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Leadership for Growth:

Zoe Servant Leaders

Zoe leaders are “servant leaders”.  “The greatest among you will be your servant,” said Jesus in Matthew 23:11.  Servant leaders can be described as community organizers.  The iconic organizer, Saul Alinsky, made this distinction in his classic book, “Rules for Radicals”:  “The leader is driven by the desire for power, while the organizer is driven by the desire to create.  The organizer is in a true sense reaching for the highest level for which (people) can reach – to create…”


The Zoe servant leader/organizer leads by noticing, encouraging, and attending to rising Zoe servant leaders and Zoe members.  Again from Alinsky:  “This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer.  The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield the power for purposes both social and personal.  He wants power himself.  The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use.”  The servant leader creates power to give away to other leaders in the Zoe group so that they can create power to give away to the members of the Zoe community – and from Zoe to the campus and the wider world.


Zoe is leaderful.  Activists for radical social change take this approach to leadership in their organizations.  The Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 is an example.  If one leader was arrested and put in jail, another would immediately fill the role.  “Otpor”, the student resistance movement in Serbia against the dictator Milosevic, was leaderful.  Many if not most of its participants functioned as a collective leadership, so that the dictatorship could not snuff out the movement by picking off the people “in charge”.  How leaderful can your Zoe chapter be, without becoming too slow and cumbersome in making decisions? 

Zoe servant leaders promote and facilitate 100% participation (see the 10 Principles of Burning Man), including everyone and listening to every idea, fostering creative problem-solving, sustaining trust and collaboration, accepting responsibility for actions, receiving and acting on constructive criticism, “leading from behind” so that new leaders can celebrate the joys of leadership, avoiding taking credit, and not flinching from taking blame.  Zoe servant leaders make themselves dispensable!  - so that other servant leaders can rise:  “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness.” Philippians 2: 5-7

Zoe servant leaders create the conditions for deep friendship and strong community.  That means they are not “talking heads” that dominate gatherings, but instead stimulate full participation by those who attend.  Instead of “face-forward” gatherings where everyone is supposed to listen to one person at the front, servant leaders facilitate “face to face” circles where participants look at each other and get to know each other in depth. 


A Zoe servant leader is a transformer.  The servant leader doesn’t just deliver some thing that people want.  The servant leader creates the conditions for people to change who they are – in the direction of kindness, wisdom, and creativity – as Jesus did.  Zoe servant leadership creates and sustains a community that transforms its members into the divine image of agape love.  There is no higher calling than this!



Servant Leadership for Chapter Growth

Start cultivating new leaders among frosh right away.  They are the future of your chapter. 


Likewise, make every effort to hang on to your upper-class students.  Seniors are vital for leadership and for mentoring younger leaders.

Develop a “leaderful” chapter by giving each Zoe member a task – however small at first.  Start by asking them to bring a snack;  then to plan an icebreaker during a small group meeting; then to lead a Zoe immersant on the quad.   Do they follow-through with tasks? What is their attitude during the responsibility? Are they learning from their leadership? Do others follow their leadership? How are they growing spiritually?  The Zoe servant leader pays attention and nurtures the growth of other leaders.


The fastest way to grow your chapter is to create more small groups. Want to double the size of your chapter? Double the number of capable small group leaders, and then put them to work at student orientation to do outreach and follow-up. Without the strong relational connections that a healthy small group network forges, students drift away —and, because they were not connected personally to anyone, no one even notices.


A way to create new small groups is to analyze the networks of your members.  Who knows who on campus?  Map it out!  Make a diagram of connections among members.  And then add the connections that each member has with people outside your Zoe chapter.  What kind of small groups can members convene, from students in their networks?  What foci for those groups would be most interesting to those personal networks of students?



Bible Passages for Reflection


What inspiration for leadership do you find in these passages?

1. Psalm 23, Ezekiel 34:1-6, John 10:1-5, 10-15, 21:15-19. On being a shepherd…

2. Mark 1:40-44, Mark 5:24-34. Leading from behind….

3. Mark 10:41-45, John 13:1-17. Servant leadership…


4.  Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 10:42-45.  Humble leadership…


5. John 1:35-51, John 4:27-27, John 15:1-17, John 21:15-19, Mark 1:17-19, 35-38; Mark 4:10-13, 24-25; Mark 6:6-13, 30; Matt 28:18-20.  Jesus had different modes of leadership…

6. 1 Kings 19:1-18. Elijah – coping with leadership burnout…

7. Exodus ch 2-4. Moses, the reluctant leader…


8. Mark 3:7-19.  Jesus chooses leaders – what did he see in them?


9.  Luke ch. 9 and 10.  How does Jesus motivate and empower his disciples to lead?

Analyzing Your Zoe Chapter


Hold up a mirror to your Zoe chapter.  What do you see?


How do newcomers find your Zoe chapter?  When they show up at any of your gatherings, what are their first impressions?


What is distinctive about the kinds of students in your group?  What kinds of students aren’t in your chapter?  Do you want to be welcoming to them?  What would it take to make your chapter welcoming to them?


What are ways of gathering that work now, but would have to change if your chapter grew significantly in numbers? – forms of leadership, space considerations, ways of communicating, changes in mission, etc.


Is your chapter committed to growing in numbers of students?  What can you do to encourage and accommodate that growth – right now?

_____# of students in Zoe?
_____# of students in its core?
_____# of students on its edges?

_____# of students living in on-campus housing?

_____# of students living off-campus?


_____# of frosh
_____# of sophomores
_____# of juniors
_____# of seniors
_____# of graduate students



Analyzing Your Campus

_____# of undergraduate students
_____# of graduate students
_____# of commuters

_____# online students
_____# of international students

_____# of LGBTQ+ students
_____# of African American students
_____# of Asian American students
_____# of Latino students

_____# of students living in off campus apartments
_____# of students living in on-campus dorms
_____# of students living at home/commuting
_____# of students living in Greek houses


What adjectives do students use to describe your school?

What campus-related topics are on the minds of most students at this school?

What are the major religious groups on campus? How big and influential are they?  Which ones are progressive/LGBTQ+ fully affirming?


What do the characteristics of your college/university suggest about the way you might reach out and invite students into Zoe?

Zoe - and Burning Man’s - 10 Principles


Burning Man is an annual festival of artistic expression for 70,000 people over a long weekend in the Nevada desert.  It functions under a set of principles that we do well to emulate.  They are worthy of study by Zoe chapters!  - to stimulate conversation about how to be a community of 100% participation, valuing the gifts of all.  How do the words and example of Jesus relate and inform these ten principles?  How can they be put into practice to grow your ZOE chapter?

Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey wrote the 10 Principles in 2004.  They were crafted not as a dictate of how people should be and act, but as a reflection of the community’s ethos and culture as it had organically developed since the event’s inception.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

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