Influence: Student Roles

August 10th, 2017

When I was 14 years old I decided I wanted to be a youth pastor and do for others what had been done for me by my youth pastor. I had no experience and very little biblical knowledge, but I had one thing going for me. I had a youth pastor that believed that students were the best at reaching other students, and he saw potential in me and an ability to INFLUENCE.

Students are best equipped to reach students

Fast forward 21 years and 18 years worth of youth ministry experience and you get a high school pastor that firmly believes, “Students are the best equipped to reach students.” I have shaped my life and ministry around this belief that students can and should have influence within student ministries.

Students have time, energy, resources and a proximity to other students that you and I as pastors and leaders just can’t have anymore. Think about it, who is more in touch and engaged with student life and culture than other students? I’ve been around the block a few times so to speak and I know a lot about students but I’m 35 years old. Now that’s not crazy old but every student in my current group right now was born on or after 1999, which is when I graduated high school.

If we as pastors and leaders can be honest with ourselves then we are forced to realize that we can do a lot to help reach students but we are not the BEST equipped to do it. In classic student leadership some students have jobs like small group co-leaders, worship team members, greeters, tech team etc. Though there is nothing wrong with this, not every student can have a role or a title. So where does that leave everyone else? How do they fulfill their part of the Great Commission? How do they leverage their influence?


To make a long story short, I believe in student leadership and we have a program called LEAD. It stands for Leadership, Evangelism and Discipleship and it makes up the foundation of our Student Leadership Program. We spend a lot of time talking about how not every student can have a role but no matter the situation every student can INFLUENCE. However, this year the question of what that INFLUENCE looked like came up a few times and that forced me to sit down and craft a plan.

[bctt tweet=”Not every student can have a role, but no matter the situation every student can INFLUENCE.” username=”ys_scoop”]

These are the expectations we have of all our LEAD students regardless of their title or experience. Anyone can be in LEAD as long as they are a Christian and our program is their primary Youth Group/Church. There are no forms, no process, no references. We take them where they are at and challenge them with a single question… “How do you leverage your influence?” This is the guide we give students to help them work this out in their lives and situation. For each student, this will look different but it gives them and us a foundation to build on.

Leadership (LOOK)

Look for opportunities to lead by example. Remember you are supposed to be influencers so how can you influence?

  • What are some ways you can lead by example this week?
  • What do you see every week that you could help with?

Evangelism (SEE)

Each week meet / greet / talk to one person. They could be new or someone outside of your circle, but the goal is to see opportunities to build relationships.

  • Pray for God to lead you to one person to talk to this week at youth. If it would help think about using the FROM Model.
    • FROM Model (Taken from Peer to Peer a Sonlife resource)
      • Family – Tell me about your family?
      • Recreation – What do they enjoy doing with their free time?
      • Occupation – Do they have a job? If not, what kind of job would they like?
      • Memory – What was a memorable day of their life?

Discipleship (DO)

Be active in your faith seeking to be more like Jesus.

  • What are 1-2 ways you can be more like Jesus this week?
  • Each week find time to Read, Pray, Memorize and Repeat

In reality, this is a messy experience for you as pastors and leaders. Students make mistakes… lots and lots of mistakes. They can also say the wrong thing (bad theology) but I have always believed it’s better for them to make their mistakes with us as adult leaders around them ready to catch them or pick them back up. Challenging students to LOOK, SEE, DO is not a crazy new concept but its root is found in something that seems to be a new phenomenon, that “Students are the best equipped to reach students.” For me, this is core to what I believe is foundational to any youth ministry, but more importantly this is how students can fulfill the Great Commission in their world right now.

The question I have for you is, how are you helping students leverage their INFLUENCE for Jesus this week?

Jesse Criss is the Grade 11/12 Pastor at Willingdon Church and he recently founded Fresh Ministry Consulting. He is a veteran Youth Pastor with 17 years worth of experience, is married and has beautiful twin girls.


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.