One of the ways I’ve framed human sinfulness is rooted in answering this question: Whose name will I seek to make great? The Bible is clear that the root of our sinfulness is a desire to elevate our own name above God’s. This temptation hasn’t changed since the garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit while listening to the voice of the Serpent who told them they would be “like God” (Genesis 3:5).
We see this same desire to make a name for ourselves show itself in the desire to handle things on our own. The nature of the call we’ve been given by Christ is to multiply and “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20) of the gospel. As a student minister, my job is not only to preach the gospel, but to partner with parents in training their kids up that they might lead the way in multiplying this gospel as they are going to the neighborhoods and nations.
It’s impossible to properly fulfill the job of discipling others if we aren’t using our position of leadership to multiply leaders. For adult leaders, these roles look like small group leaders, prayer partners, and chaperones for trips. For students, it means giving them appropriate opportunities to help shape the culture of the student ministry, helping them see where they are gifted, and then helping them use the gifts the Lord has given them.
Here are three reasons why you should be a leader who equips leaders:
1) Because You Won’t Always Be the Youth Pastor
Even though I just started my position at my current church six months ago, I do try to keep this thought in the back of my mind. It’s not because I always have one foot out the door. Instead, it’s rooted in the reminder that this ministry is a part of a bigger reality: an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. If I really believe this is true, I have to minister with the end goal in mind for everyone involved in my ministry. This means I need to be serving in such a way that I’m not winning people to my style or preference, but I’m winning them to the Savior who never changes.
Many of us focus in so closely on the weekly details and lose sight of the bigger picture. When the Lord does call us to transition to a new role, we end up leaving without anyone else knowing the practical ins and outs of how we handled the ministry or why we did the specific events in the first place.
In many ways, to be faithful to the ministry is to always be working ourselves out of a job. We need to be training others to understand what it looks like to disciple others. To serve well means that when we leave, we aren’t leaving a huge hole where we were; it means that the ministry continues going seamlessly, as if we were never there.
2) Because Students Need to Hear from Other Adults
I’m passionate about helping teenagers understand their role in the church. I strongly believe that we are doing ourselves a disservice when we separate out our student ministries and never involve them in the programming of the church as a whole (I imagine this topic alone could be a series of posts). One of the ways we can help cultivate an understanding of this reality is by having different trusted voices from within the church speak into their lives.
While this includes times of teaching through the Word during the week and having guest speakers on annual youth trips, I’m also talking using my role as the student pastor to create more opportunities for adults to create meaningful and intentional connections with students. For this to happen, these adults need the chance to lead- whether in small groups, games, annual events, or in other places your ministry may have.
Creating an atmosphere where students are hearing the same truth from multiple voices helps them relate their faith to a community instead of a personality. When they leave the student ministry and move on to college, instead of looking for someone just like their student pastor, they’re looking for a community which teaches the same truths they’ve heard for many years. They need to know how faith in the gospel is not only lived out alone, but in the context of community. Multiplying leaders is a clear example of this truth.
3) Because Ministry is Easier on a Team
I share this point knowing that in one sense, ministry is never necessarily “easy”. As a pastor, we walk with students through some of the hardest and darkest times of their life, in order to be a physical reminder of God’s presence. Yet, I think there’s truth to the fact that when we multiply leaders, it frees us to be more present in those moments.
Picture the difference between being responsible for every aspect of a ministry, down to the most minute details: games, music, and lesson for the youth worship service, planning monthly events (with all of the finances, the sign-ups, and the scheduling), planning yearly trips, fundraising, other outside ministry opportunities, outreach into the community, service projects, and the other roles with the rest of the church staff. It’s easy to see how time can easily be absorbed in those things, with no time to spare for the chance to be present with students.
Now imagine if you have the opportunity to train up people to help with some of those roles. Suddenly, you only have to worry about a lesson for the youth service. Maybe a couple of parents or other volunteers have been trained up to lead the way in fundraising. Outreach events are now planned through small group leaders you’ve trained, in addition to the service projects for the students. Suddenly, the work load is nearly halved, meaning that you can put your time into one of the most important aspects of the job: relationships.
The reality is that in ministry, we don’t need more people trying to play the hero. We shouldn’t be seeking to make a name for ourselves. Instead, we should see ourselves as players in an eternal mission of God for the nations of the world. When we understand this, we’ll see the benefit in being a leader who equips leaders.