Leadership—Learn it, love it, live it!


One of the greatest rewards of being involved with SSI all these years is to regularly see the light of understanding turn on in the hearts and minds of young people. You can tell when they get it because their attitude changes! It’s exciting to witness teenagers who discover within themselves a new willingness to go beyond their comfort zone and become the leaders and Ambassadors for Christ that they were created to be. Pure joy!

Since the beginning over twenty years ago, people have been asking what is it about SSI that inspires and unlocks the potential of so many students? At first, I didn’t have a good answer and told people that they should just come and see for themselves. Students continually shared that their SSI experience was life-transforming in so many ways. Over and over, parents would be amazed at the change in their kids. After his daughter attended our Summer Program, one dad asked, “How did you get her to do that?” I’ve had teachers tell me that they had never seen some of their students rise to the challenge like they do during SSI.

Although there have been so many awesome outcomes, because our first-year students participated in a Legislative track, we were continually perceived as merely a “government camp.” That description, however, does not do justice to the essence of the unique SSI experience that regularly exceeds everyone’s expectations! As a result, during this past year our staff spent a lot of time discussing the question, “Why does SSI work and how can we more effectively communicate that to parents, teens, pastors, and educators?”

I am excited to report that the dialogue resulted in a new brand name for our Summer Program: LEAD! Each letter in this acronym describes one of the principles that are at the heart of what we do.

At SSI LEAD teens will…

LEARN to live out their faith in the real world.

All of the SSI LEAD simulations are realistic and real-world experiences with Christian professionals from each field serving as guides and coaches. The message is that no matter what career or station in life you are called to, your mission is to represent Christ as His Ambassador!

Be EMPOWERED to accomplish God’s purpose for your life.

Students are immersed in a positive, encouraging and worshipful atmosphere with motivational speakers and instructors who challenge them to first be fully committed to Christ, to be rooted in His Word, and to be courageous in the face of fears!

ACT like a leader. The best way to learn it, is to do it.

Teenagers are thrust into leadership positions where they are responsible for making decisions that affect the lives of ten million Michigan citizens, reporting the news as a print or broadcast journalist, running a 40-million-dollar business competing for market share and return on investment, trying a criminal or appeals court case as a lawyer, or running a campaign for Governor of Michigan. There is no substitute for being there with the pressure and exhilaration that goes along with leadership.

DISCOVER and unlock their God-given potential:

Many young people are plagued by fear and what we call the “cycle of low expectations.” SSI LEAD is designed to open the hearts and minds of young people to their unrealized potential. We pray that through this experience their eyes will be opened to the fact that they are created by God for this time and this place and that He has given them special gifts and talents that are to be used for His glory.

We pour everything we have into creating an unforgettable experience. The results in the lives of young people speak for themselves.

I was convicted at SSI to be bolder and unashamed of the way my faith makes me look to other people. I learned to be proactive and face my fears instead of allowing them to stop me from being a leader. God taught me that success is not defined by my ability, but by being faithful to God, working and preparing excellently, and having peace in the result. I learned that we need to be Ambassadors of Christ, first and foremost, as well as bold leaders. SSI offered me many experiences I would not have had otherwise. I gave it my best. I laughed, cried, and worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life and this was the best week of my life. You have to be diligent and willing to jump in and try new things. I felt purpose. Before SSI I had no idea what I would do with my life but I know that God has a plan and a purpose for me. At SSI God taught me that I don’t have to be an adult to change the world.

It is our mission to inspire a new generation of Christian leaders whose life-purpose is to serve the Lord and represent Him in every area of their lives. Who knows what He will do with the seeds that we plant in the lives of young people?

James Muffett is the Founder and President of the Student Statesmanship Institute. Married to Margot since 1979 and a father of 5, his motivational speaking inspires and trains leaders for this and the next generation. James’ bucket list includes a visit to an SSI alum in the oval office.


Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position of the Student Statesmanship Institute. SSI is a non-profit educational organization and provides this blog as a platform for those who have been involved in our program to engage and share thoughts related to current events, issues of the day, and personal experiences, but does not necessarily endorse the content therein.