One of my friends once posted:
Plugging youth into jobs in your youth program is not student-led ministry. Far from it. We’re hearing from God but falling short of understanding. Time to equip youth to lead ministries of their own, not ours.
Let me first say that I think the quote is true. Plugging kids into YOUR youth program is not student-led ministry, but student owned ministry. I think plugging in kids, to begin with, is an essential part of any ministry that wants to get to student-led ministry.
We all can’t just release kids to go crazy with their ideas, especially kids who may not know Christ and/or kids with no experience with leadership. We must show pictures of leadership and allow them to jump in where God has gifted them and where God has led them in prayer.
I learned a simple phrase a while back about how to get people involved in ministry
I do it you watch
I do it you help
You do it I watch
You do it, I’ll go do something else.
It worked for me for a lot of years. It’s easy to read a statement like the one that was posted and be overwhelmed by feeling of “But how do I get there?”
Let me offer 5 entry levels to leadership you can use until a kid can lead on their own
1. Constantly introduce the idea that teenagers can lead.
Talk about it, post about it, etc. Try to make it who you are, instead of just something you do. Highlight kids on social media when they’re leading. Show teenagers owning their role or their ideas.
2. Give opportunities in the ministry you already have.
This is part of testing a kids ability to serve, their ability to be committed (with conviction), and their ability to finish a task. Don’t step over this principle especially if you have a group of kids that are new to the idea of student leadership.
3. Introduce Wild Cards
A wild card scenario is where you give a student a task and, unless that kids steps up, the task will not get done. I call it a creative crises. You may ask, “But doesn’t this hurt the program if that kids does not step up?” Not at all. You can can give that student a task as little as being a greeter or as important as preaching. If you’re willing to not rescue the student or the program, everyone will learn something about responsibility and leadership.
You could also plan a Student Take Over of your meeting where every aspect of your meeting is taken over by student because you will conveniently be absent. Have someone film the whole night, watch how students step up (or not) and then go back to the students and share with them where they did great and where they can improve.
4. Offer In House Projects
Another step you can take is by offering projects. Instead of having a full blown meeting, take some Wednesdays and use half the meeting as project night. Give the students parameters and let them work on the outreach, the next youth service, a service project, etc. along with an adult facilitator.
5. Mentoring towards the end goal.
Your goal in this process is getting kids to pray and seek the Lord for themselves rather than follow your designed path. Giving students room to spiritually breath could result in God-ideas that have been put inside that student.
If you’d like more suggestions for equipping students to lead, can I suggest my book The Disciple Project: Equipping The Next Generation of Doers