As adult leaders in youth ministry we have students that follow us, and that’s great! But what are we doing with those followers? Good leaders don’t just produce followers and then more followers. Good leaders take those followers and turn them into leaders. Our job as leaders is really to teach and train others to be leaders as well. Many leadership qualities are learned by simply learning the Word of God and becoming more like Christ, but there are also some intentional steps that can be taken in youth ministry to create more leaders.
Develop a Student Leadership Team
Student leadership teams are one of the best ways to intentionally create and train leaders. When creating these teams it gives you, and your adult leaders, an opportunity to spend extra time pouring into the “core” students and equipping them to do ministry. As one person there is no way that you can personally connect to or reach 50 students on a youth group night. But with a student leadership team you have poured into and equipped, those 10 or 15 students can definitely reach all 50 in a personal way on a youth group night.
Also, when developing a student leadership team it gives the students a chance to step up into a leadership role. My guess is that you have plenty of leaders in your group but they may have not been given the opportunity to put that leadership into practice. With the formation of this team you as the youth pastor/director will have a chance to teach and sharpen those leadership skills that may already exist but are now given a chance to shine. I have seen students in ministries I have led that were basically nothing more than a warm body, become amazing leaders. They didn’t serve, didn’t really engage, barely even talked, but after they decided to become a part of leadership, and were given ownership and responsibility they came alive. It was as if a whole new person came out of them, just because they were given the chance for leadership.
We all know that one of the major issues in youth ministry is the issue of students graduating high school and graduating from their faith. The drop off rate from high school to the rest of the church is one that is heartbreaking and definitely needs a solution. But, if you can get students to be involved in leading ministry and train them as leaders, in my experience, they are more likely to make the natural transition to being actively involved and serving in the church when they go on to college.
How do I start a student leadership team?
When starting a student leadership team first decide what you want it to look like. My student leadership teams usually meet once a month, are in charge of running youth groups, planning events, and discuss leadership topics and deeper Biblical concepts. But that is what you need to decide. What do you want them to do? Where do you want them to serve/lead? What do you want them to learn? How will this look? Will you have meetings? How often and when? Those are all questions you need to ask yourself and your team when deciding what you want your student leadership team to look like.
Next, I suggest putting students through an application process. Here is how this process looks in my ministry. The application is open to anyone who wants to be involved but I personally ask certain students to apply. I hand out applications that are a 3-4 page semi-intense document as well as requiring 3 letters of recommendation (1 from a teacher, 1 from an adult that is not related to them, and 1 from a friend). Right away this weeds out the students that are not serious about leadership or are not ready. I have had students say “uh, there is no way a teacher would write me a letter recommending me for a leadership position”. Point proven, right? After collecting the applications have a little “leadership interview”. Sit down with the student and ask them a few questions. Honestly, I let every student that applies into leadership, I am sure there are cases where a student shouldn’t be a part of leadership but I have not turned anyone away before. It is not an actual pass fail interview, but the application and the interview make sure the student is serious, and most of the time they are if they are willing to go through that process. Also, it teaches them life skills so when they sit down for their first job interview they already have experience with the process.
Now you have a student leadership team and you just need to get it rolling. Set a time to meet and start meeting. Let them know what you expect and start handing off responsibilities according to their giftedness. Find where your students are gifted and work to develop those gifts and stretch them. Remember to still keep it fun. These students are most likely your core, committed, and respectful students anyway so the opening games in your meetings should go great just because of who you are working with. Take them out for ice cream, do random fun activities in place of a meeting once in a while, and just keep it fun because ministry is fun!
A student leadership team is an awesome way to build the core of your ministry and create more leaders. These students are waiting to be stretched and taught! Most of my students are more talented than I am, and when they learn how to do certain things they end up doing a better job than I would. Don’t be afraid to give them responsibilities that might stretch them. You might have to listen to some awkward announcements or watch a couple games fail but it won’t always be that way. They are learning and they won’t be as good as you at leading the game the first time doing it but being a leader is not about just leading. it’s about creating more leaders.