Thoughts on Youth Leadership

I wrote last week about a book I recently finished called “Sticky Church.” I’m reading a lot of books with the purpose of discovering the best youth leadership model in mind. So far I’ve found some truly excellent ideas, but no concrete model to simply execute. I think we’ll be inventing a new wheel this year with student leadership!

One concept that really resonated with me in this book was that of empowerment and responsibility. I am a firm believer and supporter of student empowerment and authority. Young people have passion, knowledge, skills, and a voice. They need folks to provide places for their voice to be heard and avenues for their skills to be utilized and perfected.

“Empowerment without a platform is like responsibility without authority. In too many of our churches, we offer discipleship training and leadership training without providing any significant platform for people to do the things they’ve been trained to do.” (51)

This touches on something I’ve been mulling over for months with regard to student leadership. I came into this new position and was told that come August 1st, 2011 all student leadership teams, opportunities, and positions would be dissolved. This has left me wondering where we should go next. I’ve done extensive reading, listening to interviews, research, and had discussions with folks with far more experience than I. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a ready-made formula we can super-impose on our student leadership teams that will be healthy and effective.

That said (and getting back to the quote), students and adults need to have enough training that they can discover what their gifts and talents are, but also need room to practice and use their gifts. We often tend to either throw students into positions that have nothing to do with their gifts and expect them to thrive or we spend all of our time training, preparing, and equipping without letting them actually DO anything!

I would love to find an organic structure that balances between these two extremes.  I envision a student leadership structure that takes into consideration the unique gifts and graces of students while identifying needs that they can serve to meet – giving them authority with a platform and responsibility in conjunction with authority.

What will this look like? That’s still in the design phase, but I do have some ideas.

  • Interest groups set up based on student’s skills and interests. Students from each district will meet together to accomplish a task and serve. These interests can be everything from designing a logo or writing curriculum to planning worship and taking pictures. The interest groups will serve the whole conference, helping to streamline events and tasks because they’ve perfected their art.
  • District groups based on geography that meet on a semi-regular basis for spiritual formation and faith development. These groups are made up of interest group members and others from around the local districts to grow in their faith in an intentional way. Experiential elements could include a labyrinth walk, book study, or worship experience. This group will also be the visionaries for the district, sharing a vision to the interest groups to carry out.
  • Student leadership team of key leaders from the interest and district groups that exists to further hone their leadership skills. This intentionally small group would consist of folks already serving in other ways but are looking for structure or training to grow their leadership skills. This group would be the highest level of commitment and would be reserved for those juniors and seniors looking for even more training.
The role for adults is very strong, especially for adults who have a desire to provide students with authority and a platform. The need to be organic is very high because different personalities, districts, ministry settings, and combination of students all need different things at different times.
What are your thoughts? Have you empowered student leaders in some form or structure effectively?

One thought on “Thoughts on Youth Leadership

  1. Pingback: Vision for Leadership | Central Texas Conference UMC Youth Ministry

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