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My wife got one of those food sealer contraptions. You know, the ones you can vacuum seal everything from chickpeas to chicken. It really is quite a thing. As soon as I saw it, my mind went to youth ministry. I started thinking about incorporating a bit in our programming called “Will it seal?” I then realized that my wife would kill me if I attempted it.

I’ll say this: The end result might be amazing (no freezer dried food!), but the process to get there is kind of annoying. It takes patience, timing, and understanding to pull off the process of sealing food. I guess, in a weird way, it’s similar to student leaders.

Patience—A youth pastor/leader/volunteer should have an overabundance of patience if they want to work with students. Because of the expectations that are put on student leaders, we need to have even more patience—if that’s possible. Student leaders are under the microscope of everyone, and the reality is that they will mess up. We’ve been shown patience; it’s our turn to show it back.

Timing—In order to bake a perfect cake the timing must be perfect. In order to have a perfect pizza you must have perfect timing between time of order and time of delivery. In order to begin the process of a near-perfect student leader you must keep an eye on the “time.” Are they experiencing a lot of stress at home or at school? If so, don’t give them more responsibility. Are they just standing around, taking up space? Then offer them a job. Give them a chance to do something.

Understanding—Every student leader is a separate case. The question is this: Do you make one general rule for everyone, or do you lay down guidelines, with room to grow, mature, and develop? I’ve learned that we need to treat each student leader as separate identities. Lay down guidelines for them to follow—but understand that they’re learning as they go. Grace, mercy, and compassion are necessary when working with student leaders.

The bottom line: Be sure to take the same time that someone took with you, and raise up student leaders. You may be surprised with the end result.

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