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

Youth Ministry Topics Training Student Leaders

Training Student Leadership: Professional Report (Part 3)

Steve Miller

Chapter Three
Realize That Student Leadership is Flourishing

Perhaps none of the ministries to students in your area train students to do significant ministry. If so, you may need to be inspired with what a ministry can look like when godly students take charge.

Let me first introduce you to Abraham Sahu in Delhi, India. (8) Abraham grew up in Calcutta and pursued studies in Science, Management and Law. Although asked to represent India in the United Nations, he replied that he could only consult with them part time. According to Abraham, sitting on the U.N. could never be as fulfilling as his ministry, which he says is "to obey the Lord, pay the price and be willing to die."

His vision? To start churches where there are no Christians, to "Catch Them Young" (his slogan) and to go to the slums. Delhi was an obvious choice, with 11.2 million people, 80% living in its 6000 slums, and not even 10 churches ministering to the slums. (Do your math and discover that each church can have about 1,000,000 people in over 600 slums.)

His strategy? 1) Go after youth, 11-years-old and up. 2) Get those who are interested in Jesus involved in a cell group. 3) Train them for ministry and send them back into the slums to minister. They train through an institute where they study both ministry and academics for two months and go back to minister in the slums for 4 months, repeating this cycle for two years. By the end of the two years, at about the ages of 16 to 18, they\'ve established a cell church with 12 of their strongest contacts. An older pastor (about 20 years of age or older) is on hand at cell church meetings to mentor, not to lead.

A 13-year-old came to Jesus and brought in 40 others his age from the slums. He now leads the group under the guidance of a mentor. What attracts students to these cell groups? 1) People share of their personal experiences with God (testimonies) and 2) miracles happen. In Abraham\'s experience, miracles happen when people give themselves totally to God. The first thing they tell new believers is that it\'s not easy to live for Christ. They must be willing to die for their faith. Leaders in their ministry have been killed and their property has been vandalized. But it\'s when youth are willing to be obedient and pay a price that God works so powerfully in people\'s lives that their testimonies attract others.

As you can imagine, such training multiplies Christians and cells at an astonishing rate. In the next decade they hope to establish 60 mother churches and 600 cell churches. Hey, I\'d be ecstatic to merely double the size of my youth group. Where\'s my vision?

And it\'s not just India. North Point church in Alpharetta, Georgia is a young church that has about one hundred fifty youth serving in ministries each Sunday morning. A ministry in Minnesota does a summer camp program for children, staffed by junior highers (7th and 8th grades) who were trained and mentored by senior highers (9th -12th grades).

A 22-year-old youth worker in South Africa has over 75 student-led cell groups. In Bogata, Columbia one youth group with only two full-time staff have over 10,000 student led cell groups. A 17-year-old leader of one of the Bogata cells reported that in four years her cell had multiplied 18 times! (9) And beyond cell groups, we\'re seeing students globally leading in worship teams, doing significant ministry on mission trips, making a powerful evangelistic impact, etc.

I\'m not saying that if you train student leaders in your unique culture and your unique local church or ministry that it will look like the ministries I\'ve described. But if we can isolate from the Scriptures and from successful ministries the basic principles that transcend culture and thus apply to every ministry, we can pray through how these principles can flesh out in our unique setting. Keep in mind your culture, your local church, your unique blend of students as you reflect on the following principles that I\'m gleaning from youth workers globally.

Chapter Four
Get Started

Don\'t get discouraged! As a young youth minister, when I\'d hear of hugely successful ministries, at first I would get motivated. Then I\'d get depressed. My "little" ministries paled so in comparison. The first student conference I attended, only one student came with me. I had a group of one! But I could try to train that one.

The purpose of this report is to give you hope! My challenge to you is to start small, but start. If God wants only one leader to come out of your ministry, that\'s His business. If we took some of the above youth leaders and planted them in the soil of a more resistant setting their ministries may not appear spectacular at all. Our business is to faithfully follow God in our setting. Glean from these principles and apply them to where you are.

  • Pray - "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:6) "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Matthew 9:38, cr. Lk. 6:12,13)

Glen and Aymi Melo (Philippines) say that their "trainers or \'spiritual fathers\' must pray and fast for their disciples/spiritual children just as Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert before he chose his first disciples and prayed overnight before he appointed them as apostles, His example was also imitated by the apostles in the book of Acts."

D.Z. (name withheld) especially sees the need for prayer as he works with students in rural Ecuador. Apathy and lack of vision among the youth keep them from leading. "They have little hope and seem to like it that way." Thus prayer is essential so that God will move in their hearts, "stir them to serve Christ and catch the vision."

According to Eric Ball (USA),

"Don\'t invite anyone, student or adult, into leadership without having fully prayed through that decision and knowing that they are who God wants. It is easier to not invite people than to uninvite them. I have found it helpful to fast over leadership decisions before I make them knowing that leadership will make or break the ministry. Prayer also plays a huge role after the leaders have been chosen. It seems that the enemy intensifies the pressure on leaders, especially young student leaders. It is important to keep them covered with prayer, to pray with them, and to have them pray with other leaders."

  • Calculate the Cost. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?(Luke 14:28, cr. 29-33)

Had Arnold Spielberg not allowed young Steven to film their family outings, I have to wonder whether he would be a producer today. According to Eric Ball (USA),

"I, as the youth leader, must be willing to take the risk of putting students in significant roles of leadership, knowing that they will make mistakes and fail at times. But they will also succeed. The risk comes in risking failure, what other leaders may think of that failure and of you in the process, but risk also comes in letting go. If I train leaders then that means I will not be the one doing it or getting the glory for it. I must be willing to risk letting go and letting someone else do it and get the honors from it."

  • Review your job description. Do you see yourself primarily as a "Minister to Youth," or an "Equipper of Youth and Adult Leaders." (Ephesians 4:11,12)? You don\'t have time to go all out at both. And you don\'t have room in your ministry for every program.

Glen and Aymi Melo (Philippines) are seeing students thrive in evangelism and disciple-making. To do this, they "emphasize the Bible\'s teaching that pastors lead and equip, and members do the works of ministry."

Tim Ball (USA) says that "the youth leader\'s mindset makes the difference." He must see students as part of "the church of today" and the "church leaders of tomorrow." Armed with this mindset, he/she "will begin to take risks to thrust students into the roles of leadership."

  • Expect opposition. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

I heard fighter pilot Colonel Nimrod McNair say, "I\'ve never once flown over the right target without being fired at." Satan and his warriors are probably not too concerned by student attendees. But when he sees you training young spiritual warriors, watch out. Some will cry "favoritism" because you don\'t train everyone. Some student leaders will fail, sometimes publicly.

Although many of us would love to have the success of Abraham Sahu in India, we wouldn\'t relish the battles he fights. There\'s organized resistance. Facilities have been vandalized. Missionaries have lost their lives. You may lose your life. Deal with it. Be prepared.

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