We recently had a youth pastor ask us where to start with campus-based ministry. At the end of the day, our campus outreach program is based in 3 relationships:

Students: We work a ton through the Christian clubs on campus. I meet regularly with the leadership teams of each club and help them out with service projects (lunch trash pickup, writing encouraging letters to the staff, etc.) events, getting speakers, advertising, and I provide them with resources and connections. I help them think big and make sure they know that they are callable of HUGE things. I make sure I am available to help encourage them, pray with them, and help them work through any issues they might have.

Other on campus Christian organizations: The main organization in our area is Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They are awesome. They already have some roots laid out at our schools, making them a valuable ally. They recognize that they aren’t a church, so they love to point their students to local churches. So we make ourselves available to them in whatever way we can help. That could be giving them resources, providing connections, making our buildings available, prayer, or more. We help each other out. One of the things we are working on now is a leadership summit for all of the Christian club leaders in the area.

Staff/Administration: We consistently look for ways to build our relationships with schools. We are focusing right now on principals and ASB (student government) directors. Right now, I am meeting with all of the major principals and ASB directors in the area so that I am more than just a name in an email. I want to be able to build a friendship with them. I want them to know that they can trust us and that we are here to serve. Together, we brainstorm different ways that we can serve their campus, students, teachers, and staff. Besides the meetings, we have built relationships through simple things like Christmas cards. The service projects that we have done on their campuses have also been able to help our relationship.

Campus outreach is a slow build, high reward ministry. It takes time to build relationships and find a system but, once you do, the potential is limitless.

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

As I’ve written before, I am immensely thankful for my friendship with Doug Fields who has taught me so much about youth ministry. One of the things I love about Doug is how he pours into the lives of youth pastors & students through his Student Leadership Conference. In fact, I can say that its largely because of SLC last summer that we’ve seen such an incredible year of student leadership within our High School Ministry here at Saddleback. They heard from the best and had a great experience together and came back changed – I couldn’t be more excited about signing up for another year at SLC!

Believe me, I get how difficult it is to train, equip & prep student leaders on a weekly basis. It’s no easy task. It is all about having a servant’s heart first. It all starts there. Once students understand that – it provides a great framework for their involvement throughout the year in ministry.

Whether or not you’ve heard about it before, I can safely say that if you’ve never been to SLC before – you and your student leadership team are missing out. I can’t wait to take my students back this summer, especially because I know what that means for how we’ll start next school year.

Excited to be a part of Doug Fields’ Student Leadership Conference - I’ll be in 2 of the 3 locations (California and Pennsylvania as a speaker and with our student leaders – sorry Dallas, my youngest is graduating from kindergarten) and am pumped to meet you and your best and brightest student leaders, too! Going to be so cool!

JG



When our student leaders commit to our program, they are committing to a full six-month “cycle.” At the end of every cycle, we launch applications for new student leaders and we give out renewal forms for the current student leaders. Besides asking if the student intends on committing to another cycle, the form includes a handful of other questions that provide us with valuable information that allows us track the progress of our students and help our program become more effective.

Thinking about putting one together? Here are some questions that I would strongly recommend to you:

1) What is the state of your faith? Obviously, it is important to know where your students are at in their relationship with the Lord.  Some students might be afraid to answer this question thinking that they might get kicked out if they aren’t doing great at that moment. Encourage them to answer honestly, knowing that you are there to help them along no matter how good or bad their spiritual walk is.

2) Recycled Questions. One way to check progress is to reuse questions that are on your application.  It is really interesting to compare their responses with what they wrote on their original application. My favorite question that we recycle is “what does it mean to be servant-hearted?”

3) How has the Student Leadership program impacted you? A more straightforward way to check progress is to directly ask the student how the Student Leadership program has grown or challenged them. Greater insight into how they have grown as a leader and as a servant can help you keep them accountable with the lessons they have learned and it can equip you to be more helpful in finding leadership opportunities that they would excel at.

4) What have you enjoyed about the Student Leadership program? Ask them what works. Instead of tracking the progress of your students, this question helps you examine your program. When the time comes for you to switch things up and refine Student Leadership, it will be helpful to know the strengths of your student leadership model.

5) What can we be doing to improve the Student Leadership program? You can’t refine your program without knowing where it can grow! This can be a scary question to ask, but the answers can lead to some really incredible changes. I love this question because it gives you another opportunity to empower students and allow them to speak into your ministry.

Does your ministry do something similar? What would you ask your students?

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

GUEST POST: How to Say No

 —  December 30, 2012 — 1 Comment

If your student leadership program is structured like ours, you sometimes have to turn some students down. Even though you know that it is for the health of the student and the program, that conversation can be so freaking tough! It is SO easy for those conversations to go south. Just a little miscommunication could lead to a student walking away thinking that they are unwanted or unvalued by your ministry.

Here are some things that I do in order to help the conversation be as fruitful as possible:

Balance Truth and Love. As I said, it is so easy for a student to walk away from the conversation feeling unwanted by your church. Leave no room for doubt that your ministry truly values and loves them. However don’t allow your fear of hurting their feelings to sway you from telling them the “why.” The conversation can’t be fruitful if you aren’t honest with their weakness.

Give Action Steps. Saying “no” to a student without talking it through with them is what leads to that feeling of worthlessness. It makes it so that they are only focused on what is wrong with them instead of what they can do to grow. Use this conversation as an opportunity to speak into a student’s life. If they are being turned down because of poor spiritual health, give them resources or adivce to help take them to another level. If appropriate, tell them what they would need to do so that, next time, they could be a student leader!

Be Clear. Do your best to make sure they fully understand what you are saying. Ask if they have any questions. Give them time to speak into the situation and feel heard. It is natural for us to try to make awkward conversations as short as possible, but take your time them. While this might be just another thing on your “to-do” list, it is a big part of their day; keep that in mind!

Pray. Of course, shower this conversation is prayer. Pray that God speaks through you. Pray that the student’s heart is receptive and open to what you say. Pray for it all!

What advice would you add to the list?

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



Our first annual Student Leadership Christmas party is just around the corner and I can’t be more excited! Because they work so hard and give so much to our church, we want to go all out with this party to show them how much our ministry appreciates them!

Now it wouldn’t be a true Christmas party if we didn’t have gifts! We wanted to make sure that each student walked away from the party with an awesome gift (and I’m not talking about the 1993 VHS Workout tapes they are going to get at the “white elephant” gift exchange). We wanted them to get something that was well thoughtful and picked out just for them. So this Christmas we decided to write each student leader an individual challenge that would grow them not only as a Christian leader, but as a Christ follower as well.

If this sounds like something you would want to do for your Student Leadership team, here are some tips to get started:

-Pray! Pray that God speaks through you as you write to your students. Pray that the Lord give you wisdom, discernment, and insight as you speak into their lives and continue to shape them into godly leaders.

-Think about what they’ve done and what they’re doing to discover what they can do. What could your students be doing to take their ministries or projects to the next level? Challenge them to think big and “outside the box.” Also reflect on how you’ve seen them lead in the past. Is there a leadership characteristic that they can grow in?

-Think about who they are. Get inspired by a student’s talents, gifts, passions, and even their experiences. Think of ways that they can be using their shape for ministry. Is one of your students really passionate about prayer? Challenge them to think of more ways to integrate prayer into your ministry. Was a student in and out of the hospital as a kid? Ask them how God wants to use their experience for His kingdom.

-It’s okay to use similar challenges for multiple students! Don’t focus finding a completely different challenge for every student. Focus on finding ways to grow each student as a Christian leader. Most of the time, there will be more than a couple students who would benefit from the same task. For example, many of our seniors are being challenged to mentor a younger student. We believe that it would be a great next move for each of them

-Try to get specific. As I said, it is okay to use the same challenge for many students but, when you can, try to get specific. For example, we have a senior named Cassie that would be a great mentor for a younger girl. Another student leader, McKenna, recently told me that she really looks up to Cassie and wishes that they were closer. So I challenged Cassie to have an intentional relationship with McKenna. If you see an opportunity like that, take it!

-If you can’t think of one, find someone that can. If you come across a student and have no idea how to challenge them, ask someone that would. Find an adult that knows the student personally or has seen their leadership in action.

Have you done something similar in the past? What tips would you give?

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

Here’s a 2-minute video we played a few weeks ago when our Student Leadership program was taking admission applications. We only take applications around 2-3 times a year to create “entry points” to the program and allow them to build some community as well. I was asked at a meeting a few weeks ago one of the things I’m most excited about in our ministry in this past season – and watching student leadership take off was at the top of the list!

JG



One of my favorite things to do is meet up with other youth pastors. I walk away from each meeting feeling challenged, encouraged, and/or inspired. I recently got to meet with an awesome youth pastor named Jon from a church that is doing some pretty incredible things with campus outreach. Over some coffee, we talked about what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we’re going to. I walked away with a ton of really great ideas and (hopefully) he walked away with one or two. Here is a little of what I shared about our campus outreach projects:

Sticky-Note the Girl’s Restroom: At the beginning of the school year, some of our student leaders put encouraging sticky notes on every student’s locker and we were blown away by how well it went over. One of our student leaders was inspired by the success of the project and started planning another that was aimed at girls. So she rounded up some friends and put encouraging notes all over the girls’ restrooms at her school. The notes had encouraging Bible verses on them as well as affirmations like “you are beautiful,” “you are precious,” and “you are loved.” It was such a great and easy way to do ministry for girls.

Janitor Breakfast: When we were looking at different people groups that we could be serving on campus, we almost forgot about the janitorial staff. They are some of the most unnoticed/unappreciated people on the campus, so our leaders wanted to make sure that they knew they were seen and loved. Our leaders are planning to get to school before the janitorial staff so that they could serve them a fresh, warm breakfast and spend some quality time with them. I am a huge fan of projects like these because it has students serving and ministering to adults! We are currently making our way through the office approval system (fingers crossed)!

Trash Pick Up: A great way to keep Christian club meetings fresh at school is to mix them up. Most of the time, Christian clubs will sit, eat their lunch, listen to someone talk, and leave. Sometimes that works great, but Jesus called us to do more than just that. We are encouraging our school club leaders to put their club members to work. One of the lunchtime serving opportunities that we came up with was trash pick-up. If you haven’t seen a post-lunch high school campus recently, let me tell you, they are a warzone. Picking up trash not only helps put a dent in the litter problem, but it also makes a huge statement. Let’s face it, litter patrol isn’t a glamorous job and any student that does it is instantly going to be set apart, providing them with incredible opportunities! If a student gets asked why they are picking up trash, than they are getting an awesome opportunity about their love for Jesus and their love for their school!

How is your ministry doing with campus outreach? What ideas can you share about how to do ministry on campuses?

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

This week we’re focusing on student leaders. If you are creating a student leadership program in your group, here’s a quick punch list with some basic ideas of what to avoid and what to include instead:kurt

DON’T only ask the shiny students to join.
Too often the leadership of a youth group is made up of the “chosen ones”—the shiny kids who show up at everything or squeak the loudest. Instead, consider that one kid who is so close, yet so far away. What about the student who is totally on the outside, looking in? Instead of just obvious leaders, think outside the expected and see what happens.

DON’T let your meetings pull them out another night of the week.
Often times, being part of the student leadership program requires an extra night out every week. The result is that many students miss out on it because they can’t give up another night. Instead, consider meeting on an occasional basis unattached to core programs (like youth group) so your students can be focused. We prefer once a month for a few hours, which gives us plenty of time with them but without an ongoing weekly commitment.

DON’T be afraid to give them big stuff.
Student leaders need to be challenged. The quickest way to disillusion these key teenagers is to be unprepared for your time together or waste their time with piddly projects. Instead, give them the teaching calendar. Let them plan services. Challenge them to come up with next quarter’s youth group calendar. Let them run wild.

DON’T be the only voice challenging them.
Many youth workers see the student leadership program as their chance to really “pour into” their students. While this may be true, you are robbing them if you insist you’re the only/best leadership voice they are hearing.

Instead, bring in an outside speaker every so often—the manager of the local Chick-Fil-A would be great (you might get some free food out of it, too) or even go on a field trip with your core students to a local business or spread them out to visit a few churches and report back about their experience.

What other student leadership DON’Ts would you share?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.