Can a graduated student leader still serve?

Graduated student leaderDevon just graduated from high school June 10th and on June 12th his youth pastor made him a youth ministry leader for the high school group.

“Devon is ready to do ministry.” His youth pastor contends. “I wanted to plug him in right away using his gifts in ministry.”

Interestingly enough, Devon is now considered an “adult leader” in charge of the very kids that were his peers one week ago, including his ex-girlfriend Amanda, now a senior.

Is this the place Devon should be serving?

Let me be the first to say, I’m a huge advocate of “ministry by teenagers” (hey, that’s a catchy title for a book). There’s no better way to help a student grow than to get him or her plugged into the church body using their gifts for ministry. It’s great to see high school students teaching kindergarten, being a junior high Bible study leader, or being a counselor at vacation Bible school during the summer.

But what about students leading other students?

I’m a huge fan of student leadership. I love developing student leaders to use their gifts to serve and minister to their peers (following Jesus’ model of servant leadership). Last year Devon was one of these student leaders in his youth group.

So is this year any different? Can’t Devon just keep serving the same group even though he graduated?

I see two red flags with keeping Devon involved in leadership with his high school group:

1. Devon needs to move on.

Consider Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused<" as he stood there staring at high school girls. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

Some people never move on.

Devon needs to move on. I don’t know a counselor across the country that would recommend that a high school student keep living out the high school years. Don’t assume that Devon is beyond that temptation. I’ve seen it backfire one too many times. (Every time the youth pastor says, “I didn’t even see it coming.”)

Sometimes freshman in college need a boost to get them to truly cut the umbilical cord and start living like an adult. We’re asking a lot from our student leaders if we think that they can instantly morph into an adult, putting all “high school ways” behind them.

Think about it. His ex-girlfriend is sitting 5 seats down the row from him. Do you think he sees her as a student or a peer? Do you think he sees his buddy Josh, now a senior, as a student or a peer?

That brings up the second red flag I see…

2. Devon will always be seen as a peer to this group.

We can stand around and debate the subject all we want. We could try to justify that Devon already was working with his peers the year prior, we could even talk about how adults regularly elect their peers to be leaders, blah, blah, blah. But that doesn’t deny one simple fact: Devon will always be a peer to those high school kids.

Devon doesn’t just need a break from high school, the high school group needs a break from Devon. Devon was their peer; they aren’t going to see him as anything else. It’s time for Devon to go into the wilderness a little bit and develop his gifts serving somewhere else. If he stays in the high school group, drama is sure to emerge.

There are plenty of places to serve

Youth ministry leaders need to do Devon and the rest of our recently graduated high school student leaders a favor and give them an opportunity to serve in jr. high or elementary school ministry. If your church is like mine, there are abundant opportunities to serve and never enough workers. Plug Devon in somewhere else.

Peer leadership is peer leadership. Being an adult mentor is something else. Don’t confuse the two.


  • What do you do with the Devon’s who want to serve in ministry?
  • How long before “Devon” can serve in high school ministry?
  • For those who insist on keeping Devon in high school ministry—are there any drawbacks to helping him serve somewhere else?

Posted on July 20, 2011

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