Post by John Keim
Over the last few years, I’ve made a concerted effort to build a strong student leadership culture in my ministry and it comes with all sorts of incredible rewards! Students taking greater ownership of the ministry, an increase in students inviting their friends and ultimately a more “in-touch” ministry to what’s happening with students today. Getting at this has been a ton of work and to drop a shameless but honest plug here—the DYM Student Leadership Conference has been a huge part in the progress we’ve made. Doug, Josh, LeaderTreks and everyone at SLC does all the heavy lifting and it hits home with my students so then I get to continue fueling that fire rather than starting from scratch. If you’re looking to start student leadership, revamp it or fuel it up, get to SLC this summer! https://studentleadershipconference.com/
I’m a huge fan of student leadership in ministry, but I gotta say student leadership is not without it’s difficult spots too. One of the biggest struggle areas I’ve seen is students claiming that there is favoritism when it comes to who gets leadership opportunities and who doesn’t. Anytime there is a team, musical, audition or group where everybody doesn’t get in, students (and sometimes adults too) will claim there is an element of favoritism to it. Just the other night a student was telling me about musical auditions and how some of the most talented people got hosed because the choir teachers were picking favorites. And there is a danger spot here for the same thing to happen in student leadership in your ministry. Here are a couple questions to think through that I’ve found to be super helpful in eliminating favoritism and building a healthy student leadership culture;
- What is the purpose of the student leadership role in your ministry? Is it focused on feedback and reflection of how the ministry is going? Is it to equip students to run elements of the ministry? Are you asking students to build and plan new aspects of the ministry?
Thinking through what the purpose of student leadership is in your ministry will define more clearly the role and can inform what you’re looking for in student leaders. Transparency up front with what student leadership means can help students better identify whether it’s a fit for them or not.
- Is there transparency in your ministry for how students can get more info on leadership or is it a more secretive process? Are there opportunities to take a first step into leadership? Is student leadership something that’s talked about or do students just see it and never know how to be a part of?
One of the early things I learned the hard way was that a lack of transparency and opportunities for students to explore leadership fueled feeling of favoritism big time! We quickly worked towards casting the vision to the whole ministry and offering first step opportunities to explore leadership for anyone interested. Alright final question is a bit of a personal gut-check…
- When it comes down to it, are you playing favorites when it comes to student leadership? Are you only giving opportunities to students you like having around? Did you not bring that one student because he bugs you?
Obviously at the end of the day we shouldn’t be playing favorites within the ministry but I learned a valuable lesson along the way that I’ll leave you with. Don’t confuse favoritism with faithfulness. What students can sometimes label as favoritism is really just the result of a faithful student. If a student is faithful with the opportunities given, living a life of integrity, regularly engaged in the ministry and being an advocate for our mission, they’re going to get more and more opportunities to lead. It has nothing to do with personal affinity with a student and has everything to do with their faithfulness.
Building a culture of student leadership isn’t easy, but I believe it is absolutely worth it! When the complaints of favoritism start flying around just keep focusing on building a student leadership culture based on faithfulness!
John has been in full-time ministry for 13 years at Granger Community Church (GCC). As the Executive Pastor of Kids and Students he oversees the staff and ministries reaching kids, students and young adults. A unique part of John’s story is that he is leading in the church that he started attending as a 6th grade student and counts it a huge blessing to lead the student ministry that radically changed his life. Equally awesome for John is that he met his wife Angela during their time as students in youth group together at GCC and they are now raising their 3 daughters at GCC.
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