The following post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry
Your volunteers can be the coolest people in the world, share your vision, and even have a heart for students, but if they don’t love Jesus they will never be a successful volunteer. Sure, the students may like them, but their lack of personal discipleship will eventually catch up with them. And you. Some of this can be discovered through a thorough recruiting process, but the only way you can be sure of a leader’s personal discipleship is if you are doing the discipling.
A student pastor’s mind quickly moves to how to disciple students. After all, it is called student ministry. However, very little thought is put into how to disciple volunteer leaders within the ministry. A shift needs to take place in student ministry where the discipleship of volunteer leaders is taken just as seriously as the discipleship of the students. When you have volunteers who truly love Jesus and are being transformed themselves, you will see much more transformation happen in the lives of your students.
Here are some things to consider in the discipleship of your leaders:
- Spend time with them – Discipling your leaders is different than training your leaders in specific skills. It takes more time, and if you have a large group of volunteers this will likely need to take place with them in smaller groups. Just like with your students, you probably can’t do all of this yourself. Consider appointing certain volunteers to be disciplers of groups of volunteers.
- Create a discipleship plan for them – You would never approach the discipleship of your students blindly, and the same thing should be true with your adult leaders. Formulate a plan that you will work through with them, even if you just keep it to yourself. Establish some measurable goals so that you can consistently evaluate this process.
- Develop community within your group of volunteers – A group of leaders that know each other and have fun together can be a great force in ministry. Provide opportunities for them to be together away from their groups of students where this can happen. Adults like to have fun too, and you can facilitate this for them in a way that binds them together as a ministry team. As a side note, it will help them get to know you which will lead to greater support and vision buy-in.
- Seek out spiritual conversations with them – At appropriate times, ask them what they are learning from God’s Word. Talk to them about what they are doing in their devotion time. Share with them about what God is teaching you. This may seem a little strange in the beginning to some, but as you do it these conversation will just become part of your student ministry’s culture. Before long your leaders will be in conversations with students that look a lot like your conversations with them. Why? Because you are stealthily teaching them how to be a discipler.
A truly successful volunteer will be one who loves Jesus and is being transformed into His likeness. No amount of passion, hard work, or availability can be a substitute for this. Effective student pastors embrace the role of discipler for leaders as much as they do for students.