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!

The Danger of Being Desensitized

I open Facebook and begin to scroll down the page. Conspiracy theories, outrage over the virus situation, passive aggressive memes fill the page. On and on the links and videos go, eventually blurring together into a thread of expressed frustrations. In mere moments, I’m told to be angry about a variety of issues. “The opening of state governments is costing the lives of thousands,” the headline says. “Keeping everything closed is going to cost even more lives,” reads the next. The negativity continues for as far as I’m willing to go. Installing infinite scrolling was a brilliant move for app developers, though the ones without self-control (like myself) often pay the price.

It’s not that I want to take sides on issues. This isn’t the place for opinions on complex political matters. Instead, I want to call to mind something greater- the heart issue behind it all. As I spend time in the Word and seek to pursue what God calls His people to, I’m reminded that I need to spend time searching for the heart issue behind my outward sins. The time I lose each and every week to social media is a problem rooted in something deeper- a mind-numbing desensitization to what’s around me.

If I had to summarize a large majority of my experience online, I’d unfortunately have to summarize it as negative. Sure, there are positive videos (John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” comes to mind), but when I give my heart and mind over to mindless scrolling, I’m giving myself over to be taught what to feel on nearly every big issue we’re facing today. With each scroll, there’s someone or something new I’m told to direct anger and frustration, and before long, I’m numb. I don’t feel angry. I’m desensitized.

This isn’t new to humanity. As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, God has been giving instructions so the nation of Israel might guard themselves against this very issue. “Remember,” God says over and over. “Don’t forsake the law.” Yet, even after accepting and entering into a covenant with God as outlined by the law, that they forget the very commandments they ratified and begin worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 20-32).

Then, after the reign of King Solomon and the nation splitting, the northern kingdom forgets once again, becoming desensitized to the sin of the nations around them. Eventually sacrificing their own children on an altar to a false god, a command God explicitly prohibited. Sin was no longer vile and disgusting. It became something they thought would bring satisfaction.

These are the two concerns of being desensitized: the inward straying of our own hearts and an outward compromise of our witness to others. These two concerns are intrinsically connected.

In our personal struggles, we allow small compromises until we’ve gone farther than we ever thought possible. First, we begin to compromise by not pursuing God as we once used to. The compromises pile up. Slowly, but surely, we begin to stray. With this foundational pursuit of God eroding, something else must begin to take its place. When the trials and difficulties of life come, the missing foundation begins to show. Instead of being at peace and rooted in the eternal Word of God, we grow anxious, worried, fearful as the situation changes virtually every second. If we aren’t careful, these feelings can grow leading to anger at any given situation and towards others.

Social media serves as a megaphone: amplifying every emotion until nearly everything we post and express is at its loudest level. The anger, frustration, discontentment marks every post and comment until it blends together in an endless wave of white noise. These frustrations and fears become commonplace and normal to us. Again, we become desensitized. Soon, we begin to duplicate these same attitudes. Our foundation of peace has been replaced by fear, anxiety, and anger.

I write this as an examination of my own heart. I’m typing these very words because they are the tendencies I see in me. Especially during quarantine, my hands reach for my phone like a reflex. I catch myself scrolling, losing minutes of precious time. I turn away from the screen only to realize the white noise is beginning to take root. Maybe I’m overreacting, I think. I don’t want to give in to the stereotypes, missing the good things that can come from the connections social media brings. For a while, I just remained silent, liking posts from time to time, but not contributing anything of my own.

Then, this week, it all seemed to reach a tipping point. An innocent man in Georgia lost his life in February, his story lost in the wave of virus information. Finally, it gained traction and began to be shared. The issue behind it all? A story worth being angry about- a story of injustice, prejudice, and racism- was lost in the shuffle of things not worth being angry about. We’ve lost the righteous anger this story deserves because we’ve used it on trivial matters of division.

Through our compromises, we’ve lost our ability to disagree without being angry. We’ve lost our ability to process complex matters with time to think. We give quick responses out of a position of compromised hearts and desensitized feelings. We all end up paying the price. Let’s spend this time considering what we give our voice to and why. Let’s engage in conversations in love and seeking to make peace. Let’s save our voices, not screaming into the list of posts that never end, but joyfully reflecting and standing for the character of God to a world around us.

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.

Coronavirus and Community

Forty-five days. This is how long I have been working from home. Forty-five days, most of them with a “work or home” order in place. Over forty-five days of not being able to gather in person with our church or with the students in the student ministry.

By God’s grace, it seems we’re reaching the point where restrictions are beginning to loosen, with the hope that the virus is abating. At the same time, it also seems the restrictions are being loosened because quarantine fatigue is beginning to have an effect on those abiding by these orders. A recent article shared many experts’ anxiety over this fatigue, as data showed people leaving their homes more and more despite the orders put in place by state and federal governments.

The effects that come from a lack of social interaction include an increase in depression and anxiety. To help fill in what’s missing a large number of people have turned to the use of technology designed to connect people virtually. Companies like Zoom, which was previously only used by a small percentage of the population, is now commonly used among a large number of American households. The virus, and measures introduced to slow its spread, have drastically simplified life in our culture, pulling the curtain back to reveal universal truths about who we are and how we were created.

One of God’s gifts of common grace to the world is the desire for community. He’s wired each and every one of us with a longing for a place where we belong. Deep within us, we all desire interaction with others. We desire interaction with one another, and deep relationships where we can be known and loved. While the intensity of this desire may change depending on the person, the age of social distancing has shown just how ubiquitous the desire is.

Community is an essential component in our growth as Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the reasons why “receiving Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” is an issue. While salvation involves taking responsibility for one’s own sin, repenting, and trusting Christ for forgiveness on a personal level, the Bible is clear that we have been redeemed to a community of believers.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:10

During the birth of the church in the beginning of the book of Acts, those who repented and trusted in Christ immediately came together as a community:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

Acts 2:42-44

As society begins to slowly return to the way things were before, now is the time for us to take an honest look at what we’ve prioritized and return back to what God has called us to be: a community of believers built on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to simplify. Now is the time to push back against the idea of church as an experience. Now is the time to encourage others to trust Jesus for salvation and come into the community of God’s people. Then- and only then- will we find the deep community our souls long for.

This Week’s Top Three (April 29, 2020)

One of my prayers for the families in the student ministry is that they would make the most of this extra time with their teens. The family is the most basic and practical structure of society. God has established the family to be the means by which discipleship takes place. Yet, most of society seeks to counteract what God’s purposes. “The reason that people don’t know what to do at home is basically the same reason that family life appears unappealing to many…The bigger reality is that the social structure of the modern world is built this way, built against families. In the face of all this, it’s no wonder that families strain and break and that young people have second thoughts about starting families of their own. The family is a square peg in the world’s round hole.” Needless to say, this may be one of the most important articles you read during this Corona Season.


Tim Challies shared this article on his A La Carte post Monday. The headline seems like something from science fiction, but I think it reveals truths about what we value. The parameters of the experiment are explained in the article and the results are very fascinating, to say the least.


Certainly, it’s no secret that America has been heading in a more secular direction for quite some time. What’s surprising to me is just how quickly this is happening. Look at this research recently released from Barna, “A slim 51% majority of Americans believe in the most basic biblical attributes of God — down from 73% three decades ago.”