Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the elements required in developing student leaders. A few of the mental prompts that have got me reflecting on student leaders have come from:

1. Spending a lot of time recently with my youth pastor (Jim Burns) who developed me into a teenage leader 30+ years ago.
2. The current planning of our Student Leadership Conference at APU in July.
3. Hanging out with some of the 9th grade boys in my weekly small group.

There’s no magic formula and/or pixie dust that a youth worker can use to seek and develop young leaders…sorry. But, I do believe there are some intentional actions we can take to help teenagers better understand and follow the ways of leadership. This week I’ll write some of my thoughts and ask you to add by sharing your wisdom, experience and insight.

An important FIRST STEP for a youth worker is to broaden the definition of leadership. So often we fall into and follow the ways of the world that defines a leader in terms synonymous with extravert, influencer, charismatic, dynamic, good in front of crowds, etc… (you get the point). While I wouldn’t dismiss these as helpful qualities for any leader, I surely wouldn’t use them to limit the potential leaders within your ministry. I think that in youth ministry, leadership should look different than the cute, fun and popular teenagers that are voted into most leadership positions at school.

When we broaden our definition of leadership and align it more closely to the words of Jesus, our potential audience for finding leaders may dramatically change. Jesus said, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” (Mt. 20:26). Bottom line: Christ-following leaders are different! Leaders serve.

What if you looked at your youth ministry and asked yourself, “Who are the teenagers within our setting that seem to have a more natural leaning toward service, helping, and/or humility?” Start there. Notice them. Affirm their acts of service. Begin thinking, “Who might that teenager become if he/she was challenged to be a leader within this ministry?” Think about a new definition…a leader who serves.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Question: does your ministry have the cute, fun & popular leaders… or, the ones who reveal their leadership thru their service (and they may also be the cute, fun & popular)? How do you identify leaders.