Student-led Ministries in Brazil

Here is a story that needs to be told. I think you will find the level of student ownership really encouraging.

I was at a set of meetings recently where I met Liege Lopes. She sits on the Brazilian national team. As expansion director, she oversees summer projects, catalytic movements and stint.

Over a lunch I asked about their student-led ministries in 25 cities in Brazil. Here is one example.

  • Elvia was Liege’s student leader in Natal. She was a very good leader. After graduation she married Neuber, a student in another city. For the next two years, Liege had no contact with Elvia and often wondered how she was doing. One day Liege received an email from Camila, a student on another campus in Picos. She said that her teacher, who turned out to be Elvia, told her to start a movement there and to contact Liege for help. Apparently, Elvia’s first step was to look for students to start movements. Her husband also started a movement on a university in yet another city. At this year’s student conference, many of the students attending came from those two campuses.

Liege has been on staff for eleven years now. She became a team leader in Rio and attended a catalytic training in 2004.

When the two who coached Brazilian campuses from a distance left staff in 2010, Liege was asked by her leadership to meet with the student leaders on those campuses. They were spread out in different five cities. She visited with all of them and learned all about their ministries.

While remaining team leader in Rio, she began to coach those leaders. In the meantime, Liege also became the coordinator for global and summer missions projects. The Brazilian national team sees the need to open in other cities and so they send projects to those cities to launch. But another key way to launch is with students. Liege and her student leaders follow up contacts left by those projects. Today there are ministries in 25 cities.

While the students have reproduced themselves, what, in effect has happened, are generations of cities with student-led ministries. The student leaders look at both their own city and their expansion team. Here is an example.

  • Since 2010, Liege has coached her three main leaders in Maceio. They have a leadership team of 9-12 and have about 90 students involved from the three big universities there.
  • That leadership team in Maceio provides leadership for the student leaders in another city, Arapiraca, with two main universities and 50 involved.
  • Leaders in Arapiraca give leadership to the leaders in Delmiro Gouveia with 30 involved and in Palmeira dos Indios where there are over 20 involved.

I found Liege’s manner rather matter of fact. She wasn’t trying to impress me with stories. In fact, I sort of had to pump her for examples, like this one:

Aline came to their conference in 2011. She attended Liege’s two hour workshop on starting movements. One handout talked about growing from 1-10. Six months later, Aline had 30 involved. She called Liege saying she didn’t know what to do, because the paper only showed how to grow to 10! Now Aline is doing movements in two other cities. Liege has never visited Aline’s city, nor has she ever met with her personally.

One last thing you need to know, Liege doesn’t even live in Brazil today. For the last year, she has been living in Texas attending Dallas Baptist University and majoring in global leadership. She supervises two men coaching student leaders in nine cities. But she is still coaching her leaders in 16 cities by Skype or by phone calls and she stays connected by Facebook.

As we were wrapping up, Liege asked if she could share some hints.

  • This is God’s work. Liege said she doesn’t have enough training and doesn’t think she is organized. She questions whether she is doing a good job or even doing things right. While Liege has a humble attitude about her own efforts, she believes God will work in big ways. She encourages others to look for God to work beyond what we are capable?
  • We have to be flexible. She has appointments with students at midnight. But Liege would not say she is a workaholic.
  • She is aware that students are busy. Many are studying and working, so we want to honor their efforts to serve and come alongside them. Sometimes she has all her leaders in a city on the call. Sometimes she Skypes into a leadership meeting. The students want to see her face.
  • Liege tailors her coaching to the needs of her leaders. She distance coaches with most every other week. But some she only calls monthly. She tries to visit each city once a year, but there are some she cannot.
  • She makes a point to answer emails and stays current on Facebook. She has a group on Facebook with all the leaders. They share ideas and have monitoring. The students are proud that they are sharing their faith.
  • Obstacles may be blessings in disguise. There is one very interesting dynamic that Liege has been able to take advantage of. School years stagger across the nation. Some are on vacation while others are in session. They send students on vacation to meet with students that are in class.

This is a great story and these are great hints, Liege. We are challenged by what you have seen God do. Your ministry is proof that students can lead at a very high level. Sometimes we forget that.

It’s obvious that God is doing something supernatural in Brazil. Let us keep praying for God to work in ways far beyond what our own labors can accomplish. May we be willing to put ourselves in places where He must work.


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