Regardless of the size of your student ministry, you have a team to lead. If you are in a church with multiple student ministry staff members, your team will look much different than the part-time youth director that has three small group leaders and someone who does games on Wednesday nights. The size of your team doesn’t matter, what is important is that you know how to lead your team well.
A deficiency that I have seen over the years in ministry is the ability to lead people. I have seen a lot of talented people serve in ministry, but I have not met many who understand the value of leading people. There is a great difference between displaying a skill set and knowing how to lead a team. You may be the greatest speaker to hit the student ministry world, but if you don’t know how to lead people your effectiveness will be minimized and you will miss the blessing of leading people.
Lead from the front.
Whether or not you realize it or have embraced it, you are a leader. When you were called to the church where you are currently serving, you were called to lead. Do not make the error of mistaking humility with poor leadership. In my first full-time church that I pastored I had an older deacon come to me one day and say, “Pastor, you don’t understand the stripes you wear.“ I asked him to explain. He went on to tell me a story of being in the Navy and watching college graduates come onto his ship as officers. He said that while they wore the stripes on their shoulders that indicated they were officers, they did not understand the authority that came with the stripes. Basically he was telling me to lead from the front. In “humility” I was leading from the back, and at best, the middle because I was so much younger than most of my congregation. Really my humility was a cover for a lack of confidence to lead. God has called you to ministry and a local congregation has recognized that call. Lead from the front.
Lead with the individual in mind.
Over the last eight years I have coached our high school wrestling team. When you think about wrestling you think of it as an individual sport. A certain athlete competes in a specific weight class to maximize their abilities in competition. But there is also a team component as well. This year Penn State won the NCAA tournament as a team because they were able to put five individuals in the finals. As the individuals go, so goes the team. Every team I lead I lead with the individual in mind. I know that people are different and their needs are different. So just one type of encouragement doesn’t work for everyone. As I think about development opportunities for my team its not a one size fits all. I want to lead the individual knowing that great individuals can make up a great team. Now with all of that said it does take skill to lead a team of individuals. Common vision, common values, and clear direction will keep your team of individuals on track. Without that you will have what I call developed chaos. Development without direction = developed chaos.
Embarrass never, confront when needed, love always.
Never forget that you lead God’s creation; something so valuable to Him that He was willing to send His only Son to die for their sins. We need to make sure that we value our teams as much as God does. You may be the only positive voice speaking into the life of a volunteer. Do not take that lightly. We are given great responsibility to steward the creation of God. They are not commodities, they are not merely breathing bodies, they are not minions tasked with our to-do lists, they are people that love Jesus and are loved by Jesus. In that light, let me end with three suggestions that will help you steward God’s creation well. First, never embarrass. Now I’m not referring to a good game of ooga booga or whatever your Wednesday night game may be. I’m talking about how we treat our team in front of their peers. Never call someone out in front of your team. Have enough respect for them to meet in private and deal with what needs to be dealt with. When we call people out in front of our teams it doesn’t display our leadership skill, it reveals our insecurity and lack of concern for the individual. Second, confront when needed. Because you lead a team of imperfect people there will be times that correction is needed. Do not shy away from correction because it feels confrontational. If you are leading from the front and developing individuals then your correction will be received. It may not always be comfortable but it will not feel combative. Third, love always. I have found that the more my team knows I care for them the harder they work. Not because they want to please me, but because they love what they do, they love where they do it, and they love who they do it with. John said that love covers a multitude of sins, and I’ve seen that over the years of leading teams. A leader that loves will lead well.
This post was written by Jeff Pratt, Director of FUGE Camps