and have only been at my new church for two months. I have to practice what I preach in Leading Up, learning how to navigate the systems and sacred cows of my new church context, and intentionally take the time to build relational equity with my fellow church leaders. I’m relearning everything, having to start over in a new church and rebuild relationships. It’s a deeply humbling and transformative process, which is what leading up is all about.

Leading up can be so difficult because we’re stuck in the middle as youth workers. What is one key thing to avoid to make sure our leadership is not overlooked?
Being “stuck in the middle” sounds more gloomy than the reality of our role–we are key members of the body of Christ, called by the Spirit of God and equipped to lovingly build up the whole church while focusing our time and energy on teenagers. It all comes back to recognizing my identity and calling in Christ; I’m not just a “youth worker,” I’m a beloved child of God, uniquely gifted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. Leading up is far more empowering when I realize that it’s not about me, it’s about the vision and calling Christ has given me. Leadership is a gift, not an entitlement or obligation.

The book is a great and easy read. Why choose the youth ministry story/fable approach?
Originally, the book felt like a bunch of random concepts and tools about leading up, making it both very short and very boring. I love movies and compelling stories, and knew the various “leading up” experiences of many of my friends and partners in ministry needed to be shared well through a fictional narrative. Logan’s story is true in the sense that truth is larger than just facts, and art reflects our life and experience. I have to thank Mark Oestreicher for giving me the suggestion to write the book as a leadership fable, and the encouragement to keep writing. The characters and story took off from there!

What is next for you?
I’m hoping and praying that Leading Up would be an encouragement to leaders in the church, both in the youth ministry tribe and beyond. I’d love to hear the stories of young leaders choosing to stay in churches and embrace their calling, seeing their churches transformed through a leadership of grace. There are all sorts of other book ideas percolating in my mind. It’s literally a dream come true to write this book, and I hope to keep humbly writing and sharing and speaking and leading in the season to come.

JG