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Student leadership is one of the foundational columns of youth ministry. The students that are ready to own their faith and make an impact on their school’s campus can have lasting effects for your ministry and, even better, has the power to change the world for Christ. The question for many youth ministries and youth workers is where to start and what it should look like. We take a look at setting up and starting a strong student leadership.
Student leadership can start with one student and be a blazing success. If there is only one staff person and only a few semi-committed volunteers, one student may be all you can handle. At the same time, if you have the volunteers that would do well in this situation, a small budget line item for bowling or fast food to commit to this every month, do it. In fact, I would highly suggest that after you meet with your student leadership once or twice, include your student leaders in with your volunteer training. Praise them before the volunteers and allow them to see why you do what you do with volunteers. The empowerment from these actions are incredible and long-lasting.
Now, you may think that there is too many hurdles that you cannot overcome. It takes too much time. I have no extra money. I do not have any students that stand out. All of that is understandable and very well can be insurmountable at this time. My recommendation is that you pray DAILY if not HOURLY about being able add an impactful student leadership program. They have ten times the capacity to change their schools than you ever will. They understand their generation, culture, and problems and if they can bring Christ into the schools, they can change everything forever.
In fact, the less you as the youth leader say, the better! Interaction by teens is the goal and having teenagers actually lead the discussion is a guaranteed success. Also note that the setting can be very important. One week, the meeting could be during school lunch where you take them to Chick-fil-A and all you do is listen to what has happened to them today, challenge them how they can change the day around for Christ, and let them go back to school. Other times, you take an entire weekend, go up to the mountains with them and their parents in the mountains and spend 40 hours of intense Bible study, prayer, and worshiping together. How amazing could it be if during this time, we could take communion with our student leaders and volunteers? Time, presence, and environment is always important to the message you want to present. Remember that we want them to own their faith in their lives and take the time to go deep in their faith.
Student leadership means that you are going to be challenging, encouraging, equipping, and pushing students to live out and own their faith. Make this time intimate, bring up tough subjects, let students struggle with hot topics and personal crises. This means that this time is both sacred and important, we need to guard it and let the students know the deeper meanings too. My own students know that I am willing to drop EVERY thing for them (two of them I have dropped everything at a very late hour) and you should expect the same from them. Of course, we will never ask anything extreme, but attendance, participation, and “homework completion” is necessary. Set high standards and follow through.
For those that have not started a student leadership, what hurdles do you have to overcome to start it? For those that are doing it, regardless if it is healthy or not, how does student leadership look for you?