Do you believe that the students in your ministry can shape the culture in which they live? Your answer to that question will shape the way that you lead in student ministry to a great degree. It is your answer to this question that will determine if your ministry is going to be a holding tank for teenagers or a ministry that makes disciples and launches them into the world to make an impact.
Student ministry isn’t meant to be a holding tank. It isn’t meant to be merely a separation from the world where teenagers gain knowledge, are told what not to do in the “outside world,” and enjoy some free pizza. Student ministry can, and should be, much more.
This leads us to an important question: how can we help (and equip) students see their culture-shaping potential? One of the best ways you can unlock this potential within a student is to give them leadership opportunities within your ministry. However, involving students in leadership shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Think through your own ministry context, your own students, and make strategic decisions on how to best get them involved. As a part of that process here are some things to remember as you develop or make tweaks to your current student leadership process:
- There are various levels of leadership and various levels of readiness within your students. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. Not every student is ready to be given the highest level of leadership and responsibility within your ministry while others will show more potential early on. The goal here is to take a student from “Point A” in their leadership involvement to “Point B,” wherever those points are.
- Not every student will want to engage in leadership. Leadership should be a choice for them, or an intentional ask by you if you see something in a student that you want to challenge them with.
- Celebrate leadership and make it a big deal.
- Connect their leadership and influence to a reliance on Christ and personal transformation through Him, rather than on the skills and talents of the leader. They need to understand the most important part of being a leader is their own relationship with Jesus.
- Personally interview students who desire to lead. Doing this will add to the feeling of importance that you are placing on leadership. It will also give you an opportunity to expand your relationship with these students to a deeper level. As you interview pay close attention to things that come up that could be challenges for them in leadership, opportunities for you to develop them, or areas of life that might keep from leadership at that moment. Here is a sample student leadership application that you can use both for an application process for leadership opportunities, and as a guide for your conversation.
- Hold your student leaders to a high level of accountability.
- Connect their leadership and service to the church as a whole. This is healthy for two reasons: it builds within students a love for the church and desire to serve outside of their peer bubble. Second, it helps the rest of the church connect to the student ministry and see the impact they’re making.
Students are given many leadership opportunities outside the church: student government, school clubs, sports teams, and community involvement to name a few. This being true, we should be more eager to provide students with leadership opportunities that connect their skills, talents, and passions to an overarching gospel-driven purpose. Leadership developed and encouraged inside the church will lead to leadership and impact outside the church. Students can shape their culture. Part of your role as a student pastor is to help them see this possibility and equip them to act.
Remember to download the student leadership application before you go. I hope it is a useful tool for you in your mission of making disciples.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry