In recent weeks, student leadership team interviews have taken over my life. These one-on-one meetings are follow-up conversations to the written application filled out by each applicant. They typically take about an hour each.

I know that’s a LOT of time to spend with potential leaders. But it’s time well spent.

Student leadership team interviews give you an excuse to meet face-to-face with kids and to ask them hard questions about their lives and faith. Doing so deepens your relationship and ultimately, allows you to better minister to teens. By asking them hard questions during their interview, you establish a precedence that allows you to continue to do so in the future. That, in turn, makes it easier to confront teens when things go awry. Aside from that, interviewing potential student leaders helps you discern their role on your team.

To make the most of your time together, ask good questions.

Begin with some questions about the student’s life outside of church. This is particularly important for students you don’t know well, as it helps establish your rapport.

Then ask specific questions about things students wrote on their application. This allows students to clarify and expand upon what they wrote. It also show teens you read their application and that you care about them and the team. Throughout this process, ask students to “Tell you about a time when…” Such questions prompt concrete rather than abstract responses and give you a sense of how teens will react in real-life situations.

Ask students about their definition of leadership. Find out what they expect to do as a leader in your ministry. Such questions may reveal mismatched expectations that if not confronted up front, may lead to conflict later.

Ask returning applicants to reflect upon their experience on the leadership team thus far. Ask about what teens learned about themselves and others by being on the team. Find out how they’ve applied their leadership skills to situations outside of your youth ministry.

Finally, ask both new and returning leaders questions about their faith. How would they describe their current faith? How’s it changed in the last year? What do they hope their faith will look like a year from now? Invite them to confess their doubts. Find out how you can pray for potential applicants and then take time during your interview to do so.

Don’t be surprised if student leadership team interviews prompt some of your best conversations with teens.

That’s certainly been my experience.

During a student leadership team interview the other day, I listened as a student excitedly told me about the joy she experienced this year in telling her friends about her faith. Moments later, she fought back tears as she told me, frustrated, “I’m just not sure what my gifts are.”

This conversation wasn’t just good, it was downright holy.

Take it from me. These are the kinds of conversations you can expect when you take time to interview potential student leaders.