I get asked a the question a lot about our Student Leadership style here, I wanted to take a little time and really flesh out what it is that we do strategically. Student Ministry is different in each church, so before we discuss all the aspects of it, I needed to get down our overall plan for Student Leadership. So here goes. Please take it at face value…if there are aspects of it that you can use, then feel free. If you have a comment, then feel free to leave it and maybe we can come out with a better understanding of what Student Leadership is.
Student Leadership began here out of necessity. Things needed to get done and I was only one person. When I moved into this ministry venue in 2003, I had to establish my style here. I moved from a larger church situation to a smaller church and community here on the edge of the Mississippi Delta and some of the “resource” changes caused me to evaluate what was important and what was urgent. What I mean by resources are not just with money/budgeting changes, it means different people, different buildings, and a different local culture. I had a handful of students that didn’t know me and I didn’t know them…so that was the place to start. With the few students that were attending, I found it easy to establish expectations early rather than having to “retrain” a large group. The image that comes to mind is steering a small dingy verses trying to turn a large ship around. Obviously it is easier to set the course with the small boat.
Step One: Responsibility
The first part of establishing my expectations was responsibility. Clear and very real. Student Leaders have a job, or should have a job to do. Each responsibility has very real expectations and evaluation. For an example I am going to use the job working the lights for our stage in our facility. It seems easy to some and difficult to others. I look very closely at the way a student is “wired”. If keeping up with details are not a big strength for a particular student, then that may not be a good place for them to plug in. Careful and correct placement is a win-win for both the ministry and the student, this will also help keep that student from burning out or becoming frustrated with serving. The responsibility involved needs to be clear and evaluating “job” performance is a great teaching moment.
“If you, as the youth leader, are not able to be specific about what leadership looks like, acts like, how it spends its time, what results are expected – then don’t ever expect your students to be able to do that for you. Set the vision of where you believe God wants your ministry to go, then make a list of functions in your group/ministry that need to be done in order for that vision to be accomplished. Then begin praying for God to raise up the students who can be trained to fulfill those functions.” Eric Ball, Youth Communicator & Student Ministry Consultant
Another piece of the responsibility puzzle is that as that student gets older and more proficient in the area of lighting, he/she is responsible for training a replacement before they graduate. This is a big one that helps keep the ebb and flow of graduating out talented ministry oriented students in check. If they are the only ones doing the job after they figure it all out…then you face a huge hole in your leadership and back to square one when that gem leaves you pushing the light buttons by yourself or worse, it lowers the quality in the presentation of the Gospel, if even for a short time. So keep them recruiting and training new blood. Some will wash out and decide not to be a part of it…but the ones that keep with it are truly worth their weight in gold for sure.
The responsibilities in our ministry have moved from two or three “jobs” to literally dozens of places for students to take ownership of our ministry. Year one involved setting up the couches and making sure the Xboxes were on. Now I am truly amazed at how “adult” they seem to be. The first three student leaders weren’t even called that…they were just solid students that wanted to be around and help out. Now I have a list of nearly 40 students that want to be a part of something bigger themselves…God has truly blessed. My time now is spent building positive relationships with students and less time setting up the chairs (and I truly hate setting up chairs) for our ministry activities. We have now established a “Lead” Student Leader…I am not sure how that sounds, cause to tell you the truth I am having difficulty naming it. I don’t want to have a “president of the youth group” so I explain it this way. I now don’t have to go to each individual to make sure things are squared away, I go to one student and ask. It works surprisingly well. For this article I will call it the office of “the guy who’s tail is in a wringer if something is not being taken care of for Flipside 517,” how’s that. It’s great, everyone should have one. My philosophy is this, if you want a job you can have one…but be prepared for the next step. Accountability will be taken care of in pt 2.