Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

When I took my first job in youth ministry over a decade ago, the idea of building a student leadership team was everywhere - in books, magazines, and at conferences. Since then, however, student leadership seems to have gone out of fashion. Sure, there are a few voices who champion the idea of student leadership but I no longer feel as though it's a standard part of most youth ministries.

For me, however, student leadership – and in particular, a student leadership team – is one of the most critical aspects of youth ministry. That's why I'm going to spend the next several weeks talking about the basics of student leadership.

To begin, let's address this question:

With everything else you have to do as a youth pastor, why should you invest time and energy into a student leadership team?

Before I answer this question, let me correct a common misconception about student leadership.

As a youth pastor, a student leadership team will not save you time. Student leaders are NOT there to do your grunt work. They're there to learn how to do ministry; They're part of the saints we as leaders are called in Ephesians 4:12 to equip. Anything you do with student leaders will typically take you two, if not three times longer than it would take to do yourself.

But it's worth it because student leadership is fundamentally about discipling teens.

And discipleship ALWAYS takes time.

That, in a nutshell, is also why you should invest in a student leadership team. It gives you a powerful vehicle for discipling a group of teens. Leading others pushes teens out of their comfort zones in big and small ways. In the process, they learn to (or are forced) to depend on Jesus in ways they've never had to before. When that happens, their relationship with Jesus deepens. So, too, does their life of prayer.

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Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, 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). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. When not doing ministry, she and her husband Doug can be found hiking, backpacking, and traveling.

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