A different approach to using student leaders

Student servant leadersIn 2007 I launched an official Student Leadership Team at my church that I worked long and hard to put together and implement. It was complete with an application, a process to get involved, expectations, and a slew of other detailed and bloated things.

But it didn’t work because I quickly learned two things.

  • Just because a student fills out an application and wants to lead doesn’t necessarily make him a humble leader.
  • The team was perceived as an “elite” club of students – who’s in and who’s out.

So in 2008 I took a different approach and recruited a high school senior to serve in a junior high small group. This worked wonderfully and last year we increased it to three high school students serving in three different junior high small groups.

Again, the results were outstanding: in many ways the junior highers looked up to and respected the high school students even more than the adult leaders. These high schoolers were extremely spiritually influential on the junior high students, their leadership skills were developed, and they naturally took ownership over other areas of the youth ministry. Then these high schoolers started influencing other high schoolers to have a perspective of ministry outside of, “I go to youth group only if it’s fun and nothing else is going on.”

This year we launched with 20 high school student servants! Some serve in junior high small groups, others serve as leaders in the jr high Sunday morning discussions, and others serve their peers in high school ministries. As the high schoolers who serve start to experience the growth that can come only by serving, their peers notice, become interested and jump on board.

We hope that this could slowly turn the culture of our youth group from senior highers who are often content to avoid the juniors highers to juniors highers who have positively experienced high school servants and grow up with the unspoken expectation that they’re to come back and serve and the younger ones. So far it’s been working.

Parenthetically, we call these high schoolers servants instead of leaders, which is an important distinction that also helps avoid the club and status mentality of who’s in and who’s out. Leadership is often misunderstood as someone who is up front on a stage or teaching in some way, so calling them servants means that anyone can serve and opens it up to many more students who may otherwise avoid leadership.

A couple expectations we have for all of the students who serve:

  • Meet early to pray before youth meetings.
  • Be responsible for looking for and making contact with about 5 assigned students each week.
  • Help communicate news and information about the youth group at meetings.
  • Be a spiritually mature role model for their peers both inside church and outside.
  • Have a teachable, humble, servant heart.
  • Attend monthly leadership development training.

QUESTION: How are you all using students to serve their peers and those younger than them in your ministry?

Posted on October 11, 2010

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