5 Reasons a Student Leadership Team will Change Your Youth Group
“Leaders are readers.” Dr. Jay Strack and his team at Student Leadership University preach this to their students year after year. When is the last time you read a book for personal growth? Today we’re going to discuss five reasons a student leadership team will change your youth group, but before we can lead, we must be growing internally. You may be like me a few years ago, someone who avoided reading at all costs. I was a slow reader who struggled to make it through anything. Yet the more I read, the more there is immediate growth in my life.
Jake Rasmussen and I sat down and talked about books we would recommend, and are here to provide you with two places to get started. The first is “Leadership Tactics” by Jocko Willink, and the second is "Leadership and Self-Deception" by the Arbinger Institute. There are countless books out there to read, but these two would be an excellent place to start. I'm also going to challenge you to let us know what books you would recommend in the comments.
Speaking of challenge, let’s jump into the five reasons a student leadership team will change your youth group.
You’ll often hear it said, vision is caught not taught. When it comes to a student leadership team, there are few better ways to create buy-in from your students. I want you to take a moment to think about an event or training in which you simply attended. The information could have been engaging, but other than a possible ticket price, the only things keeping you engaged were your will and the interest of the information being taught. Next, I want you to recall an event or training where you had an active role in either teaching or helping execute. Were you more interested in the second? Were you more invested in seeing the success or impact of the training?
The same principle applies to your students and student ministry. Students have many options when it comes to how they are going to spend their time, and like most people, they assign value to each of those options. When you create a student leadership team, you not only add value to them as individuals, but you allow them to add value to the student ministry as well. Your Turkey Bowling event this fall may have been well attended if you planned it, but when Sarah and Michael jump in on the planning, they will also help get students to the event. If you want students to understand your youth ministry's vision, the why, then invite them into leadership where they get to use their hands in a more active way to carry out that vision.
2. Leader Development
If you teach leadership principles to someone, and you do not give them a place to use these, it creates entitled individuals. These individuals will believe they are leaders because of their knowledge, yet lack the skills to implement these training pieces in needed areas. The alternative is to teach leadership principles to someone and give them a place to use these skills. When they have an outlet for investing those skills, they will grow alongside those around them.
When you have a leadership team, you start to see growth within your ministry because a properly utilized team only adds value. It is important to put a caveat on this group, and that is, you are not looking to make an elite click of students. A leadership team used incorrectly can send a message to students that the "most valuable" students are on the leadership team, and everyone else is inferior. Your leadership team should be comprised of students who are ready to pour back into the ministry and who are invested in seeing the success of the vision God has provided you with to lead.
Some excellent ideas to use with your leadership team are reading, small groups (we’ll talk about this on the next point), and scripture memorization. Challenging your leadership team to read books alongside you will get them invested in the importance of reading, as well as give them valuable skills to instantly pour back into their own lives. Scripture memorization is an important discipline for all believers but think about the importance of scripture memorization for your leaders. When Jesus found Himself tempted in the desert, it was His knowledge of scripture which He looked to. If the students we task with leading have scripture at the forefront of their minds, it creates a beautiful example to point towards powerful spiritual disciplines for the rest of our ministry.
3. Many Hands Make the Work Light
This is the most practical point thus far, and it’s simple. Student leadership teams help create more opportunities because you can trust them more. Thriving middle school ministries are often connected to youth groups with a powerful student leadership team. Why? When students begin to invest in students, you'll see a connection on both sides of your age groups. Middle school students love seeing older students spend time with them, and the older students will remember times when someone invested in them. It's a self-feeding system where you are introducing them to the power of the community and the Church.
Have small groups discuss what they are learning and give the opportunity to lead small groups. This will give them the outlet to implement the skills they are learning. Small groups allow students to become growing leaders who inspire growth around them. The more student leaders you have, the more small groups you can have, which will create even more opportunities for your students to be seen on a personal or individual level.
Another warning with this point is to not let this become something your students watch you do. When we first begin mentoring and showing students what it means to be a leader, we can let the spotlight fall on us as leaders. Look at the knowledge I have, and you must know how lucky you are to be learning this from me. It sounds bad typing it, and it feels even worse to live it out. You want your student leaders to be a focal point of this team, and for them to see how much they are not only learning but doing! A student leadership team can quickly turn into a sounding board while you do the ministry work when used improperly. Let your students get involved in doing ministry, and I promise you will see more ministry happen.
4. Create Goals for Them to Achieve
What do I mean by goals? I’m not talking about a frequent shopper card at your local Brusters. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before beginning your student leadership team this fall:
- How will this help student leaders grow this year?
- What are the three valuable skills they will learn this year?
- What would students be missing if they didn't participate in the student leadership team this year?
- Is there a cool experience or trip we can take at the end of the year as a thank you?
When you have the answers to these questions, you’ll have a gameplan and vision for where to take the team this year. You want to invite students into a process where you can see concrete improvements that will occur. Student Leadership University is an organization I referenced at the beginning of this article, but they make a promise to every student who comes. You will be ten years ahead of your peers because of the skills and experiences by coming through this program. I believe it too! Some colleges offer scholarships to SLU students because of the accuracy of that statement.
Imagine if your students knew what impact this team could have on their future? What impact can the student leadership team have on the future of your ministry? Students will be better for serving on a well led and utilized student leadership team. This team will provide your older students with an opportunity for growth, and it gives your younger students something to look forward to when they get older!
5. Picture of the Overall Church
This will be a tough truth to hear: not every student should be on the leadership team. I know, you want every student to be a leader, and this is still possible. If your team is your entire youth group, you don't have a leadership team. This is ok, though, because it carries us to this fifth and final point. When we understand everyone has roles, we begin to see a better picture of the overall church.
Your student leadership team is a way to serve and grow at the church, just like serving in the nursery. Similar to serving on the parking team, or even serving in the kitchen. The church needs the entire body of believers to thrive, and your student ministry needs students to serve in separate roles as well. Perhaps some of your students will serve on the leadership team, others will serve as greeters, and some might serve to help with food each week. The best thing you can do is teach that each role is equally important. It's an important leadership principle; leaders aren't better than anyone else, which will be modeled for your students repeatedly by creating an equal serving opportunity.
An additional benefit of the student leadership team is how it will not only create leaders for your youth ministry but for your overall church as well. I've seen students who served on the leadership team then move to serve in leadership in the college ministry. There are others who served on a leadership team as a student, who came back as a young adult to help lead out in Sunday School. Your student leadership team is an investment today, which will impact the overall Church for decades to come.
Youth Ministry is about spiritual development, and it is the primer for lifelong faith. This healthy church member is born because they serve in the youth ministry leadership team.
Student leadership teams are not always easy to make, but it’s worth the investment.
Here at YM360, we crush hassles and serve relationally. If you would like help getting started, or see some struggles in starting your team, then let us know how we can help!