When we recruit and train leaders, it is often for jobs we already have in mind. We’ve done the work of developing our plans for ministry and have identified the leadership roles needed to execute that plan, and off we go recruiting and training accordingly.
While this practice is necessary to have an effective student ministry, it is incomplete. If you are truly going to lead people toward discipleship through serving, then you need to know their personal passions and gifts and seek to align those things with roles in your ministry, even if that means creating new things.
Yes, there are general roles that need to be filled, and many times, passions and gifts will line up accordingly. However, if you are only ever looking to fill just what you need, you miss out on two opportunities: the opportunity to disciple people, and the opportunity to begin new ministry initiatives that could have a real impact in your ministry or community as a whole.
Don’t cave to urgency.
Here’s the warning: don’t let the urgency of filling a volunteer role keep you from getting to know people well. Finding the best fit for someone takes time and effort, which is important if you are going to pastor them well. Your role is not just to pastor students, but your leaders, too!
In order to fit someone into a pre-made role, you don’t really have to get to know someone beyond a surface level. It should be your goal to get to know people well anyway, but it’s especially important for this purpose.
There are five ways this benefits ministry:
1. New initiatives get started.
As you get to know people, there will be moments when you discover that someone has a passion and gifting for an area of ministry that you either haven’t thought of or aren’t gifted to lead yourself.
By putting a new leader in a position to start something, you expand the reach of your student ministry twofold. This new thing may reach entirely new students, or may begin to reach students who were already inside your ministry but did not otherwise have a place to belong.
Here’s the great news: you don’t have to lead these new things, because when people are passionate about something and gifted to do it, they will be willing to take ownership and excel at it more than a role that they are being squeezed into.
2. You make disciples.
As people use their natural gifting to serve in the church and reach people, they are growing closer to Jesus and making disciples themselves. When you are the connector for someone engaging in this process, you open the door for them to grow in their own discipleship. This definitely happens in the key premade roles we need to have, but we expand our discipleship influence when we move beyond those key roles as well.
3. Retaining leaders gets easier.
When leaders are serving out of their gifting and passions and have your trust to lead, they will stick around much longer than if they’re just assigned to an open spot. The longer your leaders serve, the more opportunity they have for deep relationships with students. The deeper the relationship they have with students, they more students will be receptive to discipleship.
4. Recruiting new leaders gets easier.
When you help people find their “best fit” serving in student ministry, word will begin to spread. People in your church will begin to find out how impactful and fulfilling it is to serve in the student ministry, which will help to develop the new leader recruiting momentum. Sure, this may not happen by the truckload at first, but momentum will begin to build and you will find yourself with more and more committed leaders who are willing to join you in the mission of making disciples of teenagers and their families.
5. It serves your “first team,” too.
As you seek to recruit leaders and help them find their best fit in your ministry, there will be times when their passion and gifting don’t match up with something in your ministry. Generally, I think we should do the work to see if there is a fit as stated above, but sometimes there just won’t be and that’s okay! From there, pastoring them well looks like helping them find somewhere else in the church where they can find their best fit. Passing along great leaders to other ministry areas serves your staff team (aka first team) well and helps them in their recruitment and discipleship process.
This post was written by Ben Trueblood, Director of Lifeway Students. Ben is passionate about investing in student ministry leaders like you. You can find more encouragement from Ben on his YouTube Channel, Student Ministry That Matters.