School is right around the corner. For many students this truth is met with rolling eyes and audible sighs, but for the student pastor it is a welcome sight. School brings routine and consistency, but more than that, school brings ministry opportunities. For many students, the campus of their schools is the most fruitful mission field they will ever encounter. Equipping students to understand, embrace, and lead in that reality is no easy task, and it is not one that should be left solely to someone with the title of student or youth pastor.
The job of any leader is to consider how he or she will be involved in preparing the next generation of leaders.
Leaders must embrace the next generation…
1. Because leadership is discipleship.
Leadership is only for the outgoing and popular. This is a myth that people begin to believe at a young age, and if left unchecked it will take root in a person’s life into adulthood. Instead, the next generation needs to understand this: leadership is for everyone because leadership is influence. Every believer is meant to have influence according to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:13-16. Through faith in Jesus a person becomes salt of the earth, a light on a lampstand, and a city on a hill. Understanding this truth is a natural outflow of discipleship and is not related to personality type or social status. Part of being a disciple-maker then, is to help the next generation understand as well as prepare them to live a life of influence for Jesus.
2. Because leadership is influence.
Leadership at its core is about people. A leader’s circle of influence is meant to be open and expanding. As a leader, look at the people you are influencing. If the people in your circle have not changed in the last year, then you’ve landed in a leadership rut. The best way to combat this is to diversify your leadership. Seek to spend time with new people, develop relationships with people outside your team or further down your team, and purposefully seek out those in the next generation whom you will begin to influence and disciple. If you don’t have people on your church staff, in your organization, or on your team that would fit the title of “next generation,” then seek out the student pastor of your church. Talk to them about how to get involved in developing leaders. Your own leadership will be challenged and developed through these relationships.
3. Because leadership is leaving a legacy.
Good leaders are able to identify a destination and mobilize a group of people to reach it. We’ve already established that leadership is about people, but too often leaders are solely focused on the people that are currently on the team at the exclusion of preparing the next generation. A legacy of leadership is measured in how a leader prepares those who will one day lead, not simply reaching organizational goals. What good is it to reach a series of goals if there is no one to continue the work when the leader is gone? Good leaders lead their teams toward a noble destination. Great leaders do this while developing the next generation of leaders to whom they will pass the torch.
As followers of Jesus we should be the best at developing the next generation. It’s in our DNA as disciples.
Yet, the culture is outpacing the church in developing and training leaders. Each year schools add clubs and organizations that give students an opportunity to put their leadership into action. These programs are great at developing leaders, but this world doesn’t need just another leader. This world needs a generation of leaders who will approach life and leadership through a Christ-centered Biblical worldview. As a leader, and as the Church, we must embrace the next generation.
Ben serves as the Director of Student Ministry for Lifeway Christian Resources and has served the local church as a student pastor for fourteen years. In addition to his role at Lifeway, Ben is involved in training, consulting, and speaking to student ministries throughout the U.S.
He is driven by a desire for student ministries to expand God’s Kingdom, to see the lives of students transformed by the gospel, and to produce students who shape the culture in which they live.
Ben and his wife Kristen have four young children. In his free time Ben enjoys family, fishing, hunting, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
You can follow Ben on Twitter at: @bentrueblood.