My favorite Christmas movie of all time is The Christmas Story. I’ve seen this movie every year for the past 20 years! Every time I watch it, I notice new nuances that extend my love for the story.  Yet one theme remains that speaks to me year after year.

A common thread throughout the movie is Ralphie asking for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Every time he asks the adults in his life for the gun, he continually bumps into opposition from them. Every response of theirs is the same: “You’ll shoot your eye out.” On Christmas morning, Ralphie looks frantically for a box that could hold this BB gun, but to no avail. He receives several presents but is disappointed that he did not get the gun. As he accepts this fact and sits with his parents, his dad points out a hidden present: the BB gun. By giving Ralphie a BB gun, his dad takes the risk of placing him in a position that comes with great responsibility. In doing so, Ralphie’s dad also communicates to his son, “I believe in you.”

Every time I see this movie, I’m reminded of the opportunity we have as youth pastors to challenge, empower, and equip our students. Believing in a student’s potential is one of the most powerful actions we can do. Think about a person who believed in you. What have you done in your life because someone believed in you? Now, let’s turn these thoughts toward the students in our ministry who are waiting to be challenged to a higher calling of leadership—the ones who are desperately looking for someone to believe in them. Are you willing to challenge, empower, and equip these students?

If you are willing, you can call students into leadership.  I am convinced that a healthy, thriving student ministry needs to place students in positions of leadership—real leadership, not just stacking chairs and running slides. We need to cast a vision that ultimately challenges them to take part in extending the Kingdom of God through the great commission. Here are four ways to call students into leadership:

Provide Structure: Provide a structure of next steps so students know exactly what’s expected and how to proceed. Create a system and make sure it doesn’t communicate that students can “arrive” to a level of greatness. Leadership is ultimately a call to humility.

Personally Ask: Talk one-on-one with your students and paint a picture of what it would look like for them to lead in your ministry. Try it this week. Put a caring arm around one of them and say, “I’ve been noticing that you have an amazing heart! I believe God can use that heart for his purposes.” Don’t just say it once. Repeat it and rephrase it often.

Talk To Others: Talk to the people you know in your church and ask them who they believe in. After you’ve gathered some names, go to those students and encourage them by saying, “I talked to ‘Pedro’ and he really believes that you can be a leader in our ministry. I’d like to invite you to consider this opportunity.”

Be Strategic: Approach students who are already showing signs of biblical leadership because they are currently serving in your ministry. Jesus turned the world’s leadership model upside down when he required leaders to serve. Don’t simply focus on the popular kids. Look to those who are serving.

Who do you believe in? Are you willing to challenge, empower, and equip that student?  There are students in your ministry who have never had someone believe in them because of the risk involved. They could shoot their eye out, but the risk is worth taking.



Johnny serves as the Student Pastor at First Colleyville Church in Colleyville, Texas. He’s been pastoring students for just over 14 years and is a graduate of the Youth Cartel and finishing his certification as a Youth Ministry Coach. He and his wife Alisha have two daughters named Ellie and Emory. When not doing student ministry, Johnny can be found building cabinets, fishing or taking his daughters on adventures.