What does baseball have to do with developing student leaders in your youth ministry? Glad you asked . . . I'm a huge Washington Nationals fan. Sure the Nationals may not be good right now, but they are improving. They are starting to show signs of being a legitimate contender in the years to come. Why do I say this? Because not only do they have an All-Star 3rd baseman in Ryan Zimmerman, who is still in his 20s, but they secured the #1 pick both last year (Stephen Strasburg) and this year (Bryce Harper). Both players are rare talents, and are predicted to be phenomenal players for years to come. In order for the Nationals to improve and start contending for the division title (and hopefully the World Series), they had to build a team. That responsibility falls largely on the General Manager and his staff. Their goal is scout out young talent in high school, college, or minor league baseball, to find out which players have the right stuff to be integral pieces in the future success of the team.
Thinking of the National's core of young players led me to consider all the building and rebuilding we do in Youth Ministry each year. Just like the General Manager for a baseball team, youth ministers have to play the role of team builder. See, every year youth ministers gain a new class of students while we say good-bye to our recently graduated seniors. With the incoming freshmen (or 7th graders, depending on the structure of your youth group) comes a ton of excitement and new energy. But with the graduating seniors we lose a lot of strong leadership (hopefully) within the group. That is a void that needs to be filled. So how do you replace those student leaders? Here are two suggestions of how I have seen it done effectively:
Constantly be looking
As you and your leaders develop relationships with students, there are going to be students who stand out to you because of their leadership traits. When that happens, jump on it! Some of the greatest conversations I have with my adult volunteers are identifying new students who are stepping up as potential leaders. Some students demonstrate clear outward signs, others may need more of our involvement to help light the leadership spark. Either way, as you begin to identify potential in these students, you and your team need to act on getting them more strategically involved in ministry.
Make it part of your Program
By this I mean making Leadership RTD (Recruitment, Training, and Development) a regular part of your youth program. For instance, at the beginning of each year, give every student the opportunity to become a student leader. What might this look like? This could be a formal gathering where you invite students who express a desire to be in leadership, or show potential in the area. Or, it could be open to all of your students. This gathering is a time where you outline expectations, and give them a vision for who they could become as a student leader in your program. Included in this may be a covenant you have set up for students who desire to be student leaders; they commit to certain expectations for the year and agree to be held accountable for them. If students choose to participate, they commit to attending monthly (or bi-monthly) leadership training meetings to spur them on. Also, you can set them up with other leaders who can mentor them 1-on-1. Right now, take a moment to examine what you are doing to replace student leaders. How successful you are at recruiting, training and developing new ones? Is it working or not? What changes need to take place so you can be more effective?
What do you do to help recruit and train student leaders? What are your tips on how to identify up-and-coming student leaders?