Five Student Leadership Dos and Don’ts

Nick McNabb
May 1st, 2019

Recently a good friend of mine contacted me and asked me to share my view of what I thought youth ministry should look like in today’s world.  As I sat and thought, I looked in the mirror at the ministry I lead.  I thought about how the “times have changed,” and then I thought about the things that have remained the same.  After thinking for some time, I sent him a list (lists are what I do).  And, it looked something like this.

The Dos and Don’ts…

DoCreate a Culture of Connection .Leading students can be an overwhelming task.  I have been a student minister for almost twelve years.  Each year, I get older and the students I minister to stay the same age.  If I am not careful, it can become increasingly difficult for me to connect with my students.  But, staying connected to them is essential.  If you do anything, strive to create a ministry culture that will allow people to relate to each other.  That includes you.

Don’tBe Best Friends. Most of us in student ministry want to be liked.  Many of us thrive off of being the one people can count on.  But, our students have plenty of friends.  What they need is someone who is going to lead them.  You can connect with them without getting too close.  It’s a fine line, but it’s an important one not to cross.

DoRecruit Good Partners. One of the important jobs as a student leader is to recruit others to help in the ministry.  Building a robust, reliable team of people who are willing to connect with and love on students helps sustain the impact of a ministry.  So, if it’s small group leaders or retreat chaperones, remember it’s good to have people on your team to serve the students under your care.

Don’t Expect to Do It By Yourself. Superheroes have sidekicks! Fact, trying to do student ministry by yourself is not sustainable.  Seeking out people with the heart to serve students alongside you is very important.  Popular research (Fuller Youth Institute) show that a student needs at least five adult mentors in their life to make a positive impact.  As a student leader, it is our job to seek out others to do just that.

Do Create a Reliable Calendar. Busyness is everyone’s middle name in our world today.  I find that student ministries are more effective if what they have planned is reliable and planned out.  Now, that does not mean there isn’t room for a random event now and again, but big events should be planned out in advance.  Having a day to present a yearly, quarterly, or semester calendar shows that you respect everyone’s schedule and it will help your events gain traction.

Don’t Over-Schedule. As helpful as creating a reliable calendar can be, over-scheduling can be just as much a detriment to your ministry.  As you plan an activity, it’s important to know the primary flow of your student’s lives.  Don’t add stuff to the schedule just to fill a time slot.  Make everything you do worth it.  Don’t schedule things that compete with school events, congregational events, family holidays, and so on.  You will gain a lot of traction with the families you minister to if you are respectful of their time.

Do Be Real. Creating an environment where students and leaders can share and be vulnerable will help everyone grow in Christ.  Social media has tempered our ability to get to know each other, and too many of us hide behind our online personas.  As a student leader, if you can be real with your students, you will permit them to be real too.  And, in this setting Christ can be glorified.

Don’t Get Caught Up in Over-Sharing. Being vulnerable and open with your students often gives you credibility.  But, be careful with what you share.  Remember you are not trying to paint a picture of perfection, but being wise with what and how you share is important too.

Do Win Students to Jesus. The reason your ministry exists is based on Matthew 28:19-20.  Teaching, sharing, and modeling the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is the most important thing we can do while leading students.  Let’s make sure we keep first things first – winning them to the Lord is our primary objective.

Don’t Let Youth Group Be the End.As student leaders, we want our group to be the best and “awesome-est.”  But, we need to make sure students understand a relationship with the Lord is the most significant thing in their lives.  We all know that one day we will outgrow youth groups, so we want to establish a relationship with the Lord as our primary goal.  Cool youth rooms are great, but heaven will blow those away.

If you are a student ministry veteran or newbie, you will know that the list above is not exhaustive.  But, I hope in some small way it might cause you to think about how you are leading students.  Striving to be better leaders is at the core of all we do!

Nick McNabb

Nick has been in student ministry for almost twelve years. He has served the past 9+ years in Jr. High Ministry at the College Church of Christ in Searcy, AR. He and his wife Amanda have been married for 14+ years and have one daughter, Lily. When Nick isn’t serving the families and students of his ministry - he is likely planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.