If you are like most congregations, you have ministries aimed at serving your younger members. In many youth ministries, we tend to spend a great deal of time producing programs for our students. But what would happen if congregations began investing less time building ministries for students and instead developed methods to serve with students? What would it look like to equip students for leadership roles in the church and empower them to serve?
Young people are not simply the church of the future, as they are often described. Your students are a vital part of Christ’s church here and now—and as such, they have the capacity to lead.
Young believers are a part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12–27). They have gifts, given by the Spirit, to be used for building the church (1 Corinthians 12:4–11). The young people in your midst have a great deal to offer your congregation. When we find ways to release students into leadership roles, their gifts are utilized; a deeper connection forms with the church; and young people receive valuable feedback, encouragement, and support that helps prepare them for further service in the Kingdom.
Sometimes, figuring out where to connect students in leadership roles can be a daunting task. Where do we begin? One of the easiest ways to begin involving students in the leadership of your congregation is by using a simple method of modeling and feedback to prepare students for service. (In fact, this would provide a great method for training any leader, regardless of age!) The method is simple:
For this method to work effectively, there are a few keys. First, understand that students are not ready to take on the primary leadership role in every task or event. Select areas in which your student can explore his or her passions at an appropriate level. It is also important that your students know you are there to support them. Provide frequent encouragement, as many of the things students experience will be new to them. Help build their confidence so they can, indeed, accomplish the task set before them.
Additionally, allow them to fail safely. Some of our greatest learning experiences come not through our successes but through our failures. Give students permission to fail, and help to pick them back up when it happens. Finally, ensure that you complete the feedback loop at each step of the process. Helping students understand what went well and how they can improve is a vital step in building confidence in service and developing leaders.
Our young people have a tremendous capacity to make a difference in the church today. How will you help your students step into leadership roles in the church?
Continue the Conversation: How have you helped young people develop their gifts to serve in the church? Leave a comment to continue the conversation!
(This article was originally posted by Concordia Publishing House on April 5, 2017.)