Student Leadership Teams – Missional Youth Ministry
While studying Church Planting Movements in Southeast Asia, one thing I learned was the importance of impartation. Impartation of passion, dreams, vision, and a heart for Jesus is the desire of every youth pastor. However, many times we get caught in the rut of doing ministry for students instead of ministry with students. We try and impart to students what we want them to learn by simply speaking it to them rather than living it out with them. In Church Planting Movements, David Garrison offers that the fifth element present in every church planting movement is “local leadership.” He notes, “Foreign missionaries understand that their role is to pass on their vision, passion, and skills to the local brothers and sisters with whom they serve” (186). Overseas, this looks like rising up people of peace who respond to the gospel and empowering them to do the work of ministry. In the states, many times doing ministry has been left for the “professional” ministers and lay members go about their lives with no real since of urgency or purpose. If we want this trend to change, we must begin teaching a different way, a new way, a way that ties belief and action together.
How does this happen?
As youth pastors we must find ways to do ministry alongside our students. This may look like anything from street evangelism to food pantry work, but the goal is to love God and love people (Matt. 22) with students rather than just telling them to do it. In addition, we must teach our older students how to become a ministerial presence. This can happen through Student Leadership Teams. David Garrison also notes that the goal is not to pass a baton, but to start with the baton their hands! We must give our students, especially the older ones, the opportunity and honor of serving the greater whole. In school and at home, students are given increased responsibility as they get older (or they should be), but at church many students have not been pushed to take on a greater leadership role. Student Leadership Teams can be a great way to get students to accept this next level of responsibility. Every Student Leadership Team should include VISION, MISSION, AND STANDARDS.
VISION: Student Leadership Teams can serve many purposes and should be approached with great discernment. First, SLT’s can help give direction and vision to the programming of a ministry. Getting a students input can often help us stay current on the spiritual climate of our student body. While we spend our days in prayer and in thought about what will best serve our students, simply asking them where they need help or what issues they are dealing with will give us the best perspective.
MISSION: The problem, many times, is that a SLT meeting can turn into nothing but a junior/senior hang out. We assess our ministry, but give our students no real goal to accomplish. A SLT must function to both give and receive direction. This means you should have a plan for your team to accomplish before the next meeting. There should be some purpose you want them to serve or task they need to accomplish. This is part of maturity. When you are given a place of privilege, there will be greater expectations. (I think I heard this from Spiderman 2.)
STANDARDS: This is the hard one that ties the first two together. In an effective SLT there should be standards for being part of the team. Agreeing to become a student leader means agreeing to serve the student ministry. In addition, to become a member of the SLT you are committing to both give direction and receive instruction. Failure to contribute or follow though with decisions made may mean you are not ready for a leadership position. This may sound harsh, but it is important that we instill in students an understanding of what it means to become a leader.
What are your thoughts? What roles do your students play? How does your SLT function?