Our youth ministry had its annual Christmas party last week.

That, by itself, isn’t all that remarkable.

What’s remarkable is the fact that I wasn’t there. Nor were any of our ministry’s other adult leaders. We were at adult leader’s training. Meanwhile, our high school teens were partying.

Who was in charge, you might ask?

Our student leaders.

Our student leaders are not merely decorative. They don’t hold honorary titles. Instead, they have real responsibilities.

All semester long, they’ve led our youth ministry in an assortment of ways, during times my adult leaders and I have been present. We’ve offered encouragement and on occasion, corrections. We know what they’re capable of.

So when we sat down to schedule our Christmas party and quite simply, ran out of potential dates on which to do so, a student leader suggested they run the Christmas party without us.

After swallowing the momentary panic I felt, I thought, “Of course. That makes perfect sense. They’re ready to do that.”

So we moved the Christmas party to someone’s house so that even though there wasn’t an adult leader present in the room, there was still an adult (a parent) in the house. Then we spent the next several weeks planning the Christmas party during our student leadership team meetings.

We chose games and figured out how we wanted to do the White Elephant gift exchange. Each student leader then took responsibility for one aspect of the party, including its up-front leadership. Finally, we decided what order the activities would take place in. At our final meeting before the party, our student leaders left more excited about our Christmas Party than I’d seen them in years.

The night of the party came and by all accounts, the student leaders did a great job at leading it. They welcomed people, kept things moving, and ensured people had a good time. When problems arose, they solved them… Because they had to. There was no adult leader there to bail them out. They worked together as a team and left with a newfound confidence that came from having accomplished what they set out to do.

This year, our Christmas party went off without a hitch…. And I wasn’t there.

Our student leaders led… Without me.

There’s a tiny part of me that mourns, “Don’t they need me anymore?”

But then I remember the point of discipleship is to train student leaders to function without us: To be able to grow in their faith, without the constant guidance of a youth pastor; To be able to lead without an adult giving them step by step instructions.

Last week, my student leaders did that.

And so this week, we’re celebrating.


For more on Student Leadership, pre-order Jen’s new book, Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders, which will be available in April.