What is the goal of your leadership development program?
Are you trying to incorporate students into the planning for your youth group? Do you want to usher students into ministry? Are you looking to turn over the youth ministry to the leadership of the students?
Truth is, there are many reasons that we have student leadership teams, and because there are many reasons we develop young leaders, there are many ways we do so. Take a look at 10 different leadership teams and you’ll see 10 different ways to develop young leaders.
Even with all the diversity among leadership development programs, I think there should be at least one continuous and overriding thread in student leadership development: that we prepare students for a lifetime of Christian leadership.
I think about Jesus training the disciples (even though they may not have understood it at the time) and understand that Jesus wasn’t just preparing them for a position of leadership, or involving them so they would have ownership in His ministry. Jesus walked with them for three years to prepare them for a lifetime of service and leadership to the Church. The experiences the disciples had and Jesus’ teaching weren’t a temporary or even a very specific training, but one that would guide the disciples for a lifetime of whatever He called them into.
We can’t develop leaders as well as Jesus, but we need to come as close as we can for our students. No matter why we started a leadership development team, or the goals we have for the team, one thing we must work in to our program is preparation for whatever God may have for them.
So how do we do that? Are you doing that already?
Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t. We can start now, or improve upon what we’re already doing.
Here’s a few ideas to help prepare your students for a lifetime of service and leadership:
Those of you who lead know that everything you are as a leader comes from God. It’s less about what you do and more about who you are (a disciple). One of the most important things we can do for young leaders is disciple them. The more they become like Jesus, the better they can lead like Him.
Shift Their Focus
Helping your students to focus on the short and long term is very important. On the one hand you might want your students to focus on an activity that they’ll be leading in two weeks, or a mission trip that they’ll be spearheading next month. They have to keep their focus on those things, but to shift their focus to the long term we need to debrief activities and coach students to help them assimilate lifelong lessons and grow as a result of what they are doing in their ministries.
Give them Seasoned Mentors
Mentorship is one of the most important aspects of leadership development, and by combining a good mentor with one that’s been around a while and seen a lot of things, you can keep students mindful of what’s to come and benefit them with wisdom borne of much experience. I’m not saying your mentors should be 80 or something, but choosing mentors that have experienced a lot of life and can translate that experience into real lessons will benefit your students until the end of their lives.
You’ve no doubt found that many of your students operate within a comfort zone and are very good within that zone. Likewise, when they get out of that comfort zone they get shaky, seem lost, and lose their confidence. Whether it be their learning style, or the cultures that they are comfortable in, everybody has places where they feel uncomfortable or aren’t at their best. To prepare our students for a lifetime of leadership, we need to push them out of that comfort zone. Like a mother bird will sometimes give her young ones a small shove out of the nest to teach them to fly, we give our students a nudge into places that they may not be comfortable or even afraid. God does this all the time, and the more prepared our students are the more confident they will be in those fearful and confusing times.
Teach the Teachers
In other words, involve parents. You and I both know that kids pick up on what their parents are doing and teaching, and that many of those lessons stick with kids for a lifetime. Working with parents to help them impart leadership lessons and skills to their kids could be one of the most important things you do for your students, next to discipling.