student ministry, youth worker, youth ministry

Misconceptions of Student-led Ministry

By Doug Franklin February 1, 2013

Student-led youth ministry is more than putting students in leadership roles. Youth workers who have try this idea quickly learn it won’t work. When we just give students a position or title they usually focus on responsibility not real leadership. Responsibility is good but often void of vision; without vision, the students will never be able to lead others.

Student leadership is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Students are different and learn leadership at different paces and different ways. The amount of leadership challenge is different for each student and needs to be considered. If you want a student leadership program that will really work you need to create an environment where leadership can grow at all different levels.

If you want a youth ministry that is led by students you need to create a culture of leadership development.  Creating this culture requires everyone involved in the ministry seeing leadership development as the end goal. This is why I believe that discipleship and leadership go hand-in-hand. Leadership is influence and we need to influence this world for Christ. If our mission is to go into the world and make disciples we are going to need leaders.

Once the goal is clear it’s vital to have all the adult volunteers on board. Once your adults are in, you must train them in how to develop student leaders. If you skip this step, and many ministries do, you will not be able to develop the culture you desire. Your adults need to know how to challenge without rescuing. Your adults need to ask deep, second level questions and they must be able to debrief leadership experiences for your culture to take root. Most adults don’t mentor naturally. Skills training on how to mentor for spiritual and leadership develop takes time to develop. You must also be clear with parents and church leadership about goals and how you expect to reach them.

Notice I haven’t even talked much about students yet. When you start with students realize you must offer leadership training before you can put students in leadership roles and once students are in roles the training, through evaluation, must continue. When training and experiences are out of balance, students get frustrated with leadership.

There is so much more I can say. Here is the main point I want you to get. Students leadership is more than putting students in leadership roles.

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