"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Training Student Leaders

Training Student Leadership: Professional Report (Part 2)

Steve Miller

Chapter Two
Believe in Student Leadership

Student leadership can get messy. It takes time to train them (who\'s got more time?). They goof up (lack of skills). Some goof off (lack of responsibility). For these and other reasons, we\'re more comfortable doing youth ministry ourselves. Without a firm conviction that students can and should lead, it may never happen in our ministries. Why develop student leadership?

First, our biblical job description is to train people for the work of the ministry, not to do all of the ministry ourselves.

"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God\'s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…." (Ephesians 4:11,12)

Second, we keep youth over the long haul. Our goal is not to merely keep the students involved. We want to find them loving and serving God for the long haul. To complete the above passage:

"…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13, cr. Col. 1:28)

Our goal? To produce long-term disciples, not short term audiences. Students get bored coming and watching. According to Sociologist Tony Campolo, "If we lose this generation of students, it won\'t be because we challenged them too much, but too little." Often, it\'s the ones who experienced the thrill of impacting others who stay for the long haul. Rollie Martinson, a professor at Luther Seminary, has been researching why some students stay active in church for the long haul. The two keys he\'s found? 1) "The church recognizes a young person\'s passions and invites him or her to lead something," and 2) "the church offers teenagers chances to get involved with intensive service." (7)

Third, we multiply our ministry.

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15)

I volunteered to put up a Web site for our youth group. Working by myself I could put it up in a couple of days. No problem. So why do I have some students coming over tomorrow so that we can build it together? It will take longer. There will be a learning curve. We may disagree over the look and feel. They\'ll leave pizza on the floor. The bottom line for me is that by involving students and ultimately handing the site over to them, I save time, train them in a skill, give them a ministry, and multiply the amount of ministry being done. They\'ll still be under the accountability of the youth minister. But when he needs to make updates, he\'ll contact them instead of me. The more effectively we train up leaders, the more we multiply our ministry.

Fourth, once trained, they will be much better than us at many aspects of ministry. I don\'t have all the gifts: pastor-teacher, prophecy, evangelism, administration, helps…need I go on? The biblical analogy of the church is a body:

"But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, \'I don\'t need you!\' And the head cannot say to the feet, \'I don\'t need you!\'" (I Corinthians 12:18-21)

Yet, many of us have said to our youth, by our solo approach to ministry, "I don\'t need you!" As a result, most of our churches have more in common with a soccer game than a body: 22 players on the field, desperately in need of rest, being watched by 10,000 people in the stands, desperately in need of exercise.

I\'m one of those few people who likes to watch the credits at the end of a movie. It takes so much more than the actors, producer and a few cameramen. Hundreds of people contribute, including artists, computer technicians, caterers, set builders, stunt men and women, hairdressers, writers, accountants, and the list runs on. That\'s exactly what we\'re looking for! If someone were to roll the credits after a week of youth ministry, how many students would be on the list as contributors?

Fifth, especially in Western cultures of which I\'m familiar, students will be much more effective than adults in winning their peers. Many of today\'s students distrust adults. Youth evangelists don\'t have that hurdle to jump. Further, in today\'s world, if adults build relationships with unchurched teens, they\'re suspect as child molesters.

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

Sixth, if we are serious about sending out workers into the harvest field (Matthew 9:38) there\'s no better time to train them in practical ministry skills than during their youth years. They have more discretionary time. They rub shoulders with more lost people than perhaps at any other time in their lives.

Seventh, giving students training and experience in "real ministry" will help with a deficit we have in theological education of pastors. Perry Frieson (Russia) observes that

"Bible colleges do a good job of training teachers, because professors are natural mentors for teachers. But we haven\'t done a good job of training pastors, because cognitive professors can\'t always do a good job of mentoring pastors, and because no school practicum gives students enough practice in ministry to become a good pastor."

Thus, we need to give our students real ministry experience to prepare them to ministers effectively as adults.

When we develop a conviction about developing student leaders, we move beyond the excitement of seeing God use us to getting a charge out of seeing God use our students. John said, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (III John 4) Jesus was "full of joy through the Holy Spirit" after hearing the reports from the ministry of the seventy-two people he had sent out. (Luke 10:21)

More and more, I\'m asking myself these biblical questions: "Does my youth ministry treat students like the church of today, or merely the church of tomorrow? Am I training students to do significant ministry today, or relegating all "real" ministry to adults? Don\'t all believers, including youth, have a gift from God (I Corinthians 12:7) that they are responsible to put to use in serving others (I Peter 4:10,11)? Wasn\'t Timothy told by Paul, "Don\'t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers…" (I Timothy 4:12) and "Do not neglect your gift…." (I Timothy 4:14) and "…devote yourself to…preaching and teaching…"? If so, then why don\'t we see more students using their God-given gifts?

Click HERE for Chapter Three...

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