“Did you say harder? Well, I’m out then, I thought this was going to be easy. I thought I was just suppose to get out of the way and all these kids were supposed to step up.”- Every youth worker who thought releasing students to do ministry would be easy.
What are the challenges you will really face when attempting to shift from adult/youth pastor driven ministry to student led ministry?
The first challenge to getting kids to lead is getting kids to believe that they matter, their voices counts, and they can make a difference, now. We still live in a culture that believes that dreams can only come true after 18. We have to foster an attitude and a presence of affirmation. We have to look and listen to kids and start the process of affirming their ideas and passions and giving them the road map to achieve them until they can draw their own map, that is.
The second challenge of student led ministry is the culture of blank stares. I have been in meetings where I have tried to goad an idea out of students and they looked at me like I was try to milk an elephant. Students sit in a classroom all day where they’re undervalued. They are not mistreated but they aren’t leading either. How do you lead in Algebra or contribute your skills and talents to Physical Science class? For six hours they are taught to listen and stay seated. They usually never hear the words, “What do you think?”.
We have to create a culture of asking questions and letting them ask questions. We must let everything (our programs, etc.) be challenged and changed if necessary.
We also have to have a culture of doing not testing. Kids are graded by how much they know. In Christianity it’s not about how much you know but about practicing what you know. This is called discipleship.
The last challenge we face is defining “getting out of the way”. Does this mean we don’t show up to any meetings? Does this mean kids have total say so and we have none? Do we really let the crazies run the asylum to the point of ruin? Each leader has to define this for themselves. I prefer to think of this as helping kids ride bikes. You stay along side of them until they “got it” and “it” is defined by you.
You must carefully craft the vision of what your kids will look like in a year or four years. What skills do they need to know? What theology must they understand. Each kid will be different, but when they are displaying “it”, get out of the way and train another to ride. When you have a bunch of riders, let them ride out their ministry and you can start another training wheels class.
These challenges never go away. They are always in cycle. Our role, as a mentor, is to be vigilant and unswerving in our pursuit of making disciples of Jesus. If it sounds hard, it is, and that is exactly why we should be doing it.
If you’re looking for a discipleship program that offers students opportunities to lead and do the gospel, allow me to recommend The Disciple Project. This program is flexible enough to do in a weekend, as a one month experiment or as a three month program shift.