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Youth Ministry Idea: Developing Leaders

Quick post for youth leaders (with the spirit of idea sharing) related to developing servant leaders in student ministry.

J. Oswald Sanders’ classic book Spiritual Leadership is one of the great reads on the subject. It’s worthy of revisiting on a regular basis.

The first time I read this book, I was in 8th grade, and my junior high youth pastor gave it to me, along with a personal assignment. He challenged me to read a chapter each week (not hard) and write a half-page summary of the chapter to give to him. I was challenged by his interest in me and his belief that I had potential. And so I read, and wrote, and turned in chapter summaries.

I still have those summaries, along with his hand-written responses to my thoughts. He read them, commented, and gave them back to me. I have never forgotten that simple but powerful investment into my life.

Annually, I attempt to do the same thing with our senior class. We provide the book as a gift (for those who want it) and the teens agree to read (at their own pace) and turn in the study questions. This year, for the first time, I’m actually having the students submit their studies to me via email. I read them, consider the individual, and return my comments and encouragement.

The teens really enjoy this. They all work at a separate pace, and of course, I sometimes have to remind them to work on it. But, for the small cost of the book, it’s a great investment into young lives and an easy discipleship project to work on in addition to other ministry efforts.

Do you have an idea for developing student leaders? Please share it below…

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  • Bro. Schellenburg gave me the book in tenth grade and you in twelth. Both times I grew not only because of the content but because you each thought I could. I have multiple copies, have read several times and have already planned on reusing the idea. If you could see potential in me, then many teenagers have an even greater opportunity for leadership potential. Thanks for the investment into my life.

    Josh Tanner
    Graduate of LBC

  • You reap what you reward.

    Psalms 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.

    This verse shows us the negative cultural results of rewarding the wrong people and/or behaviors. Sometimes if we are not careful we can unintentionally exalt carnal teenagers just because they are good at a certain sport or have a unique ability. What we should be doing is looking for practical ways to publicly reward the Christ honoring behaviors we desire to reap in our student ministry environments.

  • One of the things I like best about this idea is the accountability and follow up. Too many times, students are given “required reading” and then simply asked “Did you read the book?” This fosters two behaviors. First, by presenting some students with an open invitation to lie, they will not think of reading the book and it is probably these students who are most in need of its contents. Secondly, it leaves those students who did read the material feeling incomplete and frustrated that this task which they so diligently completed seems to have no purpose. This creates a belief that knowledge gained, need not be utilized in any way. When young people begin to think that knowledge in and of itself is valuable with or without any possibility of implementation they tend to either become dissinterested in sholastic acheivement all together, or overly enthusiastic about gaining knowledge of all types, while not matching their pace of intellectual advance with the character and discipline necessary to reaps the fruits of their new found genius.
    The follow up in this case is presented in a possitive way and creates an atmosphere where more students learn from the material and where the dilligent are rewarded with immediate, constructive feedback.
    Excellent Article!

  • Would you mind posting or emailing a link where we could purchase this book? I would be interested in this technique for the Singles Sunday School class that I teach. Thanks.

  • As another one of your students who benefited from this method, I must say that it was highly effective. The book, along with the accountability, made a difference in my thinking, attitude, and lifestyle. I chose to be a leader because of this project and investment. Like Josh Tanner said…It wasn’t just the book, but my youth leaders believing in me, that made the difference.

    In regards to developing student leaders: I am going through Changed Into His Image by Jim Berg with some Jr. High men. I want to develop young men, so they will develop into leaders long before they get to Senior High. I also have had the junior highers take a revised form of a Spiritual Gifts test. They really have enjoyed these times being able to identify how God has made them unique. If we want to develop leaders in our youth group it seems to make sense to breed them early and watch them flourish.

  • Great idea! I will be using it for some of our senior highers soon. Can you publish a copy of the study questions you use.

  • Great idea! As a new youth pastor, it is something I would love to implement with some of our teens. I desperately want to see them develop, but have struggled a bit trying to figure out how to get them to all develop when they are different levels. This idea works with their differences and not against them.

  • Here at Bible Baptist Church – Cathedral City when we give books to folks we ask them to give us a book report. Nothing big, just a single sentence on a principle they gleaned or something they can apply immediately.

    I gave your book “Life Quest” to a young lady in our church and when I received her “book report” I saw that she learned some valuable Scriptural principles from the book.

  • I remember Pastor Chappell gave this book to each of us men who were singing in the tour group. He had us outline each chapter. I must say that it was a very good, and I have read it about three times since then. I think it is about time to pull it off the shelf and read it again. I am so thankful for the investment of so many into my life.


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