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Student Leadership Team Basics: How many leaders should you have?

Posted by Jen Bradbury



One common question I get when it comes to Student Leadership Teams is, “How many teens should be on your student leadership team?”

My answer often frustrates people.

It depends. 

You see, when it comes to my student leadership team, I don't have a set number of positions.

This is an intentional decision on my part. When you have a set number of positions you risk having to fill them with someone – even if that person isn't necessarily ready for student leadership.

Instead of having to fill a specific number of slots, I instead want to be able to have the freedom to put together the best team possible. There have been years when this has meant having a leadership team of 5 students and other years where this has meant having a team of 10.

Having said that, there are a few general principles I use to guide my decision about the size of the team.

You (or other adult leaders) need to be able to disciple those on your team. If student leadership is really an avenue for discipleship, then it's size has to be conducive to that. And let's be honest, as much as we'd like to be able to disciple an infinite number of students well, we just can't. So follow Jesus' guideline: There should be no more than 12 students for every one adult leader you have involved in the team.

Small isn't bad. My student leadership team will shrink at the end of this school year. Despite the fact that we tend to measure our success in terms of numbers, I'm not ashamed to say that. We have a big class of seniors graduating this year. This means that our outgoing class of senior student leaders is greater than our incoming number of applicants. That's OK. It might even be good. Discipleship can often happen on a deeper level in smaller teams. Additionally, it's often easier to focus smaller groups of teens than larger ones. For that reason, some of my smallest leadership teams have been ones that have actually accomplished the most.

Your leadership team should be proportional to the size of your ministry. If you have a ministry of 10 kids, you probably don't want to have a leadership team of 8. You never want your team to be so big that those who aren't a part of it feel like the odd man out at youth ministry events.

So think about the size of your ministry. Then decide for yourself how big your leadership team should be. Ultimately, whether you have a team of 3 or 20, invest in the teens on your team, trusting that you as do, their faith and ministry will grow.

Download Leaders Need Mentors


Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Student Leadership Team Basics: 6 things to look for in student for in student leaders 

Image Credit: http://www.thelivingleader.com/wp-content/uploads/leadership.jpg


2 Questions I Have Been Asking About My Leadership

Posted by Justin Knowles

I’m constantly learning. I know we all hear the saying, “All leaders are learners… etc.” I believe this to be true because as I find out as I am growing as a leader of a ministry, of people and of students I am finding out new things about myself all of the time. Lately, I feel I have been wrestling with two questions, in which if I am honest with you I am still trying to find the answers to and what works best for me as the leader. I thought I would share them with you as well so you can begin to ask the same ones and who knows, maybe you will learn something as well.

The two questions are:

How am I leading myself?

I know I can only take people as far as I have been. This is in all aspects of life and ministry. One of the best things we can do as leaders is lead ourselves and make sure we are spiritually healthy, relationally healthy and have people speaking truth and love into us. Be a healthy leader in every aspect and you should have a healthy team and ministry.

How am I being effective with the time I have with the people I have?

I don’t know about you but I have a lot of meetings. I could be a meeting with my supervisor, other pastors, with volunteers and students. Not only do I have meetings but I have a team (all who need some sort of time) and basic office things to do, as well as come up with a message every week. I have noticed that my time was not structured really well and I would have a lot of time but not getting much done. It was not until I was aware of it and started asking this question before I started to get a real hold of my schedule, what I need, who I need to meet with and get it all done so I can go home to my wife without bringing it all home to her, and started to become more effective and efficient with my time.

These two questions have helped me forward in many areas in life and ministry and maybe they can for you as well.




Download  Leaders Count The Cost


5 Ways To Invest In Leaders

Posted by Christopher Wesley

If you want more than warm bodies volunteering in your ministry you are going to need to spend time investing in them. You might feel like you don’t have enough time, but then again you can’t afford to take your ministers for granted.


When you invest in your ministers they will step up their commitment.  They will stand by your side and help your ministry succeed.  To get that type of return investment you need to:


Don’t be afraid to raise the bar.  In fact treat your ministers like they are paid staff. Create systems and structures that will dictate certain behaviors and then communicate it clearly.


The people who serve with you each week are giving up time, so make sure they feel valued.  When you show them that you care about what’s important to them they’ll return the favor.  They’ll see serving alongside of you as an opportunity to invest in you personally.


Your ministers will have specific reasons as to why they got involved, but does it match up with yours?  Any misalignment in vision can derail a program’s progress.

Clarify the “WHY?” through the vision and mission of the ministry.  Drill it into their minds.  Make sure your ministers know their purpose and why it matters.


Not only do you need to invest in ministers personally but spiritually as well.  When you challenge your team to grow deeper in faith they will see the deeper meaning to serving.

Connect them to small groups at your church. Introduce them to books and resources that encourage discipleship.  Remind them that they need God just as much as the teens they are serving.


A big way of investing in others is allowing them to weigh in on important decisions.  This isn’t for all of your ministers, but for the ones that you trust and believe have leadership potential.

Ask their opinion and invite them to meetings where strategy is laid out.  When they feel like they are a part of heavy decision-making they’ll have a bigger buy in.

Your ministers signed up for your ministry to be a part of something big.  If you want serious help growing your ministry invest in the men and women who have sacrificed time to be with you.  The time you spend on them is worth more than the time you spend on any activity or program.

What’s worked for you when investing in ministers?

Download Leaders Press On

Topics: investing in leaders

Download Youth Ministry Webshow: Episode 266

Posted by Josh Griffin

Welcome back, webshow fans! Here's another glorious episode of the Download Youth Ministry Webshow - this show we're in a temporary shooting location but think it turned out pretty great none the less.

This week we welcome back our new primary sponsor ORANGE also love our other great sponsors - Azusa Pacific University, Leadertreks and Youth Ministry 360. Join the team! Just enough youth ministry so you don't feel guilty for listening! 


7 Things You Didn't Know About Saddleback Church

Posted by Josh Griffin

A super fun video we made to celebrate the 35th anniversary of our church over the weekend. It was such a great time - enjoy!


Andy Stanley on Middle School Parenting

Posted by Josh Griffin

LLMSW Andy Interview from North Point Web on Vimeo.

A friend pointed me to this great interview with Andy Stanley about raising middle schoolers and helping parents with some help and hope. There are some really great points in here, definitely worth sharing with your junior high leaders and/or parents or at least watching yourself!


Download DYM Parent Tips

Where Hope Grows: Down Syndrome Lead Actor

Posted by Josh Griffin


There's a great article in this weekend's Hollywood Reporter about the film Where Hope Grows and specifically actor David Desanctis, who completely makes the movie. Here's a clip of the article, we were fortunate to see an early cut of the film and our excited to be a part of the film's promotion as it heads toward a mid-May release date. Go David!

According to DeSanctis, the film was made in just 23 days, resulting in 12- to 14-hour days. However, he took the workload in stride.
"I want people to see me for my abilities, not my disabilities," he said.
DeSanctis also will act as a spokesman for World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, when he will talk about living with the disability and his experience working on the film.
"David’s been a self advocate for a long time," said Chakraborty. "He’s excited this message will be spread further and help people understand we are more alike than different."
Though he doesn’t have any upcoming acting roles, DeSanctis is looking actively with his agent Gail Williamson at KMR Talent. His dream job would be to land a gig on the sixth season of Once Upon a Time.
Written and directed by Chris Dowling, Where Hope Grows will be released in theaters May 15. Steve Bagheri, Simran Singh and Jose Pablo Cantillo also produced. Jesse S. Jones executive produced.


Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership

Posted by Jen Bradbury


Once you know why you're creating a leadership team, what you're looking for in the students who are on your leadership team, and how you'll select your student leaders, the question still remains, how do you present the idea of a leadership team to your teens for the first time?

The best way to do this is to be honest about what your team is.

As you know, I'm an advocate for student leadership teams that are focused on discipleship. Because of this, whenever I talk about my ministry's student leadership team, I do so in terms of growth. I talk about how applying to be part of the Student Leadership Team will give interested teens an opportunity to grow in their faith, to grow in their relationships with others, and to grow as a leader. I also make a point of saying we're not looking for one particular kind of student. Instead, we're looking for people who like to be up front, as well as those who prefer to serve behind the scenes; We're looking for introverts as well as extroverts.
In addition to explaining what your student leadership team is, when presenting this idea to your teens (and their parents) for the first time, it's also important to be clear about what the team isn't. For this reason, avoid using these popular phrases to describe your church's student leadership team.
Our student leadership team is like our church council / board of elders.  This is a tempting comparison to make. However, it tends to fail on multiple levels. First of all, many of your teen's probably don't know what your church's council or board of elders is let alone what they do. For those who do, your church's governing body is probably associated with power. And while it's important to entrust teens with power, I'd be super leery of any student leadership team given the power to decide your ministry's budget as well as hire and fire it's staff, two things that are often the responsibility of church councils / elder boards.
As student leaders, you'll get to make key decisions about our ministry.  This may, in fact, be true of your student leadership team. It is of mine. However, because I want our student leaders to be teens committed to servant-leadership and not just to advancing their own agenda, I NEVER advertise the decision-making power they'll have as part of the team. When you do, things can go very wrong, very quick. For example, I once heard a youth pastor say, “It's their youth group, not mine. Our student leaders know and embrace that.” Is it any wonder this same youth pastor was embroiled in a bitter conflict with her student leaders, who thought they had the right and authority to set the agenda for the youth ministry as well as to tell this youth pastor how to do her job? A far better approach is to emphasize that being a student leader is about growing. As student leaders are discipled and their faith grows, increase their responsibilities and allow them to weigh in and influence more and more key decisions. Even as you do, don't completely relegate your power to teens. After all, you are ultimately responsible for the ministry God has entrusted you with. It's your job to protect the marginalized in your ministry and to ensure, among other things, that certain things (like Jesus!) are taught each year, regardless of whether or not your teen's want to discuss them.
Being a student leader will look good on your college application.  It's true. It will. Nevertheless, I don't want teens to be on my student leadership team simply because it'll look good on their college application. Those teens are typically NOT the ones interested in genuinely growing in their faith, relationship with others, or even in their ability to lead. As a result, they're often detrimental to your team. For this reason, don't beg teens to be on your team or oversell it's benefits. Instead, let teens choose for themselves whether or not being a part of your student leadership team is something they want to do.
Chances are, when you present the idea of a student leadership team to your teens for the first time, you'll likely have a small but very dedicated group of teens excited to be part of it.
That's OK.
Maybe it's even good.
As your leadership team becomes more established, those teens who are a part of it will become your best advertisement for joining the team. For this reason, each year, you'll likely receive more and more applicants who are eager to be part of your team – and to do so for the right reasons.
Download the The Dark Side Of Leadership

Instagram Challenge: Tape Face

Posted by Justin Knowles

We wanted to have a little fun with our students and our leaders and get everyone interacting with our Instagram (@shiftstudents) so we created a litle contest. We are giving away some movie tickets, a giftcard and a movie candy bouquette to the best tape face. It's really simple. 
  1. Have your students get tape.
  2. Wrap it around the face so they are not recognizable.
  3. Have them post it on Instagram with a special hashtag for your group for all to see. (Ours was #SHIFTtapeface)
  4. Pick the best ones.

It has been fun watching students participate and get involved and interacting online. Thought I would share the fun.



Sex, Purity and Relationships Panel in Saddleback's High School Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin


This past week we gathered up all of our Life Groups (who normally meet in homes on Tuesday or Wednesday nights) for a special night about sex, love, relationships and purity. It was great! We had a great cross-section of leaders from our ministry, some that had made some major mistakes, some who had cossed lines but were still virgins, and even a engaged couple who were still in the middle of their journey. It was a risky night, the questions came fast and furious but I'm happy to report that almostwithout fail the answers they shared were amazing and Spirit-filled.

Before the panel began, I gave a short talk about sex called "Doing It" and used a small bucket of sand as an object illustration. How God's boundaries are clear about sex - 1 man + 1 woman + 1 marriage. And how everything we dabble in outside of that is outside of God's plan. As I talked through the illustration, I pushed the sand around with my feel to demonsgtrate how we love to know ho far is too far, straddle the line, or just give up and be outside of God's plan because we know better. While it was powerful, I didn't want students to leave with just the broken image of sex, but that they would know they are always welcome back and God was quick to forgive, restore and redeem.


It was a great night! I hope you can take the idea and run with it (or make it better, I thought of it literally minutes before I walked on stage). Keep sharing the truth about God's plan for sex!


Download the Love Life

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Josh Griffin


Josh is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co- founder of DYM and is the father of 4 who speaks a little, writes a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot.


Doug Fields

doug_fieldsDoug Fields is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran who is the Author of 50+ books, Founder of Simply Youth Ministry, Speaker, Pastor, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DYM.

Rachel Blom


Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has youth ministry experience in several countries, both as a volunteer and on staff.

Matt McGill


Blogging with eternal wisdom. Matt McGill is the visionary behind Download Youth Ministry. He convinced his 2 friends Josh and Doug to partner with him and create this whole place.

Justin Knowles


Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen. Pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees Jr. High, High School and College ministries at the church.

Colton Harker


Blogging about his First 2 Years in Youth Ministry. Colton is just starting out in youth ministry and blogs about what he is learning along the way.

Christopher Wesley


Blogging serving at a Catholic Church. Chris Wesley has been in youth ministry for over 9 years as the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Maryland.

Jen Bradbury

Jen-BradburyJen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus and her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. She also blogs regularly at www.YMJen.com

Neely McQueen

Jen-BradburyBlogging about girls' ministry. Neely McQueen has been working with students for over 15 years. She works in Student Ministries at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA.

Laneita Fix

Jen-BradburyAuthor, Speaker, Director Ministry Development for Asian Youth Ministries. Love 22 years of working with youth and equipping others in the trenches in youth ministry.

Geoff Stewart

Jen-BradburyGeoff Stewart serves the Jr/Sr High School Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. and doesn't appreciate the jokes about being Canadian (unless they are funny of course).

Kara Powell

Jen-BradburyDr. Kara E. Powell is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. A 20- year youth ministry veteran, she speaks regularly at youth ministry conferences and is author or co-author of a number of books and volunteers in student ministry at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA.

Walt Mueller

Jen-BradburyBlogging about youth culture and current events. Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organization serving schools, churches, and community organizations across the U.S, Canada, and worldwide in their efforts to strengthen families.

Duffy Robbins

Jen-BradburyDuffy travels the world speaking to teenagers and people who care about teenagers. Both in the classroom and in camps, conferences and seminars, he's well known for his insights, inspiration and humor.

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