Why You Should Equip Students to Lead

Let’s talk about leadership for a moment, shall we? It’s one of those “buzzwords” that can mean many different things. Leadership can be about inspiring other people. It can be about having ruling authority over someone else. It can mean being a point person on a project or event. Most importantly, good leadership is about equipping others. This type of leadership is directly connected to discipleship.

Talking about leading means talking about the structure of your ministry. What are your goals for the students and families you shepherd? How are you establishing structures to help achieve these goals more easily? While parents are the primary disciple-makers of their children, as youth leaders, God has called us to partner with them in this work. One of the ways we can help families is by giving students opportunities to lead the way in practicing their faith within the ministry.

It all revolves around leading students and the ministry somewhere. Here’s where we sometimes get it wrong. Some of us have never considered why we do the things we do. Instead, we just focus on the fact that we’re doing something. “Busy is better,” we’re tempted to think, as we measure success in the amount of things we do. But busy isn’t always better. Sometimes, busy is bad. Everything needs to revolve around a central purpose or goal.

Let’s think about it in terms of a road trip. What if you decided to drive from New York to Los Angeles without making a plan or using a map? Sure you’d make it some of the way, but completing the journey would be difficult. You could drive for some time only to find out you were in the middle of Montana, miles off course.

The difference between a road trip and discipleship is that in a road trip, we want to go from Point A to Point B. With discipleship, we want to teach others how to go from A to B while we are making the journey with them. We shouldn’t want to lead students as spectators. We should be creative in finding ways for students to follow as participants, practicing the things they’re learning along the way.

It’s the difference between hearing and doing. We want students to be hearers AND doers of the word. This means students need to be hearing the word AND doing what God says. It sounds simple, but we all know it’s easier said than done. So how can we equip students to lead?

First, give them a safe space to fail. Anything that’s worth doing is worth failing. We can learn so much from the wrong way of doing things. What matters is that someone is there to gracefully teach them how to do it the right way when we fail. Take leading worship as an example. Students need to know that perfection isn’t the end goal of leading other youth to sing. While excellence is important, it isn’t the top priority. Instead, the purpose is to lead others to sing words that are true about God to God.

Next, help them serve in other ministries within the church. This post follows an understanding of last week’s post about students serving in the context of the corporate gathering. Most student ministries won’t be able to create opportunities to lead for every area in which students are gifted. I would say student ministries weren’t meant to- which is another reason why students need connected to the church as a whole.

Finally, teach them to value Jesus above everything else. While this is listed after the other two reasons, this is the most important. Our main concern is about developing leaders who equip others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We know the gospel leads us to serve in so many different ways, but the reason never changes. We do everything to glorify God, whether it’s leading music on stage, leading a game, running sound, helping with visuals, greeting others, serving in a Sunday School class, taking care of babies in the nursery, or leading a Bible Study. This must always be the most important thing.


Student ministers, what are some challenges you’ve faced in equipping students to lead? How have you seen God work in your students as they’ve had opportunities? I’d love to hear your stories!

This Week’s Top Three (May 6th, 2020)

It’s easy to be discouraged about the ups and downs of attendance, especially as our ministries have been forced to rely on technology during this season. How can we utilize this time to make the most of attendance trends? This quote particularly challenged me: “Make a shift in your thinking. Rather than thinking about how to get students (or people in general) to attend a gathering, emphasize engagement.”


I’ve shared an article like this before, but they always challenge me more than I expect. Here, Ray Ortlund shares advice to young pastors, focusing on the “basics” of ministry. As I consider my desire to remain faithful where God has called me, these words not only challenge me, but encourage me to continue on.


So many of us struggle to have a healthy understanding of Christ’s view of us. In this article, I was reminded of just how complete Jesus’ work on the cross was. I think this is a great approach on the topic- looking to Christ and drawing the implications for our lives from there, instead of focusing on us alone.

Why Teens Need Meaningful Connections With Adults

If I were to ask you what role the student ministry plays within the life of your local church, how would you answer? Would they be the next generation of the church, separated off during corporate worship times? Would they be incorporated into the church without the opportunity to gather together exclusively with others in their age group? The answer to this question reveals one’s philosophy on intergenerational discipleship.

Here’s what I mean: in the first example above, we see the students separated without meaningful connections to the church. If we isolate students from the rest of the gathered church, we are taking away opportunities to have their lives shaped by other adults in the body. As a student minister, it’s my job to think of ways to create meaningful connections within the collective church body.

Friday, we saw how the coronavirus pandemic reveals our need for community. This need is universal throughout our entire lives. For teenagers, even though this need is most immediately met through community with those around the same age, they need others to speak into their lives as well. Parents, extended family, and pastors all have a role to play, but we must not overlook the role of other adults in the church.

The distance placed between many student ministries and church bodies usually begins with good intentions. Maybe we are trying to create a more welcoming environment for teens. Maybe the worship schedule at the church is crowded, so the only youth gathering can happen while the adults are in the worship service. Maybe the only available gathering area is in a separate building, making it more difficult to feel like a part of the church. Whatever the reason may be, now is the time to reevaluate our programming to help better connect our teens to other adults in the church. Here are three reasons why:

1. Teenagers Benefit from the Life Experiences of Adults

Both teens and older adults feel hesitant to interact with one another. I’ve heard the reasoning many times, always from a good heart- someone feels hesitant to volunteer in the ministry because they’re concerned they can’t relate to students. As we grow older and mature, God gives us more stories to share with others. We receive stories of His faithfulness provision, goodness, and grace. These stories are powerful to teenagers, often drawing them in and serving as the foundation for many conversations.

Many stories revolve around the difficult decisions teenagers have to face. While today’s culture is significantly different than it was even ten years ago, many of the big decisions remain the same. By connecting teens with older adults, students have an opportunity to hear how these decisions made (or didn’t make) that big of a difference. There’s an opportunity to learn from mistakes or wrong decisions. There’s also an opportunity to encourage students towards faithfulness, rooted in an adult’s desire to share what they wished they knew at that age.

2. A Unified Church Displays the Gospel to the World Around Us

What other mission could possibly unite people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and age like the gospel of Jesus Christ? In a culture where teenage rebellion is normalized, we have an opportunity to display the uniting power of the gospel to a world full of unbelievers.

Whether it’s leading the people of God in worship through music, serving on the audio/visual team, greeting, setting up and tearing down, teenagers and adults serving together displays the glory of God. Consider how you might plug your students into service opportunities during church events and the weekly gathering. By serving together, the walls between teens and adults quickly come down and relationships are formed.

3. We Have an Opportunity to Train Students to Lead

Teenagers who trust in Jesus for salvation have a part to play in the church. They need adults who are willing to take the time to train them and teach them what it means to use their gifts to serve others. The encouragement from a caring adult is powerful. These words of life are useful in the spiritual formation of young believers.

As a minister of the gospel, I’m always working myself out of a job. This truth extends to all of us. We all need to be training up those who will replace us. When we hold on to our roles within the church with clenched fists, we are keeping some of the most gifted and passionate individuals from being able to serve. Instead of seeking to hold on to our positions for our own good, we have an opportunity to show young people what it looks like to serve in humility.


Student pastors, let me encourage you to take this season to reevaluate your student ministry. Consider how you might use your position to connect other adults with teenagers!

Is there another reason I didn’t mention? Have something you’d like to add? Leave a comment or reach out to me on the connect page.

Why the Hiatus?

In late March, I produced a series of blogs to get resources into the hands of youth pastors and others who might need it. Though most of the ideas weren’t original, it was an opportunity to share what we were doing in our student ministry, with the hopes of helping others think creatively about reaching their students. For all of us in ministry, our strategies to engage teenagers and their families had to change in an incredibly short amount of time. My hope was to spark conversations to help us find ways to do exactly that.

A short time later, I stopped posting on the blog. Part of it was a desire to stay on top of those things most important- adjusting my own strategies for equipping families and reaching students. For our congregation, I wanted and needed the additional time to work together with the rest of the staff to reach out to members who are more at-risk. My priorities adjusted, as they often do in these “war-time” situations. In this case, the battle was against an enemy that is invisible, but still dangerous.

As my priorities adjusted, I began to reconsider my motivation behind writing. What was I trying to accomplish? When I originally started the blog, I wanted to give a place to formulate my thoughts. I wanted to spark conversations. I wanted to give people things to think about. As the weeks went on, I realized my desire to accomplish these things was still there. It continued to grow stronger. More than ever, I was given issues to think and write about.

Today, many of us aren’t able to physically meet with our students. Our gatherings look much different as we use the internet as a means to send content to families and interact with those in the ministry. In the midst of the difficulties of this season, we’re in a time of great opportunity. We can examine nearly every aspect of our ministries to think about what purpose they serve, and how they can help equip students and families to grow in their knowledge of and love for the Lord.

Starting this week, I’m going to be working on restoring the normal schedule to the site- a youth ministry post on Monday, articles I’ve been reading through the week on Wednesday, and a more personal post on Friday. Some of the posts may seem like they’re more applicable to “normal” times (if there even is such a thing). My hope is these posts would challenge us to reexamine every area of our lives. We have more time than ever to reevaluate and create a plan to adjust strategies for our lives, our families, and our ministry to others. Let’s make the most of it together. After all, we point to God as those who are saved by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ- a glorious redemption.

Youth Ministry in a Time of Urgency Part 3: The Gathering

Last night, we had a successful test run of our YouTube Live event: Youth Night Live. As I evaluated our options for platforms on which we could reach our students, I felt like YouTube would be our best bet. Most of our kids aren’t yet on Instagram, despite its 1 billion users. Instead, you can find them on YouTube. For perspective, YouTube has twice the number of users that Instagram has, including a staggering 81% of 15-25 year olds in the United States.

At some point, most students have shared a YouTube video they enjoyed with me. And if they haven’t directly showed it to me on their device, they’ve spoken about one in our conversations. I knew YouTube would be our best bet to connect with them. Furthermore, hosting a YouTube Live event meant our video could easily be saved on our channel and shared at a later time (something Instagram live can’t do as easily, if at all). To help protect the chat section, I invited a couple adults to moderate our account while we streamed. They could take down any inappropriate comments, as needed. Thankfully, it all went well!

Having chosen our platform, I began to think about how we could best fulfill the purpose our normal Wednesday Night gathering served. Namely, we wanted to connect students and families around the Word of God. To do this, we had to be intentional with our approach. I recognize a shortened attention span is an obstacle we all face as we look at engaging students through screens. This is why we planned for different segments, each no longer than ten minutes.

I promoted as much as I could, through every medium available to us. I used an Instagram post and stories on our Student Ministry page, Facebook (both personal and the church account), sent emails to parents and volunteers, and used our church connection software: Realm.

It all started by showing a countdown video created by Download Youth Ministry. Then, we played a Bible Trivia game, encouraging everyone to comment their answer. Once we finished the game, we showed a funny video made by some hilarious volunteers to help lighten the mood, before ending our time with ten minutes together in the Word. The success of Youth Night Live can only be attributed to my incredible team of volunteers. They subscribed to the YouTube account I made and were ready to interact with students. It was a joy to see!

This is where I have to encourage you to invite as many people as possible in to help. With everyone being at home and so spread out, we need a team now more than ever. We need to find people to bounce around ideas, interact with students in the comments, and check in with families. Use the gifts of your adult leaders to help customize your times to their skill set!

I also want to encourage you to find ways to be as interactive as possible. I understand that we’re all working with different amounts of technology and ability, but I consider last night a success because I was able to interact with students as I was teaching. Maybe for you it looks more like prerecording a video or teaching session, then interacting in the comments once its uploaded. However you meet the need, don’t neglect to find ways to gather together and connect with one another.

So, I’m curious: what did your group do to meet together this week? Feel free to share with me below! I would love to hear more about what others are doing!