Developing Leaders in Student Ministry

A leader is only as good as the others who they are empowering to lead. 

Over the past month and a half, God has placed this truth on my heart in a way that I cannot ignore. I am a task-oriented person, and take pride in a well-managed, productive day or an event that goes off without a hitch. However, I have become convicted that an organization developing new and future leaders is better than an organization that only appears to be functioning properly.

The less you do, the more effective you are. 

Why is this so difficult for many of us? It’s because we are control-oriented people. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves on a daily basis is, I can do this myself. Not only is this an egregious form of self-denial, but it is also unscriptural.

Paul wrote the book of 1 Corinthians to a church running rampant with disfunction. One of their obvious blemishes was that they had overvalued certain spiritual gifts – namely the gift of prophesy and speaking in tongues – at the expense of other necessary tasks. As you can imagine, the things they prided themselves on were the gifts or tasks that were more visible. They craved exposure, but they lacked leadership. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Paul wrote the following message to this church:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

In other words, not only is it God’s design for each individual in the church to work together, alongside one another, but it allows each person an opportunity to express their unique spiritual gifts.

I have some spiritual gifts – I believe that we all do – but I do not have every spiritual gift. And neither does anybody else. If I am the only leader in my ministry, then my ministry may have some strengths – that reflect my own strengths – but it will also have my weaknesses. I know myself to know well the areas which I am weak, and i don’t want my ministry to be limited by my own shortcomings. Therefore, I must create opportunities for others to express their strengths. By doing so, I am able to train future leaders and utilize each person’s individual talents for the overall health of my ministry.

So how does this happen? How do you help students recognize their full potential as leaders? How do you create opportunities for students to express their talents?

Allow me to share with you a few ideas I’ve had. Some I’ve implemented well, others are still a work in progress. This list is not exhaustive – in fact, I hope that this post generates responses from others with their own thoughts and suggestions. After all, you may be strong in an area that I am not!

  1. Recognize that ALL students can be leaders, but remember that some will lead differently than others.
  2. Start encouraging your students to lead earlier rather than later. Don’t wait until students are juniors and seniors before giving them opportunities to lead.
  3. Ask students questions about what they are passionate about. This may help you imagine areas where they might be able to contribute.
  4. Complement students on areas in which you see strength, or when you see them make an effort to step out of their comfort zones.
  5. Spend extra time with students who are ready to make the jump into greater leadership. Encourage them, disciple them, and ask good questions that guide them to greater leadership opportunities.
  6. Lead through other students in your ministry. Encourage your seniors to mentor freshmen and sophomores, or encourage sophomores and freshmen to invest in the middle school group.
  7. Pray OFTEN for your current and future leaders. I have to remind myself almost everyday that God is the one responsible for changing hearts, not me.

What did I miss? What has worked for you? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Note: This post is in response to http://www.studentministry.org and their list of “100 Blog Topics I Hope YOU Write.” For the whole list, which contains many other fantastic posts, see http://www.studentministry.org/100-blog-topics-i-hope-you-write/.

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