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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?
Last year, I wrote how to plan an Easter Egg Hunt for the community. This time, I’d like to follow-up with six quick tips to help you have a successful hunt. Feel free to comment with ideas you have…
Gospel-Driven. I put this first for a reason. I believe these events can be an opportunity for Jesus to be shared. I’m not suggesting a 4 act play on the story of Easter, but a simple object lesson that would be enjoyable for the kids and their parents.
Church Effort. Listen, the idea of a community Easter egg hunt seems pretty overwhelming to do by yourself…so don’t. Allow it to be a church effort. Encourage your church each year to donate the candy and eggs.
Sunny Bunny Eggs. Even though we support this event mostly with donations, I would suggest purchasing a base amount from Sunny Bunny Eggs for two reasons. One, it helps ease your mind that at least you will have some eggs if donations go awry. Second, it is a great organization that supports those with mental disabilities.
Divide the Ages. Too often, I see Easter egg hunts that are not divided by age and the older kids run over the little ones, like Bigfoot over cars at a monster truck rally. Splitting up the ages is always appreciated by the parents.
Bounce House. Book it right now. Book two if you can. Trust me on this one.
Teen Leadership Opportunity. Our student leaders plan and administrate this entire event. You heard me. They recruit volunteers, plan the games, contact the bounce house people, and even give the lesson. Never underestimate what teenagers can do for their community for God’s glory.
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)
Last week, I posted an article about doing something to help the world in need. Well, how about creating an event dedicated to this very topic, of being “World-Changers” and helping those across the world, from poverty to persecution, from sex slavery to sweatshops, and from forced child labor to forced child military.
Here’s an idea that might work for your student ministry…create a World In Need Event or WIN event. Get out your box cutter and open up this box, and inside you’ll find a kit to create this event.
Allow your students to open their worldview from pin hole to wide view lens. Not just in their sense and compassion of the world’s needs, but also compassion for the lost in far off countries, and faces and names to go with these issues.
Over the course of the year, I collect articles & stories of poverty, persecution, and problems across the world. My primary resource for these articles is Relevant Magazine, with the Reject Apathy project being a huge contributor. Other resources could include national news publications such as Time Magazine. Also, it may be a good idea to contact missionaries to see needs in their regions.
Dispatches from the Front DVD Series: This may need to be edited in some parts, because there are some issues that are more adult. However, this series is powerful to gain an inside look at other cultural issues, and provide a real view of these far places of persecution and unrest.
Finally, purchase Operation World. No, seriously. Put in your order right now, here. This will provide a valuable research during the prayer time of the WIN event. Did you buy it yet…do it!
Opener Video – Choose an opener video to introduce your event. I’ve used these: World Edition of How Great is Our God, First World Problems (this one is especially powerful), & Audio Adrenaline – Kings & Queens.
Main Bible Passage – Use a passage that depicts the compassion God urges us to have for those in need. Click here for some examples.
Presentations – Choose several world regions you would like to focus on helping. Dispatches from the Front provide numerous options of where there is persecution and needs. You can use these DVD’s to introduce the region and needs. Or you can use your research to provide areas of needs.
Presentations can be adult or student led. I would suggest doing the adult or youth leader led projects with a leadership student assisting. After doing this a year or two, move to student presentations.
Give the youth leader or student a packet with the research you have compiled over the year. Provide the location and problem/issue. Inside the packet, provide a cover sheet of what the presentation should include. For example: Project Assignment, Title for Presentation, Bible Verse or Main Passage – Short devotional & How verse relates to topic/presentation, Presentation of World Issue – Present the Problems, Give statistics, Provide visuals – pictures, videos, Provide Solution – What can the audience do? How can we help?, Close in Prayer
Preparation – Allow for several weeks and half your youth group time for students to collect their data and work on their presentations. With youth leaders, you will want to provide the material 1-2 months in advance to give them enough time to prepare their presentations. Choose a month where you can present the idea of helping others or loving others, and take time each week to pray for needs and problems in the world using your Operation World book that you just purchased earlier =)
Travel the World. Make it special. Have your leaders dress up as flight attendants and have students “fly” to their location for the presentations. Use your worship center or gym to provide space between presentations, or use separate rooms.
Provide tools. Allow each group to have access to internet and computer. This will allow them to show Power Point and/or videos to enhance their presentations.
Be Creative. Have each group bring in a cuisine or appetizer from their region. Bring in a missionary speaker from that region as your main speaker. Find someone who was originally from that culture who can speak from experience.
Summation: This WIN (World in Need) Event can provide an eye-opening experience for your students. Did they know about the epidemic of sexual slavery? Do your students realize the devastation of AIDS in Africa? Do they understand how good they have it with clean, hot water whenever they want it? Or most of all, how much do they take for granted their Bible in their hands and their freedom to worship, where many die for those two things? It’s time we take some time and wake up our young people to the needs of this world…and allow them do to something about it!
As mentioned in previous blog posts, it is important to give the students responsibility on this trip, and raise the bar of expectations. After all, it is called a STUDENT mission trip, not a Youth-Pastor-Led Mission Trip or a My-Parents-Made-Me-Go Trip. It can be done a number of ways, but one easy way is to give a spiritual gift inventory, then use the results to give student responsibilities that fit their God-given gifts and responsibilities. Before I give you list, keep in mind a couple of things: Don’t underestimate these students, Don’t be afraid to let them fail (but not fall completely), and put them in charge of something. Give them ownership…and here are some ways you can do that…here some examples of trip responsibilities:
Communicator/Trip Administrator: Keep the team current on what is needed at the meetings, keep the church updated on the progress of the team, and maintain home contact during the trip. (That was my job.)
Work Coordinators: Make sure all the stuff gets done in order for us to live. Organize efforts for bag lunches, clean-up, and make sure we have everything we need before going to a ministry site and again when leaving.
Team Encouragers: Make sure we “do everything without grumbling or complaining” and be available to team members when needed. Let them know they are appreciated and valued. Guard the morale of the team.
Communication Assistants: Assist adult leaders by leading tasks and communicating for them as asked.
Ministry Coordinators: Make sure presentation and programs are planned and executed in an orderly and excellent fashion.
Photographers/Videographers: Record images that capture the spirit of the team, the people, the culture and the sights of location to help us remember and to share the experiences with those back home.
Prayer Coordinators: Make sure the team is “praying without ceasing.” Take the initiative to bring the team together for prayer. Keep a prayer journal for the team, including requests, praises and answers to prayer.
Public Relations: Make sure we leave a good impression wherever we go. Prepare “thank you” notes for people we visit.
Praise Band Member: Assist the music leaders. Help lead music, teach hand motions, generate excitement for the songs.
Music/Band Leaders & Members: Need to find children music appropriate for program, come up with motions to songs, practice and know songs well, provide upbeat music portion of program.
Game/Prize: In charge of coming up with group games, organizing the materials, running the games, and distributing prizes.
Drama Team: Find or write a drama that fits the theme of the week. Team members must memorize their lines, come up with prop ideas, and practice their skits/dramas regularly. Organize dramas and practices.
Teaching Team: Organize supplies, including materials transportation. Make sure everyone has the proper materials, teach others on the team how to lead story, games, check inventory, etc.
Multi-media Team: Oversee sound equipment, including transportation from location to location, as well as projectors, setup, tear-down, etc. Also will help with PowerPoint and videos when needed.
Crowd Supervisor: When not included in program, sit with the kids in the crowd, encourage participation, do the motions, create energy, and keep an eye on and control kids in crowd.
Hospitality Team: Leaving a good impression wherever we go – hotel, conference, on the streets/neighborhoods, etc. Also, need to make sure this is done during training & interaction at church. PLEASE & THANK YOU’S ALL DAY LONG!
Cleaning Crew: You are not a maid service. However, you need to make sure rooms are neat, people pick up after themselves, & put stuff away. We are sharing rooms, so don’t treat it like a bedroom. A big part of your job is encouragement for the REAL maid service – leave thank you notes, and keep room reasonable. (This applies to those staying in hotels, but can be modified to other mission trip locations)
Prop Set Leader: Oversee equipment transportation, organizing props, setup, putting them away afterwards, etc.
Supply Team: “Did we forget something?”. Your job is to make sure we answer “no” to that question, both when we leave Columbus, and each time we leave the hotel. Also, help keeping track of people.
Trip Mom: Covers what Youth Pastor/Leader cannot…be a mom to the kids. This would include helping those that are not feeling well, those that get hurt, those that are crying, and other things that your Youth Pastor is poor at doing.
Team Secretary: Keep track of all this is mission trip. Help the Team Communicator and other program team leaders stay organized. Will also help with organization of team meals and help assist the Schedule Administrator.
Schedule Administrator: Make sure we are on schedule and not late to things. Will update the team on what is next and where we need to be. Will need to have a good handle on the schedule to update leaders & team.
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.