How to conduct a student leadership team interview

In recent weeks, student leadership team interviews have taken over my life. These one-on-one meetings are follow-up conversations to the written application filled out by each applicant. They typically take about an hour each.

I know that's a LOT of time to spend with potential leaders.

But it's time well spent.

Student leadership team interviews give you an excuse to meet face-to-face with kids and to ask them hard questions about their lives and faith. Doing so deepens your relationship and ultimately, allows you to better minister to the teens entrusted to your care. By asking them hard questions during their interview, you establish a precedence that allows you to continue to do so in the future. That, in turn, makes it easier for you to confront teens when things go awry. Aside from that, interviewing potential student leaders helps you discern their role on your team.

To make the most of your time together, ask good questions.

Begin with some questions about the student's life outside of church. This is particularly important for students you don't know well, as it helps establish your rapport.

Then ask specific questions about things students wrote on their application. In addition to allowing students to clarify and expand upon what they wrote, such questions show teens that you read their application, something that shows you care about both them and the team. Throughout this process, ask students to “Tell you about a time when...” Such questions prompt concrete, rather than abstract responses, and give you a better sense of how teens will react in real-life situations.

Ask both new and returning applicants about their definition of leadership. Find out what they expect to do as a leader in your ministry. Oftentimes, such questions reveal mismatched expectations that if not confronted up front, will lead to conflict later.

Ask returning applicants to reflect upon their experience on the leadership team thus far. Ask about what teens have learned about themselves and others as a result of being on the team. Find out how they've applied the leadership skills they've learned on the team in situations outside of your youth ministry.

Finally, ask students questions about their faith. Ask them how they'd describe their current faith as well as how it's changed in the last year. Dare to dream with teens and ask them to describe what they hope their faith will look like a year from now. Invite them to confess their doubts. Find out how you can pray for potential applicants and then take time during your interview to do so.

Don't be surprised if student leadership team interviews result in some of your best conversations with teens.

That's certainly been my experience.

Just the other day, during a student leadership team interview, I listened as a student excitedly told me about the joy she'd experienced this year in telling her friends about her faith. Moments later, she fought back tears as she told me, frustrated, “I'm just not sure what my gifts are.”

That conversation wasn't just good, it was downright holy.

And those are the kinds of conversations you can expect when you take time to interview potential student leaders.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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