Why Student Leadership?
We’re excited to have Jen Bradbury as one of our NYWC speakers. This blog post is a great start to the conversations she’ll be navigating in her seminar: Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders. Check out more information HERE.
When I took my first job in youth ministry over a decade ago, the idea of building a student leadership team was all the rage. Since then, however, student leadership seems to have gone out of fashion. Sure, there are a few voices who champion the idea of student leadership but I no longer feel as though it’s a standard part of most youth ministries.
For me, however, student leadership – and in particular, a student leadership team – is one of the most critical aspects of youth ministry. But with everything else you have to do as a youth pastor, why should you invest time and energy into a student leadership team?
Before I answer this question, let me correct a common misconception about student leadership.
As a youth pastor, a student leadership team will not save you time. Student leaders are NOT their to do your grunt work. They’re there to learn how to do ministry; They’re part of the saints we as leaders are called in Ephesians 4:12 to equip. As a result, anything you do with student leaders will typically take you two, if not three times longer than it would take to do it yourself.
But it’s worth it because student leadership is fundamentally about discipling teens.
And while discipleship takes time, it’s always worth it.
That, in a nutshell, is also why you should invest time and energy into a student leadership team. It gives you a powerful vehicle for discipling a group of teens. Leading others pushes teens out of their comfort zones in big and small ways. In the process, they learn to (or are forced) to depend on Jesus in ways they’ve never had to before. When that happens, their relationship with Jesus deepens. So, too, does their life of prayer.
When you view student leadership as discipleship, Jesus becomes your ultimate model for leadership.
Part of your job, then, is to show teens how Jesus led not with power, but with service, and to challenge them to do the same. Your youth ministry may be the ONLY place teens ever learn that leadership is not about wielding power and that when it is, it’s about using power and privilege to benefit those who have neither. AS student leaders begin to understand this, they’ll begin examining issues of justice and how God might be calling them to be part of his kingdom work.
When you view student leadership as discipleship, you’ll entrust student leaders with real responsibilities. Real responsibilities show teens they matter in the life of your church; That their gifts are important to the body of Christ. Once teens have experienced this for themselves, it’ll become hard, if not impossible, for them to merely consume church. That, in turn, will make them an asset to any church they’re a part of.
In short, you should invest time and energy in a student leadership team because it’s a powerful vehicle for discipleship; because it’s part of our calling as youth workers to equip others for ministry.
And because that’s true, then student leadership is more than just a passing fad. It’s a necessary component of youth ministry that’s good for your teens, your ministry, and the future of the church.
Jen Bradbury is the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. She’s the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus, The Real Jesus, and Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders. Jen blogs at ymjen.com and enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing games with her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope.
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.