One question I’m commonly asked in regard to student leadership teams is, “Are people grandfathered in?” In other words, once someone is on your student leadership team, should they remain on it indefinitely?
My answer is an emphatic “No!”
No one is grandfathered onto my student leadership team, nor is anyone expected to remain on it until they graduate. Instead, my student leaders serve for clearly delineated terms. In my ministry, a “term” on the student leadership team is June through May of the next school year. This allows teens to participate in the training we do over the summer months and serve as a student leader for one academic year.
At the end of that academic year, should they wish to remain on student leadership team for another year, teens must reapply. To do so, they must go through the same application process we use with newbies. They must complete an application (which is actually longer for them than for newbies since I want veteran leaders to reflect upon the time they’ve already spent on leadership team) and go through our interview process again.
Doing so forces returning team members to reevaluate their schedules and priorities and ensure that remaining on our student leadership team is something they genuinely want to do and not just something they feel obligated to do. It also gives teens an easy way out. Should they decide for whatever reason that they don’t want to remain on our leadership team, they simply don’t have to fill out another application. This makes it hard to get on our student leadership team and easy to get off of it.
To give student leaders another opportunity to evaluate their fit on the team, you might also consider conducting mid-year interviews. During these interviews, check-in with each of your team members. Ask them to reflect on how the year has gone thus far and to review the covenant. Doing so gives you an opportunity to address problems before they become serious. As part of this interview, directly ask each student whether or not they want to remain on the leadership team and why.
If student leaders choose NOT to remain on your team, don’t try to convince them to stay. Instead, affirm what they’ve brought to the team and graciously let them leave. Doing so is never easy but it is always good. It saves face for teens and allows them to exit gracefully without harming the team or feeling as though they’re shirking their responsibilities. As a result, teens are much more likely to remain involved in your ministry on their terms, without the responsibility that comes with being a student leader, especially if, as part of this conversation, you affirm their ongoing place in your ministry.
Ultimately, the best student leadership teams are made up of teens who are deeply invested in your ministry. For that to happen, you never want a teen to feel stuck on your team. Strategically checking in with team members and making everyone reapply to be on your student leadership team on a yearly basis is an easy way to prevent teens from feeling stuck and to instead choose to keep investing in your ministry.
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