Let’s talk about leadership for a moment, shall we? It’s one of those “buzzwords” that can mean many different things. Leadership can be about inspiring other people. It can be about having ruling authority over someone else. It can mean being a point person on a project or event. Most importantly, good leadership is about equipping others. This type of leadership is directly connected to discipleship.
Talking about leading means talking about the structure of your ministry. What are your goals for the students and families you shepherd? How are you establishing structures to help achieve these goals more easily? While parents are the primary disciple-makers of their children, as youth leaders, God has called us to partner with them in this work. One of the ways we can help families is by giving students opportunities to lead the way in practicing their faith within the ministry.
It all revolves around leading students and the ministry somewhere. Here’s where we sometimes get it wrong. Some of us have never considered why we do the things we do. Instead, we just focus on the fact that we’re doing something. “Busy is better,” we’re tempted to think, as we measure success in the amount of things we do. But busy isn’t always better. Sometimes, busy is bad. Everything needs to revolve around a central purpose or goal.
Let’s think about it in terms of a road trip. What if you decided to drive from New York to Los Angeles without making a plan or using a map? Sure you’d make it some of the way, but completing the journey would be difficult. You could drive for some time only to find out you were in the middle of Montana, miles off course.
The difference between a road trip and discipleship is that in a road trip, we want to go from Point A to Point B. With discipleship, we want to teach others how to go from A to B while we are making the journey with them. We shouldn’t want to lead students as spectators. We should be creative in finding ways for students to follow as participants, practicing the things they’re learning along the way.
It’s the difference between hearing and doing. We want students to be hearers AND doers of the word. This means students need to be hearing the word AND doing what God says. It sounds simple, but we all know it’s easier said than done. So how can we equip students to lead?
First, give them a safe space to fail. Anything that’s worth doing is worth failing. We can learn so much from the wrong way of doing things. What matters is that someone is there to gracefully teach them how to do it the right way when we fail. Take leading worship as an example. Students need to know that perfection isn’t the end goal of leading other youth to sing. While excellence is important, it isn’t the top priority. Instead, the purpose is to lead others to sing words that are true about God to God.
Next, help them serve in other ministries within the church. This post follows an understanding of last week’s post about students serving in the context of the corporate gathering. Most student ministries won’t be able to create opportunities to lead for every area in which students are gifted. I would say student ministries weren’t meant to- which is another reason why students need connected to the church as a whole.
Finally, teach them to value Jesus above everything else. While this is listed after the other two reasons, this is the most important. Our main concern is about developing leaders who equip others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know the gospel leads us to serve in so many different ways, but the reason never changes. We do everything to glorify God, whether it’s leading music on stage, leading a game, running sound, helping with visuals, greeting others, serving in a Sunday School class, taking care of babies in the nursery, or leading a Bible Study. This must always be the most important thing.
Student ministers, what are some challenges you’ve faced in equipping students to lead? How have you seen God work in your students as they’ve had opportunities? I’d love to hear your stories!