GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

Youth group seemed amazing…on the surface. Students led the worship, gave announcement and led the games. The youth group must have had an amazing student leadership program…

Or did it?

In the last 5 weeks teenagers have entered the room, and exited…never to return. When asked why they only visited once?

“No one talked with me.”

“Come on. I saw a couple kids greet you as you walked in!”

“They did. Then they went back to their little circle and I sat alone.”

The term ‘student leadership’ is used and misused in youth ministry circles across the world. What really makes a student leader? Or better yet, what can we do to develop student leaders out of the Christian teenagers we have contact with.

It seems that we’re really good at teaching our student leaders how to run games, lead worship and run a sound board, but are we missing some of the most important ministry training? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing on ‘programming.’ I think programming can be effective reaching certain types of kids. But perhaps we need to change our priority list when it comes to training student leaders.

Here are 4 actions I try to teach leaders (1 today, 3 in tomorrow’s post)

1. Step Into Their Shoes
We need to teach young people to walk in someone else’s shoes.

“What is it like to be Jackson?” When talking student leaders, I paint a picture of a fictional kid that might walk into our youth room. “He’s not dressed like you dress. He has a scowl on his face. When you say ‘hi’ to him he almost smirks at you condescendingly. It’s obvious he doesn’t want to be here.”

Then I ask some questions of my leaders?
-Why might “Jackson” be acting like this?
-What does Jackson need?
-What is the best way to respond to Jackson?

I then tell a little more about this hypothetical teenager’s background: single parent home, dad left him when he was young, mom is a bar tender barely making ends meet, never had a positive role model in his life, desperately wanting to fit in somewhere, grandma brings him to church every once in a while…

“Have you ever thought, What is it like to be Jackson?”

We need to let our teenagers experience the Holy Spirit moving them with compassion. We need to help young people look at the lost with a different perspective…with the eyes of Jesus (Matthew 9:36).

Doug does a great job helping young people do this with some of the principles and application he teaches in his excellent book, Help I’m a Student Leader. He is also committed to gathering student leaders together and challenging them toward biblical leadership. You ought to consider brining a few of your leaders (or potential leaders) to the Student Leadership Conference.

Tomorrow I’ll share 3 more actions I try to take.

Question: how well do your students greet one another? Share your secrets/disappointments here

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