The St. Louis Cardinals have won 11 World Series Championships (second only to the Yankees), 19 National League pennants, and 12 Division titles. Since the year 2000 they have only missed the postseason four times, winning two World Series championships in that same timespan. They are a winning organization and one of the most successful franchises in baseball history.
Ok, enough of me geeking out on the Cardinals. There’s a real point to all of this. There are many reasons for the long-running success of the Cardinals and I believe they are all directly tied to leadership. This leadership exists in the front office, in the clubhouse through managers, through the players, and throughout the organization. In fact, many have pointed to the Cardinals ability to find and develop players as one of the major contributing factors to the team’s success. They are widely known for having one of the best farm systems in baseball and have created a culture of player development throughout the organization. I believe this same thought process can revolutionize your student ministry, which will lead to a more effective ministry at reaching students with the gospel.
Unfortunately, many student ministries don’t have a culture of “player” development. Volunteer leaders are recruited and thrown into leading a group of students without much thought about how to train or develop them to be more effective. The victory is not in filling an empty volunteer role, but rather in developing an effective volunteer that will thrive in their position and help you reach more students with the gospel.
Here are some ways that you can create a culture of player development on your team:
- Set the pace for personal development. Read books, meet with people who are better than you, listen more than you speak, and talk with the people that you lead about what you are learning.
- Never stop trying to find new talent. There are people in your church who aren’t currently serving and they could be an all-star player for you. Learn how to spot these people and train your leaders in what to look for so they can help you recruit.
- Spread the training to other capable leaders that you have around you. You don’t have to always be the one talking. If you have a volunteer leader that is strong in a certain area ask them to train on it and use them as an example of what effectiveness looks like. Winning teams always have solid assistant coaches.
- Spend time with your people. Having a positive environment in the “clubhouse” is essential to building a culture of development.
- Spend the majority of your development time explaining and training on the basics of being a student ministry leader. Student ministry teams (and baseball teams) that excel at the fundamentals will always have greater effectiveness.
- Strategically plan your training in advance. Know what you’re going to train your team on for a year in advance leaving some flexibility to adjust as issues rise. More often than not, stick with your plan.
- Spend time preparing for your training. Don’t try to just “wing it.”
- Don’t forget about your students. They are a huge part of your leadership farm system. Give them opportunities to lead that will stretch them. Work with them through failures and help them apply the lessons learned. Try not to be so focused on the “excellence” of your program that you miss opportunities to let your students lead.
Your long-term effectiveness in student ministry is directly connected to the strength of your leadership farm system. Neglect this and it will cripple your ministry, pour into it and you are on your way to building a winning team.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry