Many people realize that their Student Ministry has the capacity to have a student leadership team , and so they create the vision and structure for one. Great. The problem is that many Student Ministries only have a short-term vision or do not give it the time or respect that it warrants.
In this Series, We have been taking a look at things we could be doing wrong as youth workers , and what we need to keep at the forefront when setting up and interacting with the student leadership group. Here are 4 things Youth Pastors often do wrong when it comes to Student Leadership.
Don’t Make Them A Priority
We are busy in youth ministry. Many Youth Pastors live under the pressure of a Senior pastor who wants to see big numbers. This can mean we need to do tons of advertising about our events, and definitely creates the pressure to write great sermons that keep driving students back. If we achieve that, we will need to have the volunteers to interact with them, because we know that true faith comes from relationships and fifty students means many volunteers that need to be trained. If we want to reach out to students who are hurting or the fringe students, this means we need to think outside of the church building and go paintballing, amusement parks, and plan summer camps and retreats. That is a sixty hour work week without budgets, meetings, and our own personal devotions and marriage.
If we say we are going to do a student leadership team , we need to do it well and give them a priority. We need to sit down and, as Luke 14:28 tells us, count the cost. Is it better to have that 5th quarter in the fall or to spend two hours with student leaders training them for the year? Maybe you need to hand off the fall festival to a volunteer or other church staff so that you can instead interact with students and provide more than some cheap entertainment that can impact your students to witness to hundreds of students while they are in high school.
Exclude Them From Your Prayer List
I was raised that all prayers are petitions to God on our behalf. Yet, how many times do we ask only adults to pray for your ministry. If we truly want to saturate our life and ministry in prayer, we cannot leave out a vital people group that we are ministering to. Let them pray for their classmates, realistically they know more specific problems and situations to pray for than you would and then can begin to include their friends, family, and others into this circle of prayer warriors. Task them in text messages, Facebook comments, and emails to pray for everyday situations. They may become some of the best prayer warriors your youth group will ever have.
Fix Their Mistakes
We need to challenge our students to take ownership of their faith, whether it be in your youth ministry or elsewhere. Regardless of the challenge, their will be decisions that need to be made. If we make the decisions for them, than we aren’t allowing our students the opportunity to learn. But if we let them choose, we have to go into it knowing that they may mess up. That’s okay. As Doug Franklin said in a student leadership post, “Student leadership is risky because it is never the easiest, cheapest or fastest way to get this done.”
How does the saying go? “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” Your Youth Group should be investing in them for a lifetime, not just while they are “relevant to your ministry.” Our mindset needs to be Kingdom-minded and building up the Church for God’s glory. So our investment to let them mess up, be along side them when they figure it out, and let them succeed means lots of time, but long lasting and personal deep results.
Do Not Recognize Their Efforts
We do not ask volunteers to do what they do because of the rewards that we hand out, but we still have volunteer appreciation days, Christmas presents, and acknowledgements at the end of the school year in youth group. We need to do as much for student leaders. too. These praises should focus less on material gifts and more on public praise, but recognize that many teenagers do not want to stand out as that odd kid or Jesus freak, so approach it well. Our praises should not make a student want to quit. Even the little comments are great in front of their parents, coaches, and closest friends. Look for great opportunities to build them up.
What other mistakes have youth ministry made that we as the Church can learn from?