One of my friends 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 is an essential part of any ministry that wants to get to student-led ministry.
We 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.
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 leadership about who you are, instead of just something you do. Highlight teens on social media when they’re leading. Show teenagers owning their role, their ideas or their business. They have to believe it’s possible, for them. Coach them up.
2. Don’t start a leadership program, start with serving
This is part of testing a kids ability to serve, their ability to be committed 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.
Give them small ways to win and build on those wins.
3. Introduce A Creative Crises
Plan a Student Take Over of your meeting where every aspect of your meeting is taken over by students and then have a “crisis” where you cannot show up.
Have another adult film the night, watch how students step up (or not) with you absent and then go back and watch the video and share with your students how proud you are of them.
Ask the students who led if they’d like to watch the meeting and talk together about how the night went, together.
4. Offer Group Projects
Another step you can take is by offering projects. Instead of having a full blown meeting, take a Wednesday 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.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg
The goal of becoming student-led is so student learn to rely on the Lord more than us. Students need to learn to pray and seek the Lord for themselves and lead with conviction rather than following a designed path.
Giving students room to lead results in God-ideas that we would never have thought of.
The Apostle Paul says,
Follow me as I follow Christ
So, yes, your example matters so study how Jesus empowers and releases his disciples and do the same for your students.
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