Cultivating Student Leaders When Your Schedule is Tight


By Meg Nelson

We all hope to see our students thrive. What that looks like will be different for each student and for each ministry we serve in. One place I served had “student leader development” as a specific item on the part-time job description. I assumed that meant I was expected to eventually create a student leadership team and develop separate programming for student leaders. This came with highpoints and low points. Despite good intentions behind all the things we did together, I wonder if it was all truly the best format for cultivating a sense of servant leadership in these students. Our schedules are already so tight, and families are already so busy. If we take a good look; there’s likely plenty of existing opportunities within our communities where we can guide our students into discovering their leadership gifts. Perhaps you can use your 30 Hour Famine event as a launching point for an emphasis on cultivating student leaders! This post shares three areas to consider when it comes to cultivating student leadership without necessarily creating new programming.

Focus on themes of leadership within your student ministry teaching times. 

Some students are well on their way in their personal leadership development, while others still have some more maturing to do before being able to take on certain leadership roles. All our students can benefit from learning about Christ-focused leadership. All have God-given potential for leadership. If they aren’t given chances to learn about the topic, how can they discover that potential? Servant leadership could be a great theme to focus on in the weeks surrounding your 30 Hour Famine event! No need to create a separate group and schedule yet another event on the calendar to fit it in, when you can use the tools you already have in place in your ministry to provide a space to discuss leading like Jesus with your students.

Help regular attendees find ways to lead within the student ministry.

Instead of trying to create extra projects, start with using opportunities to serve that already exist. These can be done alongside other adult volunteers to start. Then, as students become proficient in leading these areas, they can then help newer/younger students grow into these servant leadership roles as well. Consider inviting certain students to join in on planning meetings with adult volunteers, giving them a voice and ownership in the ministry. Examples include: being a greeter at the door, running any tech needs, leading games, behind the scenes set-up, giving announcements, sharing a testimony, facilitating a small group discussion time, leading in worship music, and any ideas you can think of! There are ways for students to discover their leadership potential already waiting for them within their student ministry, even for some of those students who have some more growing to do. Perhaps consider planning and execution of your 30 Hour Famine event as a good place to start doing this!

Utilize ministry groups in your community to connect students with service roles.

Your community has its own set of unique ministry opportunities beyond the student ministry that can be great avenues to help our students develop their leadership gifts. I was fortunate enough to serve at a church where including students in the broader ministry of the church came naturally. Worship, missions, men’s, women’s, children’s, even the building and grounds team had students as members of those ministries. That might not be the case where you serve. It might take a few conversations to help facilitate the process, but it’s a process that will have life-long implications as we raise up a generation of students who graduate already connected to church life beyond our student ministries. This helps ensure we see students graduate who have started to discover where their passions and faith collide. Looking for a venue to start this process? Find ways for various ministry team leaders to get involved in your 30 Hour Famine event so they can connect with students – building relationships that may turn into ministry partnership!

Keep up the great work!

If you have the time, ideas, and resources to provide a separate student leadership program, that’s awesome! I know some great youth workers who do this incredibly well. I also know the reality of part-time or volunteer leadership, a small number of attendees, as well as families already crushed by the busy schedules of work and school make something like that a little more daunting. Hopefully these tips can help all of us consider how to integrate themes of leadership and service opportunities into the already-existing rhythm of what we’re doing in ministry. What are some creative ways you are cultivating student leaders where you serve?