youth worker, youth ministry,student ministry, church leaders

Student Leaders are Church Leaders

By Doug Franklin June 26, 2012

In this post I want to focus on starting and running a student leadership team. This post focuses on why we need student leadership teams.

The Problem
So much these day is being said about students leaving the church at the end of high school and not returning until their mid 20’s or later. This problem is getting a lot of focus from the emergent leaders’ movement. They are working hard on solutions the church can use to invite this generation back. The question I want to ask is why did they leave in the first place? Believe me, I am not looking to blame, I just want to know why and what can student ministries do to stop it from happening.

I believe the answer to “Why” is found in what students identify with. Do your students see themselves as members of a youth group or a church? Or more importantly, do they see their youth group as a ministry of the church to students or as the students’ ministry to the world? The question is an important one because it’s the difference between students being attendees and students being owners. Owners don’t walk away. They have an investment, a stake in the goal and just because they have graduated from high school doesn’t change anything. Attendees buy a ticket and hope for a fun event. The problem for the attendees is they don’t see anything for themselves after graduations so they walk.

For a long time now youth ministry has been pushing to entertain students thinking that if they’re having fun they will like the youth pastor and if they like the youth pastor then they will come. This short sided thinking has gotten us into trouble; entertaining students just communicates to them that they’re attendees not owners. I am excited these days to see so many youth groups moving away from the entertainment model and heading towards student leadership. This movement is being led by smaller and mid-size churches while some of the larger churches with student conferences still don’t get it.

Student ministries need to make owners of students and one way to do this is to start a student leadership team. Through a student leadership team students will set goals, resource projects, cast vision, rally the troops, lead ministries and be responsible of the success or failure of the group. Leadership teams have the potential to transform students’ thinking. Once they thought of themselves as participators in the plans of the youth pastor they now can see themselves as the leaders of the ministry, or in other words, owners. This change in thinking has more power to capture hearts of students then any video game small group could ever reach.

When a student leadership team is run well it will:
1.    Not be for every student in your youth group
2.    Require students to meet a standard of behavior for application
3.    Meet on a regular basis
4.    Study leadership principles
5.    Have students in real and important leadership roles
6.    Allow students to make decisions without direction from adults
7.    Students will face consequences for their decisions
8.    Students will see themselves as the owners of their youth group
9.    Will have adult facilitators who are passionate about student leaders
10.    Will challenge students to do the impossible

I started LeaderTreks because I believe that student leadership development was the key to seeing transformational change in students. I have only seen a few things in ministry that make transformational change in students but leadership was by far the most powerful. If you have already started a leadership team I applaud you and if you do not, I want to encourage to start one.

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