Much of the momentum in our youth ministry is the result of our student leadership team (SLT). We invest a lot in that group because we want young leaders to invest in our youth ministry.
Ultimately, we aim to influence a group of teenagers to become kingdom-minded influencers.Click to tweet
Our SLT is open to anyone who loves Jesus, is teachable, and commits to regularly attend our programs and a couple of hours of training per month. The team has become an important vehicle for growth and depth in our youth ministry. Although we have fun and discuss leadership, at its core this is a discipleship group. But because these teenagers “get it,” they start owning and trusting our ministry in a way that drives them to invite friends.
Here are 13 intentional things we do with young leaders to drive spiritual depth and numeric growth in our ministry:
What We Do With Our SLT
Meet in a home. Although that has some challenges, teenagers tend to let down their guard in homes. Plus, it’s more comfortable than sitting in our church’s metal folding chairs. It’s also a way to model hospitality.
Eat together. The church has been “fellowshipping” for centuries, and food seems to be a love language for most teenagers. Some of the best relational times I have with young people are while sharing a meal.
Study the Bible. It’s the greatest leadership book ever, so we dive into the Word.
Memorize Scripture. If the Awana group can do this, so can we. This year our SLT is memorizing 1 Peter 5.
Pray together. Before, during, and after we meet, prayer is a priority.
Engage in community as small groups. At some point, we always form smaller circles to brainstorm a concept or talk through a Bible study or leadership lesson. Because smaller groups allow teenagers to get more personal, they’re a great environment to go deeper.
Engage in unity as a large group. Coming together builds synergy and cohesiveness. Although we might not get to hear from everyone, everyone gets to listen in and be involved.
Share experiences. Whether it’s a trip, an event, or a team-building exercise, shared experiences create bonding and stories that tether us more closely to Jesus, to each other, and to our ministry. They serve as glue that bonds the group together.
What Our SLT Does for Us
Provides insight on teenage culture. Every year we hold a State of the Youth night. We ask SLT members to share what they see in their schools, what they see in our youth group, what issues they and their friends are dealing with, what their peers are talking about, and so on. We ask, listen, and learn, trying not to respond or judge. This time often provides direction for future leadership lessons and Bible study topics.
Develops young teachers. Occasionally we invite teenagers to teach in our ministry. A leader helps them prepare and work on delivery, and afterward we debrief. When we notice teenagers’ talents, we want them to shine, so we create avenues for them to use their gifts.
Sparks teenagers’ own “redemptive storytelling.” We go beyond conversion stories and ask teenagers to share what Jesus is doing in their lives right now. Although we don’t exclusively tap our young leaders for this, we look to them first.
Hosts events. We hand over certain events and worship services to our SLT. This communicates that we’ll invest in them and that we trust them. (Although we help and follow up, we avoid micromanaging.)
Serves as our guest-experience team. At all our weekly youth programs, student leaders have responsibilities—from greeter and setup to tech assistance and band. As our front line, these kids serve as our ministry’s first impression. We put them to work, invest in them, and they’re equipped to lead (sometimes with a few nudges).
Investing in our SLT yields great dividends. Because of our process of equipping and investing, we notice a depth in this group and trust the members with ministry. When there’s trust, there’s more buy-in. And when there’s more buy-in, teenagers are more likely to invite the friends they’ve been investing in.