We all know by now how important it is to put students in positions of leadership in your youth program. If you’ve done it, you also know how potentially messy and complicated it can become. Students are less experienced and not always dependable. Yet it is still essential to provide them opportunities to lead in your program. It will be through these opportunities that they grow into the disciples of Christ that God seeks to create.
Here are three practical ways to give teenagers opportunities to lead.
1. Create a Student Leadership Committee (it should have a better name, but you get the idea).
It is important to have some sort of avenue where your students can provide feedback. This is your opportunity to really hear from your students. Are students enjoying small group time? Are they getting a lot out of the current teaching series? What is no longer popular that once was a hit?
You are responsible for leading the youth ministry, but a wise leader will listen closely to the youth you lead.
A Student Leadership Committee is a great way to allow students to make some decisions about your program. Notice the emphasis on some. Don’t let youth make all the decisions or you may end up with a hot tub in the youth room and a depleted budget by February. But it is important to let your youth make some of the decisions.
Youth can help decide on some of your upcoming events and activities. Should we go to this upcoming concert? Do you want to do laser tag or paint ball? What topic should we study next month for Bible study? Give options so that you would be ok with whatever they choose.
A Student Leadership Committee creates a ‘buy in’ from your students to your program that will pay dividends far into the future.
2. Let your high schoolers lead your middle schoolers.
At my church, we have a total of six high school leaders that are allowed to lead at middle school youth group. We assign them a grade and a gender to serve (i.e. 6th-grade boys, 7th-grade girls, etc).
We wanted our high schoolers to have a high level of buy in and so we ask them to commit for the year. Any high schooler who is interested is invited to fill out an application and share with us why they want to lead.
We have found that the middle schoolers love talking with the “cool” high school students, the adult leaders love having someone help that is “closer to their age” and the high schoolers feel empowered to lead. It is a win-win-win!
3. Find opportunities for students to lead on Sunday mornings.
There are plenty of opportunities to help lead in church, but you’ll have to advocate for them to happen.
Examples include Scripture reader, greeter, usher, singer in praise band or member of the choir, musician, powerpoint creator, sound technician, etc.
It is not an exaggeration to say that my church has youth in every one of these areas. It is also true to say that we have to make sacrifices in order to make this happen. Our set list will change if we have a high school drummer that week. Our greeters sometimes oversleep and miss the service. Our slide clicker once missed a whole song because he was distracted by another youth.
The sacrifices are worth it to ensure that youth have opportunities to lead in church on Sunday mornings.
If you are the person in charge of caring for the youth at your church, then the responsibility to advocate for student leadership most likely will fall to you.
Just remember- it’s worth it.
Jesus allowed twelve people to follow and learn from him for three years. They sometimes had great successes. Other times they were complete failures. Throughout it all, they were learning what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
Let’s give our students the same opportunity.
David Bonnema is the Associate Pastor at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church in Tampa, FL. He received his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and his Bachelors from Whitworth University. More writings can be found at WWW.BEYONDTHESERMON.COM.