So what do you think we should do?” I said to my student leadership team during my first year of ministry. This was like throwing a dog a bone. For the next hour I heard what sucked, what I needed to do and when I needed to have it finished. I sheepishly concluded with “great leadership meeting guys, I am excited about what God has in store!” What a load!! I wasn’t excited about jack squat. I just got told by a bunch of teenagers what to do and I was about to do it. This wasn’t leadership. I was training baby dictators.
To be honest, I still twitch a little bit when I hear the term student leadership. I absolutely believe in equipping all the saints for ministry, I just question some of the practices we use to go about empowering young people. Here are my two current thoughts as I wrestle with student leadership;
1. If They Aren’t Serving, They Aren’t Leading- This is classic Jesus leadership 101 found in Mark 10:43-45. As youth ministers, we have opportunities to not only get great theological input and cultural observances from our students, but we can help deploy them as little Christs to a hurting and thirsty world. Looking back I was absolutely setting a low bar by only asking kids about their opinions on pizza, lock-ins and t-shirt designs. In God’s economy, it is the kid who picks up trash after a meeting or who welcomes a newbie who is being the kind of leader our world is dying for.
2. Why a team?- For me, I have struggled with the select few students serving as a leadership team. You could fire back at me and say “hey, Jesus had His select few!” Well I’m not Jesus and these aren’t my disciples. Here is what I am most excited about as far as student leadership is concerned; a. find those who are already leading and continue to encourage the mess out of them. I know it is hard to believe, but even before we get to our lesson about being a servant, students are already serving. b. investigate the passions and gifts of your students and match them with a need in the ministry, community or world. I would honestly make this one of your highest priorities as a youth worker. It is textbook discipleship and I believe it can spread like wildfire throughout a ministry. While I have known this in my head, I can honestly say that I haven’t been as vigilant about it as I should have. Instead of an insider-outsider leadership team, why don’t we aim to equip each student as a leader in one way or another. I think it would make brother Paul happy based on his body part talk in 1 Corinthians 12.
So how are we attempting to do this? Well you might think I’m a Presbyterian goober who loves polity and meetings and you are wrong! But I have started to think that our students are showing elder like traits in decision making and our little deacons are becoming caretakers. Both of these are servants, they just approach service in different ways. For instance, we have collected a good sum of money over the years and a small group of students who are responsible stewards are actually deciding how we will best invest this money into the Kingdom. They are writing up some guidelines and the other students will soon submit missions requests. I think our group has been pretty crumby at hospitality in the past, but we have a small band of students who want to change that. One crowd of girls has taken it upon themselves to be the first to welcome and invite any student with a disability who visits our group. This are just a few that get me excited.
What are some ideas you have about student leadership?