There have been numerous challenges in having a student led student ministry and I'm sure there will be numerous more. Trying to empower teenagers in a "just do for me" type of world is challenge in and of itself. How do you get teenagers to not only understand a biblical vision for a ministry but also buy into it and then live it out. It's challenging at it's best of times.
I've been told before that you can't let students lead in ministry. They are not old enough, they don't have enough life experience, they are just a little older than the ones they are leading, and many more "reasons" students shouldn't be leading. The funny thing is, these excuses aren't as much about the students as they are about God. The God of people who think like this is tiny. I mean no offense but it's true. If I, as an adult, believe God not only wants to but is capable of doing something big in my life and ministry that sounds good and what it should be. If I say the same thing about a student, it's ludicrous! Why? Why would we say God is one thing to an adult and another to a student, especially in light of the fact that the bible is LITERALLY FULL of leaders that were teenagers! If I believe that God is as big as I claim He is, he can work in them just as well, if not better, as He works in me.
Here's a few reasons I believe student leadership is the way to go:
1) My time here is almost finished. I wrote another blog called "Near Death Experience" a while back. In this blog I talked about James 4:14, "life is a mist here for a while and then gone." (paraphrased) If that is true, then even if I do this job for the rest of my life, I'm almost done. I need to pass that ministry along to them. The funny thing about church is, teenagers are always the "leaders of tomorrow." I've heard that phrase enough and it is appalling to say the least. When tomorrow shows up they have no clue how to lead because they've never been taught how to lead and never had the chance to lead anything. If we believe in the organization/ministry that we've poured our lives into, why wouldn't we want to pass that along to the next group coming up?
2) I can give them an environment to fail/succeed. It's kind of interesting when you think about the idea of students leading other students. There is a certain tension that lies in that and it's a tension to be managed, not a question to be answered. Are they going to always get it right? What if they say the wrong thing? What happens if they can't explain it properly? I can ask the same question of most adults. I walk with those that are leaders in our student ministry. I don't just hand them keys and say go. I teach them leadership principles and ideas and talk through how we need to use these things. When they fail, okay, we offer grace, figure out how we need to do it right, and try again. I'd actually be worried if they didn't fail sometime. I've been given so many opportunities to try things. Some of them worked, some of them didn't but I grew through them. I've learned more times than not, students will rise to the occasion and soar. They want to be held to a higher standard. Rick A. Mills says, "empowerment is the key to their success." I agree...
3) It gives them DESPERATELY needed skills. There are organizations at school they can be a part of and I think these organizations are great. I support them whole-heartedly! They teach leadership from an educational standpoint. What I mean is they teach textbook skills on leadership. Again, good thing! Giving students ownership in their ministry teaching them by immersion. (Which by the way is the most biblical model of discipleship) It teaches them how to be day in, day out ministers in their homes, schools, jobs, and lives. Book knowledge of Jesus is no better than becoming a stalker of Him. Someone who knows everything about Jesus but doesn't know Him. In developing leadership/discipleship skills they learn things they'll need to be successful in life. If you don't believe me that it's needed, go to a Burger King for the early dinner shift. Giving students freedom to go, learn, and do within boundaries is one of the best things we can do for them.
4) It's Biblical discipleship. I've kind of already touched on this. If you think about what the Bible says about a disciple, it's not talking about a student in a classroom setting. It's talking about this idea of immersion. The twelve disciples that lived and walked with Christ were taught but way more than that, they were taught by doing. Christ gave them authority and then sent them out. Were they ready? Not by their or probably our standards. By our standards, students aren't ready but by God's, they are. The great commission doesn't start with, "when you're old enough..." 2 Timothy 2:2 says, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." That's what we do. We entrust students who are qualified to teach others. It gives me the chance to real, biblical discipleship with them and make disciples who make disciples.
Student leadership is scary at times. Scary for us and for the students leading. They get things wrong sometimes and guess what, they're immature sometimes. (I have to remind myself of that often) That's just another opportunity to teach them and walk with them to make things right and keep pressing on towards Christ. I can't imagine doing it any other way.