One of the main components of our Student Leadership program is leadership development. Since our student leaders are responsible for a lot in our ministry, it is so important that we are building them up as leaders that are capable of succeeding in their roles. Recently, we have been using podcasts to help develop leadership skills in our students, but we figured that it was time to go through another book with them. I wanted this next season of our teaching to help our students discover how God has uniquely gifted them for leadership. After doing some research, I found the perfect book to help our students: Student Leaders Start Here by Doug Franklin.

Student Leaders Start Here is a workbook that is broken down into three sections: Leadership Design, Balancing Act, and Mission First-People Always. The thing I love about this book is that, in each section, students are not only taught an important leadership principle, but they also take quizzes and assessments that help them discover more about the leader God created THEM to be. Each section also ends with a preplanned small group time that helps students process their thoughts together (a huge help for us as we lead the students through the book).

I once heard that a high-schooler’s biggest desires are to find their identity and be understood.  That is why I think that this book will be a hit in any youth ministry because it helps the students learn more about themselves, and provides them with a way to communicate these discoveries with other people. I really believe in this 94-page book. It may be a short read, but I believe that it will have long-term results in our students, and ultimately our ministry.

To order it, or find more information about it, head on over to their website!

How about you, what are doing to develop your student leaders?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I can’t believe we are only 8 weeks from September, and that means my attention is fully on Summer and September at the same time and thinking about the fall has me asking a lot of questions. Yesterday I met with two of our core students who are truly invested in our group and talked cadidly about how we have not done a good enough job of challenging students to serve regularly. Sure we give them chances here and there, but creating a greater student ownership at our weekly program has been lacking. We have half heartedly suggested from the platform that serving was important but this year we are taking a much more proactive and thoughtful approach. We chatted, I repented for doing a poor job, and we came up with a strategy.

That strategy went into place this morning when we began the process of emailing / messaging every regular attending student personally and asking them to take a few weeks and pray about how they could serve in the fall. Here is an example of a message that went out:

Hey Madi, hope you’re having a great summer!

We’re already starting to dream about the fall and are praying about what the next season at Journey is going to look like. I look at you and I see a really gifted young person, and I’d love to give you the opportunity to take on a bigger role at Journey. 

Over the next three weeks can you do me a favor and pray about these two questions?

1- What talents and passions has God given me (Madi)?
2 – How could I use them to serve at Journey/ Peace Portal?

To get your mind going, here’s a few places we have a need:

Hosting/ Welcome team
Prayer team
Worship Team
Tech team
Creative team

Blessed to have you a part of Journey!

Pastor Geoff 

I am pumped to see what putting even more of the ministry in the hands of our students could look like and are praying that this is the beginning of new things. We have the feeling of “Home” as a core value of the group and having students bought into that vision and serving accordingly could be a game changer. Praying for BIG THINGS this year.


 Over five years ago we started having high school students lead small groups in our 5th and 6th grade program.  Since then we’ve expanded to allow them to lead the rest of the middle school students in our 7th and 8th grade ministry.  This decision for us started out of a need for small group leaders in general; however, has bared much fruit over the years.  What we’ve seen is that the high school students who lead small groups:

Act Like Leaders In Their Own Small Group – They’ll see what their adult leaders go through in leading them; therefore, they’ll make sure to move the conversation along.

Become Role Models For Their Younger Peers – While you want to connect your teens to an adult, sometimes you need a liaison.  That is what a high school student can be for a middle school student.

Develop As Student Leaders In The Church – Just as you pass vision onto your adult leaders, you will pass it on to your teens.  When they capture the vision there is no telling what they will do with it.

But it’s not as simple as putting a high school student in charge of a group.  On top of what you do for your adult leaders, you need to make sure that you are partnering up your high school students with an adult accountability partner.  By doing this the high school student receives support when it comes to:

 Talking With Parents – It can be intimidating for a high school student to approach the parent of a teen in their small group.  An adult will give them affirmation, hold them accountable to acting maturely and back them up if a parent is unsure how to interact with their child’s leader.

Serving Hurting Kids – When teens trust you they open up and sometimes what we hear can be overwhelming.  On top of the emotions that come with serving hurt teens there can be liability issues, if an adult is not informed.

Growth In Their Own Faith Journey – Just as your responsibility is to encourage your adult leaders to grow, this adult mentor can hold the high school students to do the same.  That might mean making sure they are plugged into their own small group, reading scripture and finding quiet time with God.

High school students leading small group for middle school students will raise the bar on their faith journey.  It gives them responsibility and accountability to another person’s faith formation.  High school small group leaders is another example of growing disciples, growing other disciples and isn’t that what we are trying to achieve?

Do you have high school students leading small groups?  Are you for this idea or against it?  Why?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his ministry and life on his excellent blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

June is one of my favorite months for a couple reasons: 1) It’s my birthday, and 2) It’s when our ministry gets incoming freshmen!  One of the things that we wanted to do right off the bat is get the class of 2016 involved in our ministry.  In order to do this, we wanted to throw a ministry fair!

We centered our message around the importance of using your gifts and talents to build up the body of Christ (S.H.A.P.E., as we call it) and then released the students early into the ministry fair, where they walked through a room that had 15 booths, each featuring a different ministry or serving opportunity.  We got a great response from students and I’m really excited to see how this affects the serving culture in our ministry.  If you want to throw a ministry fair for your youth group, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

-Feature ministries outside of your youth group.  Some of us have a lot of great ministries that are completely owned by our youth group, which is great, but make sure your ministry fair roster doesn’t stop there.  Always make sure you are including serving opportunities and ministries that your church as a whole offers.  This is a great reminder for students that they are a part of something much bigger than just your youth group, strongly promoting church unity.

-Get students to run it.  Set yourself up so that you are simply booking the room and making sure there are tables ready to go.  Get students to “own” the booths.  In our ministry, students run almost every ministry team, so they were the ones to run them.  If your ministry teams aren’t set up that way, get some students that are really involved in it/have a huge heart for it to run the booth.  It is great for students that are looking to sign up for ministries to see, and be able to talk to, students that are already involved in the ministry

-Make it fun! Get your students to decorate their tables.  Our Crew Ministry (greeting team) went all out (picture is included) and had costumes, our band ministry had a student playing guitar, and our tech team had a camera set up for students to play with.  Make it a competition for your students, giving awards for how creative they got with their booth.  This will let your students feel more of an ownership and make the fair more inviting for the prospective students looking for ministries.

-The finishing touches.  Before the ministry team leaders got there, we put a small packet on their table that would thank them and get them informed.  It had a letter (to thank them for their involvement), a list/blurb about all the ministries featured and a map of where they are at (to keep them informed about the fair itself).  The last detail I would push is to have a “take-away” at each table.  We gave out 4×6 cards that had all the ministry info (what it is/where it is/who to contact) so that students had something tangible to walk away with.

All of our resources (leader packet and “take-away” cards) are included in this post.

If your ministry already does a ministry fair, what would you recommend?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Loved this post from Doug Franklin over at LeaderTreks -made me thankful for the progress we’re making right now with our newly relaunched Student Leadership program as well. It is a great article – head there for the whole thing – here’s a great clip from near the end…

When a student leadership team is run well it will:
1.    Not be for every student in your youth group
2.    Require students to meet a standard of behavior for application
3.    Meet on a regular basis
4.    Study leadership principles
5.    Have students in real and important leadership roles
6.    Allow students to make decisions without direction from adults
7.    Students will face consequences for their decisions
8.    Students will see themselves as the owners of their youth group
9.    Will have adult facilitators who are passionate about student leaders
10.    Will challenge students to do the impossible


One of the most difficult, yet important, times in a student ministry is the moment you transition students from the middle school ministry to the high school ministry.  In a matter of weeks, an 8th grade student goes from being the older, cooler, more mature student to being the young new freshmen.  This transition can be scary and is often a difficult one; it’s easy to lose students as we try to transition them from being an active middle school student into being an active high school student.  Because a healthy junior high ministry will promote a healthy high school ministry, we do a few things to encourage students as they make their transition from middle school to high school.

High School student leaders. As a part of our middle school ministry, we encourage some of our older high school students to attend some of the middle school retreats as leaders.  Whenever we have high school students leading on retreats, the relationships that are built between the two groups is incredible.  And because of this, there are healthy relationships built with high schoolers and some natural promotion of high school events and programs.

Dual role volunteers. There are a few volunteers that spend time volunteering for both the middle school and high school ministries.  This is great as it provides some familiar faces as students make the jump from one to the other.  Because of the comfort of having a leader that you already know, I also try to make a point to join our high school team on a couple of retreats throughout the year.

Encourage 8th graders to make the jump now. With our 8th grade students they are able to start doing high school activities as early as May.  I do everything that I can to encourage our students to start trying out the high school stuff and continue to encourage them as they come back and tell me about their experiences.  As much as I will miss our 8th grade students, I want them to try out the high school ministry significantly more than have them stick around the middle school ministry.

Allow hesitant students more time. Sometimes students really don’t want to make the switch.  While eventually we will have to force them to make the switch, we allow our 8th grade students to do any high school or middle school activity all summer long.  It’s a special perk that only 8th grade students get because they can pick and choose the best of both worlds.  We do this for the students that need a few extra months to make the jump to the high school group.

Keep the door open. It’s sad to see students leave the middle school ministry.  But it’s exciting to know the incredible experiences and faith growth that they will experience in the high school ministry.  I make it a point to always welcome our high school students into the room.  It’s a great opportunity for me to continue the relationships that I started in middle school and also it makes the high school students appear less scary to the much smaller, less hairy middle school students.

RJ Grunewald is a middle school pastor who also has made a few apps for the iPhone.  He blogs his thoughts about youth ministry, technology, and theology at

Today, I was talking to someone about all of the awesome things the Lord has been doing through the student leaders in our ministry.  As I was telling them about one of the projects a student was working on, they said, “Really? A high school student came up with that?”  What bums me out about that story is that I wasn’t surprised that they said that.  People have such low expectations of what a high school student can do and what’s even worse is that the high school students believe them.

One of the most important things I have learned since I started working with student leaders is that they all (even the confident ones) have a “wall” in their minds about what they think they are capable of.  Often, that wall is holding them back from executing the things that God has put on their hearts.  Our role, as their pastor, is to tear that down.

So how do we do it?

We need to make sure we do 3 things:

Empower: We need to be empowering our students to pursue the things that God has put on their heart.  Ask them how they are gifted.  Ask them what people group (elderly, hospitalized children, military families, etc.) their heart has been breaking for.  Then push them to go and do something about it!  Part of that means actually empowering them.  Maybe that means giving one aspect of your ministry to a student; empowering them and trusting them.

Mentor: Mentor your leaders through the process of turning an idea into a reality.  Teach them what it takes to organize or run an event or ministry.  Walk through their ideas with them.  Not every idea is going to be a winner, and if it isn’t, help them understand why it wouldn’t work out (maybe talking it out with them will even help them come up with a whole new approach to their idea).  If they come up to you with something that is already great, walk them through the steps to improve it and make it happen.

Grow: We can’t be throwing our students into leadership positions without first growing them as leaders.  Some might know how to be leaders at their school or on their sports teams, but they might not know what it means to be a leader at their church (spiritual leader).  Teach them what it means to lead like Christ.  Help them discover their spiritual gift(s) and overall leadership style.  Help them grow into confident spiritual leaders.

So far, we have seen this work in our church.  It has been so great to see students leading and creating new ministry teams and service projects!  Right now, we have a student developing an art/craft ministry, another student working on a ministry where students write encouraging letters to various people groups and organizations, and even a student working on a student pastoral care team!

What about you? What are the student leaders at your church doing in your ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I’ve got 11 copies of Doug Franklin’s new book Moving On from LeaderTreks on the way – I’m excited to get these in the hands of our graduating seniors as they turn the corner toward graduation and their future after high school. Here’s a little bit from their product description:

Moving On is a book for students to help them map out the next steps for their future, based on the clues that God has already been leaving in their lives. For any of your students facing transitions, or just trying to uncover parts of their future journey, this is a great tool.

I want these in the hands of my students because I’ve been wanting to help with the difficult transition to college. I want to help prepare them for when we won’t be there. I want to help change the percentage of students leaving their faith behind. Hope this book helps them on that journey – I can’t wait to get my hands on one – it comes out tomorrow!