youth ministry, youth worker, launch

How To Launch Student Leadership

By Doug Franklin July 31, 2018

It’s not an easy task to kickstart student leadership. It requires a clear vision paired with a great deal of planning, leaving most of us asking the question, “Where do I even start?” But before you feel the need to stop dead in your tracks, let me give you a sample action plan for starting students in leadership.

Step 1: Determine a clear purpose and structure 
Meet with your church leadership and adult volunteers to brainstorm the purpose of a student leadership initiative. Consider what you want to see happen and what positive changes student leadership could bring about in your ministry. Then, having a clear goal in mind, identify a structure that suits your ministry. (For more information on student leadership structures, download Reimagine.)

“When starting student leadership it’s important to get the right students and avoid the wrong ones.”

Step 2: Calculate what kind of students you want to reach

When starting student leadership it’s important to get the right students and avoid the wrong ones. Warning! Don’t just look for “good students”. Many of our good students show great leadership potential but are already overcommitted. Look outside the “church box” and see if a real leadership experience might be right for students that are disconnected in some way. Develop a good application and clearly communicate the character and qualifications that you’re looking for in potential student leaders.

Step 3: Cast the vision
With your game plan in place, it’s time to start communicating. Share with students and parents what you’re doing and why it’s important. Paint a picture for how students could grow through the experience and what you want to see them accomplish.

Step 4: Navigate the obstacles with students and parents
Understand that students and parents will be especially interested in how student leaders will be chosen. Be up front and share with everyone the process you and your team have gone through. Describe the results you are seeking, and be open, yet firm. Also remember that your students will need training. Look for resources to help you prepare them for the obstacles that they will face in leadership. My best suggestion? Take a look at Student Leaders Start Here.

Step 5: Evaluate the progress
Once the applications start coming in, check to see that the applicants understand your focus and purpose. Interview students if need be. As facets of student leadership get set in place, continue meeting with your adult volunteers to ask, “What can we do better?”

The greatest pitfall to starting student leadership might be allowing the process to get out of control. Slow down and think about the desired outcomes before you launch this program. Then find the right students who fit the focus of the team. By carefully creating a plan, your chances for success greatly increase.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More