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.

If you give LeaderTreks a little information about yourself they’ll in turn give you 50 brand new freebies from their website. Just downloaded the bundle myself and saw health assessments, team building initiatives, illustrations, Bible studies, activities and more. Good stuff!


Stop the Bottleneck

Josh Griffin —  February 15, 2012 — 3 Comments

If there’s a bottleneck in your ministry, guess what? It’s probably you!

Think about it for a second — you’re the point person of the ministry, so doesn’t it make sense that decisions roll up through you? In a centralized leadership structure (like most churches) there is one central figure, usually a youth pastor, who is tasked with making the call on a variety of issues. But therein lies the problem: everything comes to a screeching halt when that person has too many plates spinning. When they are on vacation, good luck moving everything forward. If and when they leave, it all comes crashing down.

If you’re the point person, aka the bottleneck, consider this plan in the next season of ministry:

Realize you are an equipper
The pastor is not supposed to control everything — your primary job is to equip others to do the work of the ministry. Make sure you are helping others do great ministry, not just helping out with yours.

Give as much of your ministry away as possible
One of the most painful times in ministry is when you begin to give away the things that you love. But you will be healthier, and you will relieve pressure on the bottleneck. Yesterday we talked about giving away the stuff you don’t like, but holding on to too much stuff you do like, is classic bottleneck behavior.

Trust them with decisions
Don’t take back what you gave. Refuse to look over their shoulder every second of the day. Trust them with the tasks and responsibilities you gave them and have confidence their calls. If you’ve done a good job of preparing (and equipping) they’re ready for this. There will be some pains along the way, but they will be growing pains…and it hurts so good!

Regularly evaluate and guide
What if instead of holding everyone back by being the bottleneck, you helped everyone get better. If you give ministry away, you add a new opportunity to coach your people and help strengthen their skills. Next, you can mentor and guide them to give their ministry away, too — maybe this time to a student!

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.

We just started up a Student Leadership program (I had killed it a while back because it was unhealthy – more on that another time). The application is pretty exhaustive, meant to be a thinning process right out of the gate. They are due this weekend, I’m excited to see the response from the students. Download HSM’s Student Leadership Packet (PDF)!


Our student leadership is just getting off the ground again right now (you can download our application later this week if you want to adapt it for your ministry) and we’re looking at curriculum to take our students through. Up first we’re going to do a book study of Doug Fields’ Help! I’m a Student Leader book, then we’re probably going to adapt LIVE’s Leadership lessons. We already use the LIVE Curriculum in our Life Groups, seems like a great fit. Here’s a bit of the company line if you want to check it out, too:

We’ve partnered with our good friends at LeaderTreks to help your students and adults discover indispensable biblical principles that are relevant both to daily life and to youth ministry. LeaderTreks has built a solid reputation as a national ministry committed to helping congregations pursue the goal of consistent leadership development within youth ministries.


Just finished up recording a “digital presenter” session for the Converge Student Leadership Conference in the Midwest. I wish I could have been a part of it live – but I’m pumped to teach on video. Looks like such a fun event! I would highly recommend either Converge in the Midwest or Student Leadership Conference on either coast! Oh, and while we’re on the subject of student leaders, Doug Franklin has been killing it, lately!