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Student Leaders or Knights and Dames?

Knighthood. Kingdoms. Castles, kings, and queens. They’re all very noble—very The Crown. After binge-watching that show on Netflix, I spent some serious time on Google to discover what it actually means to be knighted by a royal. Because if the Kingdom of God is, well, a kingdom, then surely some parallels must exist. And because one of my bucket-list moments is to participate in a knighting ceremony, I probably should know what it entails.

In the royal order, the king and queen select knights and dames (the female equivalent of knights) to participate in a higher order of nobility. At least that’s my understanding from across the pond. Essentially, interns (or apprentices) are “promoted” to a more noble rank with increased duties and a binding to a chivalrous code of conduct. This started as a military advancement, but in the modern age almost anyone can receive knighthood (think Sir Elton John or Dame Judy Dench).

In a way, this is akin to the Kingdom of God. The King, his Highness, selects and calls us to walk in a more chivalrous way, obeying his commands and tending to his subjects.

What if, instead of asking teenagers to apply to the leadership team, we invite them based on character traits we observe?

“Invitation only” moments seem very un-American. It just doesn’t seem fair that someone gets invited to a team while others don’t get the chance. But didn’t Jesus offer personal invitations to his leadership team to join in the work of his Kingdom? I’ve tried to make student leadership something everyone can achieve, but not everyone gets invited. I talk about it at most gatherings—how it works, what we look for, and what traits make solid leaders. But I don’t take applications or requests. The first year in a new ministry always has a learning curve, but then we settle in and kids know what’s expected even before they get the first invitation.

What if, rather than a simple calendar invite to the next meeting, our “induction” takes on a weighty significance to signal the role’s importance?

A simple invitation to knighthood would suffice. The title would still be conferred, and expectations would be in place. Yet knights get to bow before the king for the official “sword on the shoulder” treatment. Much like marriage, this Kingdom-commemoration of the moment indicates significance to both the participant and onlookers. In fairness, I haven’t done this yet, but I want to so badly! I want a “repeat-after-me,” take the oath, receive the charge, this-is-monumental-so-don’t-forget-it-or-take-it-lightly experience for our student leaders. I wonder if I could dub them with a lightsaber?

What if this moment were accompanied by a title (such as “sir” or “dame”) instead of just “someone on the student leadership team”?

I’ve tried all sorts of monikers for our young leaders. I’ve searched for a title that sets them apart but not above. We’ve tried Servant Leader, Student Ministry Assistant (SMA), and Vision Team. Currently, we call them Student Impacts. (Confession: I totally lifted that from the children’s pastor at my last church!) What are your ideas? And what would happen if we used designations such as “sir” and “dame”?

What if teenagers receive a standard of chivalrous conduct before they get to serve or make decisions on the ministry’s behalf?

Historically, knights came from the military, so functions and expectations were in place before they received knighthood. Every young person can (and should!) feel this kind of responsibility within God’s Kingdom. We want to inspire such devotion to the King that teenagers’ conduct becomes a natural outflow of their affection for him. When Tiffany fell in love with Jesus, she fell hard. With almost no church background, she had zero context for what she “should” be doing. Every move was simply because her heart was beating for the King. Attitude preceded action and then dictated it. And Tiffany ended up fast-passing a lot of lifelong Christians who were in line to be leaders.

What if we ask young leaders to serve from the basis of relationship rather than from position or title?

Ginger, a former student, was leading before we even had a leadership team. She drove kids to and from youth group, and organized opportunities to meet needs within our community. Ginger was a friend to everyone, and set the standard for what our leadership team would become (and also who I needed to be as a leader). This was all before we had a leadership covenant or regularly scheduled team planning.

I know just enough about the royal order of knighthood to be dangerous. (Truth be told, I learned most of it from Netflix and Wikipedia.) I probably know even less about the Kingdom of God. But this I know for sure: God calls us to a higher order as leaders, no matter our age. That honor deserves to be treated with dignity and forethought. I relish my entry to God’s Kingdom and so badly want to hear the King say, “Well done!” I want to serve—and lead my students to serve—the crown well.

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Student Leaders or Knights and Dames?

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