One trait that I’ve seen among the most effective student pastors in any context is a desire to continually grow in their leadership. When I meet someone who has a teachable spirit, who wants to continually grow and improve, it tells me that they’re truly serious about the call that God has placed on their life to disciple students and their families. Leadership development doesn’t happen by accident. Sure, there are some times when you meet someone or have a random conversation that results in learning. But if you only rely on these random occurrences then you will be the same person January 2017 as you are right now. Even if you are awesome right now, your calling is too important for you to become stagnant. For you to truly grow this year and maximize your potential and effectiveness in ministry you need to take a strategic approach to your learning. Here are some things to consider as you plan your leadership development for this year.
- Make a reading list. I’ve said this on the blog before and this won’t be the last time you see it. Why? Because I’m still surprised by the number of leaders I meet each year who don’t read. I use to be one of these people but came to realize that as a leader, called by God, there really is no excuse for this. Reading is one of the best ways to grow in any area of life. Don’t feel like you have to start with one book per week. Start with one per month and choose them based on recommendations or by areas where you need to grow. I’ve also found it is helpful to pick from a wide range of books: spiritual growth, leadership development, entertainment, hobby related, etc. If you’re curious, here are some of the books that I’ll be reading this year: The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards, Remote by Fried and Hansson, How Full is Your Bucket by Rath and Clifton, Team of Teams by General McChrystal, and Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic.
- Spend time with the right people. The people you spend time with will have a profound impact on who you are this time next year. Choose to spend time with people that you can both encourage and help to grow and people that will do the same for you. This doesn’t have to be some overly-formal exercise. Keep your eyes open to meet people that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet and identify people that you want to learn from. Typically, we get in a rut of spending time with the same people each and every year, and while this isn’t bad for a variety of reasons (family, biblical community, etc) if we want to get somewhere that we’re not then we need to add some new relationships into the mix.
- Choose your conferences strategically. With this one I know that there are budget and time concerns here, but if at all possible you should get to a conference that delivers solid student ministry and leadership content. Chances are through this medium you will be able to hear from people that you wouldn’t normally hear from and you will get to network with other student pastors. This time can be so valuable because it is often these side conversations just “talking shop” with other leaders in the trenches of student ministry that will be most meaningful to you. There have been many times that these side conversations are the beginning of what I mentioned in #2, meeting new people that will help you grow. For this part of your plan this year I want to recommend to you the Youth Pastor Summit. It is by far the best conference that I attended as a student pastor. Here’s a quick list of why:
a. It’s free.
b. The content is focused on student ministry, not a random collection of topics from popular speakers.
c. It won’t take you away from your Wednesday night or Sunday responsibilities.
d. There’s plenty of time to network with other student ministry leaders.
e. Breakout sessions are always laser focused on student ministry and helping you grow as a leader and student pastor.
f. You will leave recharged and encouraged in your calling.
By this time next year I hope to be a better leader than I am now. I hope that I am following Jesus more closely and that I am a better father and husband. While hope is good, it really won’t get me anywhere. These things don’t happen by accident for me and they won’t happen by accident for you. Chart the course for this year. God may change it halfway through and that’s fine, but don’t go any further in this year without a plan. Make a reading list, spend time with the right people, and strategically choose a conference to attend.
If you would like more information about the Youth Pastor Summit just click the image below.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of LifeWay Student Ministry