We have a Junior High student leadership team at Grace called CrossTrainers. It exists to grow students deeper in their knowledge of Jesus and leadership AND to give students a place to serve hands-on within our ministry. While it’s still a work in progress, I’m convinced that if you’re involved in student ministry you CANNOT afford to neglect developing student leadership. Everyone of you should start a student leadership team because of 3 abilities it will develop in your students:
Ability to Steer – We open our CrossTrainers sessions by picking an area or two for which they help brainstorm solutions. For example, we’ll pose a question like: “From the time a student gets out of the car on a Wednesday night until they enter the room for the program, what’s the best experience we can provide for them?” A question like this begs other questions like: “Where do new students go for information?” “How do new people know who leaders are?” “Who will welcome these students?” As they come up with answers they begin to steer their own youth group in the direction it should go. You, as the leader, may already know the answers to the questions, but getting them to discover those answers on their own in crucial. It’s even more crucial that they begin to provide solutions to those issues. Some of their solutions as to where to steer the group are better than what you or your adult leaders would come up with… and because THEY came up with the solution they’re more likely to help implement the ideas and keep them running.
Ability to Grow Experientially – We all seem to have learned most and best when we were helping lead a group or counsel at camp or on a mission trip. When it comes to student leadership, we’ve got to get them learning experientially as well. There’s a time and place to simply teach them important principles, but the best part of student leadership happens when they are trying and doing and succeeding or failing. Have student leaders setup the room, counsel other students after they accept Jesus, welcome new students, follow up with first time visitors, pray for needs in the group, and dream up new ideas for the ministry. As they do this they’ll learn to see things others don’t. They’ll identify areas of weakness, either in the program or themselves, and seek to improve them (hopefully). They’ll develop a bank of experiences on how to do youth ministry and the Christian life. They’ll have had a direct part in the experience. They won’t just know ABOUT leadership, they’ll have actually led.
Ability to Bond – If relationships really are they key (and they are), then it is also crucial that you provide student leadership to allow like-minded students going hard after Jesus the ability to bond with each other. Students who are leading, dreaming, trying and failing, trying and succeeding, and having fun together will naturally bond. One of my favorite evenings in the past year just happened last Friday. We took our CrossTrainers out to dinner in Hollywood and then on to City Walk at Universal Studios. I couldn’t help but think the depth of relationships that was beginning to form on this team (mostly 8th graders) would be a bond that would survive all of high school. I prayed that their bond would be like the strongest relationships described in the Bible. I prayed their bond would afford them the ability to both survive tough days ahead in life and leadership AND allow them the ability to forge new ground for Jesus.
Hit me up if you want more information on what we’re doing. And if you’ve got a student leadership team in place, I’d love to get your wisdom rolling in!