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In recent years, I have found great value in having a student leadership team. It’s not cliché, its true…Jesus spent additional time with a group of men to give them individual attention and help them reach their potential to start the early church. In these student leadership teams, the goals are on a much smaller scaled compared to Jesus and His disciples, but the goal still remains to help them reach their spiritual potential and to be the next generation of leaders in the church. Here’s some tips that have helped make the student leadership team a reality.
Ain’t No Such Thing as Small Potatoes. Don’t be afraid to start small. The first year I hosted a leadership team, there were only 2 participants. Small is not always a bad thing. Individual attention was given. Questions were answered. Real progress was accomplished in this small group.
Where do is sign? Please make sure to have an application process. You can’t just have a sign up list on the side of the youth room, and hope each person becomes a leader. Have some requirements right off the bat like an application, and even an interview. The requirement of the student leadership will be lofty, so the application process should not be just putting your name on a piece of paper.
Little Help Over Here. Don’t be afraid to go find some help with leadership training. May I make a suggestion? The good people at LeaderTreks, particularly the 365 Leadership Training, is a great place to start. Additionally, I scour the Christian leadership blogs, often sent to me by ChurchLeaders, and use the blogs as an opener to each of our meeting.
Thank You For Coming…Now What? In addition to the leadership training curriculum and leadership articles, the key part of leadership training is the concept of “level above”. It is a requirement for each participant to serve in the church in some capacity. But that’s not enough to just serve in children’s ministry as a volunteer. We take it a “level above” and require the student to teach or lead a portion of that children’s ministry. If children’s ministry is not their thing, the requirement for volunteering in other areas of the church are go a “level above”. We discuss each person’s individual assignments at the beginning of each meeting.
Put Them in the Game, Coach. Part of training leaders is to give them opportunities to lead. Sounds simple, but it takes some steps of faith, patience, and willingness to allow failure. Sure, you could plan youth events easily by yourself. But in leadership training, you must allow them to take the lead. In the past, I’ve allowed students to plan events like the Christmas party, Super Bowl Party, and a Compassion International event. But the doozy was the Easter Egg Hunt. The teens were placed in charge, planned out the schedule, sought out volunteers, made phone calls, prepped the materials…it was their show. Talk about a step of faith. But let me tell ya, in the end, this was a valuable learning experience in leadership that was well worth the effort.
Personal & Prayerful. Spend some time with them. Ask for personal requests. Invite them over for a lunch prior to the meeting so you can get to know the students. Find ways to make the meeting time special so students want to come, and younger students have something they look forward to.
What do you do? How have you built student leaders?
Give Me Your Heart. Right off the bat, the author goes after your heart. This is not a surface “how-to” leadership book. It truly follows the title and goes deep into the heart issues of leadership.
Are You Talking to Me? Application is heavy in this one. My goodness, the pages are full of tasks for any leader. From personal exercises to interaction with staff, this book covers all bases of leadership, and provides practical tasks to make it happen.
Listen up Leaders. This is a true leadership book for those in ministry and in the workplace. It holds great value for those that want to leave an impact on those around them for generations to come.
Multiplication. I caught myself saying YES when I consistently heard motivation for discipleship. This is how it should be. There needs to be a call for more discipleship and influence of others. This book does a fantastic job of pleading for more discipleship AND showing the reader how to accomplish it.
Me, My, I. While it comes close to arrogance at time, the author tends to talk about himself and his position of leadership a great deal. While I like personal stories, it nearly becomes boasting at times. The amount of personal pronouns in this book gets to be a little much at times.
Made Me Feel Bad. OK, so this isn’t really a bad thing. When you read a leadership book you should walk away challenged and with the realization that you need improvement. This book will convict you. You will find something wrong in your leadership, so get ready.
The Grade: B. Providing practical, deep, and influential practices of leadership, this book should be picked up by any leader seeking to improve. Not allowing even the most successful to gain a feeling of arrival, anyone, at any age or accomplishment will find great value in the principles this book’s challenges and practical steps to better leadership.
In a message at a teen leadership conference, the speaker brought up a good point. Oftentimes, Christian mishandle the topic of homosexuality and cause more harm than good. While there is certainly disagreements in lifestyle and behavior, there are things Christians can do differently and better to show we love others, specifically those in the homosexual community. Here are a few ways we can be more consistent, loving, and Christ-like.
(Taken from a message by David Whiting, Teen Leadership Conference at Baptist Bible College, July 2014)
Let me set this up for you, and I’ll try to do this quickly, since most of you probably will be skipping this intro anyway, and just skimming down to the bold list below. Hey, I read blogs too, I’m not offended.
So, here is the breakdown of the story found in John 13:1-20. Jesus begins to wash the feet of the disciples. Peter refused to be washed by His Savior. Jesus calms Him down, and ends up washed all of the disciples feet (yes, if you know the story of Jesus, that includes the one that would betray Him).
What does this story have to do with leadership? Well, I am glad you asked. Goodness, that was corny, but I’m still writing, and unwilling to push backspace. Okay, no more waiting, here is the list of leadership principles in Jesus washing feet:
Humility. This was is pretty obvious, but it can’t be skipped over. As the ultimate leader, Jesus was willing to do tasks that usually given to servants in the household. Jesus was willing to clean the filthy feet of those that were about to scatter, abandon, and even betray him. That takes it to a new level. Talk about humility. Jesus was going to receive nothing in this exchange, except rejection.
Service. No act of service was beneath Jesus. He was willing to wash filthy feet, and he was willing to give His life. In terms of being a leader, nothing should be beneath us in service of God and others. As a pastor, there may not be someone around to plunge the toilet. As a youth leader, you may have to mop up the vomit. As a servant in God’s kingdom, you may have to out of your comfort zone for the Gospel to be heard. Don’t let any service for others, and especially God be beneath you.
Vision. This was a brilliant move by our Savior. Jesus was giving a powerful illustration of what He wanted from his followers. Jesus, by humbly serving His disciples, was teaching the men, who Jesus would leave the Gospel message in their hands, how to be a leader. He taught them they were not above the message or the subject of the message (verse 16). Christ saw this as an opportunity to show how them an example of true humble service. Serve God and others humbly, never thinking more of yourself. Jesus said if He is willing to do this, as Lord, you should be willing to do it for others.
Humility. Service. Vision. Want to be a leader? I’d say these three things would be a good place to start.
What is the best way to prepare for a mission trip? In a word…TRAINING. You want to avoid the Romeo who tries to ask out the missionary’s daughter or the insurance deductible for what is left of the new orphanage wing…Well, here are 10 steps that will help prevent disaster and set the table for God to work. (Disclaimer: Accidents, Trials, and Difficulty can/will occur during mission trips, but there are some difficulty that can be avoided)
1. Application Process
Mission Trips are serious business. They must be handled differently than a trip to an amusement park. You don’t just put a sign-up list on your bulletin board with cool font and clip-art graphics. No, most of the trips are designed for those students serious about serving God and getting their hands dirty for Jesus Christ. So what do you do? You have an application process. Have each student fill out an application, get references from their parents/guardians and another adult, and must be turned in by the deadline. Following the application, have them interview with yourself (include parents & other leaders in the interview). Lay out the expectations of the trip, the assignments, the attendance policy, and the behavior expected in each participant. If the student cannot meet the expectations, it is in your and their best interest they are not part of the team.
2. Here’s Your Notebook
Make it look official. Give each student a notebook with the assignments, place for notes, support letter samples, contact information, prayer requests, release forms, etc. Students will be able to keep their program assignments and other materials in one spot, and will be advised to take their folders on the trip. Although it takes some work to put these notebooks together, it is well worth the effort.
Lessons for the notebook notes include Evangelism training, Bible studies on Missions, and assigned reading review. Guest speakers from the church provide a great way to connect the generations in this effort. I’ve had elementary teachers and children workers come speak on child evangelism, working professionals speak on leadership or give a “How to Paint” tutorial, and Spanish teachers teach us about Latin culture.
3. Strict Attendance & Expectations
When I say strict, I mean it. I give the students one excused absence from training which would include vacation, sickness, etc. If they miss more than one, they will receive an extra assignment. Two absences will result in a meeting with the parents. Why so strict? I want these students to take this trip seriously. They will be representing Christ and our church in another state/country, and skipping training shows they don’t see the trip as important.
Also, as part of their attendance each time we meet, I ask each student about the following: Devotions, Church Attendance, Book Reading, and other assignments. If there is consistent neglect of these things, additional assignments, and/or meeting with the parents will occur. If the negligence continues, the student may be dismissed from the team.
4. Get Your Church On Board
Each year, we prepare a short 15 minute presentation to the church about the trip. The students present the trip by preparing a PowerPoint, explaining the training, preparation, funds needed, and trip tasks. A student also will pray for the trip following the presentation. This shows ownership of the trip and the church will most likely get on board when they hear about the trip from the teenagers themselves. (And when you get back, makes sure to organize a testimony service)
5. Unwrap Gifts
The last few years I have required that each incoming/new student fill out a Spiritual Gift Inventory. Using the results of the inventory, I place each student in the groups that best suit their gifts and abilities. Why would I place a shy introvert whose gift is serving in the lead teaching role? Similarly, why would a type-A, brilliant communicator with a teaching gift be put in a primarily behind the scenes role? Sure, there will be times when you go out of your comfort zone, but the primary role should be one that reflects their gifts and abilities, which will in turn allow them to reach their greatest potential for God’s glory.
Tasks and responsibilities could include/but not limited to: Communicator, Work Coordinators, Team Encourager, Communication Assistants, Ministry Coordinators, Photographers, Prayer Coordinators, Public Relations, Praise Band Member, Teaching Team, Hospitality Team, Cleaning Crew, & Supply Team (Stay Tuned for Task & Responsibility explanation list later in the blog this month)
6. Unity Doesn’t Just Happen
Unity takes so much work. This past year we did a unity game and it was complete silence, frustration was high, and people were getting offended by their misuse. But, we kept at it, continued to do unity games periodically in training, and the final unity activity gave me goosebumps…communication, laughter, leadership, encouragement…that was worth the effort.
7. Provide Leadership Opportunities
Stretch your students to reach their potential in leadership. Give them responsibility. Allow failure, but be there to pick them up when they fail at times. If the teens aren’t pushed and are not taken out of their comfort zone, your spiritual growth opportunity will decrease significantly. Allow them to lead music, teach lessons, take the pictures, share the Gospel, lead the devotions…You let them lead, and it may be more work in the outset, but the blessings will be so much more than you ever expected.
8. Practice Makes…It’s Never Gonna Be Perfect
This is a no-brainer. You have to schedule time to practice. Whether it is puppets, music, teaching lessons…give them time to practice during training. Allow students to be leaders during these practices, particularly the upperclassmen running these practices of their particular part in the program.
Speaking of practice, give the students opportunity to practice sharing the Gospel, both real and imaginary. Here’s what I mean. Each year, I set up the gym like wherever we are going. I typically ask 2 or 3 small groups to come and participate in a mock evangelism event acting like different kinds of people. One year was a park in inner-city Chicago or New York, and other year we were at a camp with a whole bunch of adults acting like elementary kids. It gives the teens opportunity to practice in a less-pressure filled environment. As the teens mature and gain more experience, take them door-to-door or to local parks to talk to people about Jesus.
Last, but certainly NOT least, is prayer. Inside the notebooks should be a list of prayer requests that you have for the trip. Encourage students to pray for these regularly. Design a prayer card with the team’s picture on it and send those out in your support letters. Have those cards available in the lobby of the church for people to grab and put on their refrigerators. Also, as seen in the responsibility list, designate 1 or 2 students to be prayer leaders. Have these leaders design a prayer book for the trip, and during training have them lead the prayer time and also keep track of individual prayer requests along the way.
See 10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip for more trip information and resources.
Why set goals and not take the time to check them off. Sure, God gets the credit, but you get to cross it off the list. And man, that is a good feeling. So let’s take a look at the 2012 Goals, and give myself some grades.
Grade Point Average: 3.0, with average grade of B (not counting Incomplete)
Conclusion: Sure some of these things were out of my control and some were set too high (I’m a slow reader!), but overall a B average is pretty good. However, it isn’t good enough, especially when we are talking about ministry. There are areas for improvement for sure. IT was nice to see that these goals were measurable and somewhat reachable.
It is a blessing to do God’s work, and God deserves straight A’s. Please pray that I can get better grades next year! (2013 Goals – Stay tuned for next month’s blog entry)
How did you do? Were there things that could not be accomplished on your 2012 goals list? What are some goals you have for 2013?
Okay, maybe it worked for Moses, but you don’t need a burning bush incident to get your students to be a leader. Here are 5 tips for starting a Student Leadership Team:
More ideas…bring it on! Would love to hear what works for your student leaders.