Student Leadership Teams

Student Leadership Conference

Student Serve Teams

Summer of Service

Kingdom Worker Wednesdays

Doulos Teams

Ambassadors for Christ

These are just a few names of student leadership-focused programs/trips I’ve coordinated or led in my 25 years of being a youth pastor (obviously, the last two were in the late 90s). Each had unique aspects, but the goal was basically the same – equipping and unleashing students to serve Jesus. I believe it is an essential discipleship step that can often make the difference in a student walking with Jesus and staying connected to the church beyond their youth group years (maybe more on that in a different blog post down the road).

Getting students to buy in takes work. There can be a lot of practical hurdles to this (travel sports, anyone?), but there I think we often underestimate the philosophical hurdles.  In my experience, I’ve seen two big lies that students, parents, and sometimes even we believe that will, in turn, hold them back from jumping into whatever student leadership opportunities we are offering (and while I have you, I’ll go ahead and offer the truth to combat those lies).

LIE #1: Leadership = I get to (or have to) be on stage

This can be a source of bad motivation for some who hunger for the spotlight over the opportunity to serve and a deterrent for other students who have no interest in or a deep fear of the stage. Is there opportunity inside student leadership for students to take to the stage to lead, share, teach, sing, etc? Absolutely! In fact, you’re probably missing some great discipleship opportunities if it’s not present. BUT, it should not be the first step, and it should be emphasized that it doesn’t have to be a part of it at all.

TRUTH: Leadership = Serving

As Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant.” (Matthew 23:11) Emphasizing this truth from the outset will help the poorly motivated, and empower the purely motivated with stage fright.

LIE #2: I don’t have what it takes.

As you present the opportunity for students to take on leadership through servanthood, there will be several who say, “I can’t do that.” They may fear screwing up or looking dumb.  They may feel they have nothing to offer. This is an exciting opportunity to understand the grace of God in balance with the absolute gold inside them.

TRUTH: God has what it takes, and He’s called you to serve.

I love to tell students, “Your salvation was not just meant for yourself.” The idea is that, as Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 (after emphasizing our salvation is by grace and not works), “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” and the goal in those good works is to serve Him and others. For the ones who feel unequipped, we can invite them on a journey of being trained. For those who feel unqualified, we can invite them to join a ton of other Christian heroes who had some pretty messy stories (Moses the murderer, Rahab the prostitute, Peter the denier, and Paul the persecutor, just to name a few).

As we combat these lies, may we see and value our responsibility to equip and empower students to be the church as they step up and “do the works” of the ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-13

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Derry Prenkert is a 25+ year youth ministry veteran providing coaching, consulting, care, and content to starting, stuck, and struggling ministry leaders (primarily youth pastors).



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