small groups, youth ministry, discipleship, student ministry, youth group

Training Youth for Student-led Ministry

By Doug Franklin May 9, 2014

I have been reading a lot about student-led youth ministry lately. Honestly I am thrilled. Since 1994 I have been talking about the need to put students in charge of the ministry. The whole idea behind LeaderTreks was to help youth pastors develop students as leaders and allow them to own the ministry. I deeply believed that if students took ownership in the church, they would stay in the church.

Today’s movement is good, but it does have a problem. You can’t just start a student-led ministry without first developing students as leaders. Moving to a student-led model will require training youth workers in leadership development. That’s not always a simple task, so ministries are skipping this step. That will lead to failure. When unprepared students take charge, the results can be disastrous. I fear that soon youth workers will throw in the towel, saying, “Student-led ministry doesn’t work.” But the problem isn’t in the model; it’s in the implementation.

If you want to pursue a student-led ministry, you will need to spend a good amount of time developing students as leaders. You can’t just place them in leadership roles and say, “Go get ‘em! Best of luck.”

Jesus didn’t gather his disciples and immediately say, “Now that you’ve met me, it’s time to go out into the world to make more disciples!” He spent three years prepping them for that task, training them to take ownership of the church once he’d left. And when he ascended to the right hand of the Father, he didn’t leave everything in their hands. He didn’t abandon them. He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit, the one who would empower them to do the task Jesus entrusted to them.

You may hear people say that switching to student-led ministry is as simple as shifting your perspective. And that’s where it starts. Yet putting this new student ministry model into practice isn’t a way to kick back, relax, and put your feet up while the students take over. It’s hard work.

But don’t let that discourage you. The benefits of training your youth workers so they can train students in leadership are well worth the effort.

A great way to get students started in leadership is with the LeaderTreks’ resource Student Leaders Start Here.

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