This is another guest blog from our great friend and partner in the movement, Chris Ozorio.
How do you focus on adult leaders without neglecting your student ministry?
My gut response to this question is, “If you aren’t focusing on leaders, you are neglecting your student ministry.” From the time I fell into doing student ministry as a young college guy, I was taught that effective adult leaders function as shepherds, not chaperones. This was wisdom that has proven valuable for years. At first, I thought it was just cooler and more engaging for the adults to be in it and active with students rather than standing against the wall watching to make sure nobody got hurt. As I’ve grown in my understanding of Student Ministry as disciple making, the depth of that wisdom has become more and more evident to me.
Student Ministry as Disciple Making
Student Ministry that is effective and sustainable has to be turning out disciples. Students taking on the words, works and ways of Jesus isn’t just a pipe dream for student ministers; it’s our great commission. Let’s remember that it’s not just about students, though. If our adult leaders, our team, the people who say, “I want to be a part of reproducing Jesus in young people,” are not invited into the game equipped, challenged, and debriefed, we limit our ministry’s ability to develop and grow. If we aren’t developing our team, we’re missing an opportunity to live the example of discipling one’s peers. We also miss out on the power of getting discipleship into the hands of ordinary people (our adult leaders) instead of leaving it to us “professionals.”
A lot has been said about the “parade of discipleship” where from the front everyone looks like a sheep, and from the back everyone looks like a shepherd. How many more students can fall in line in the parade if our adult leaders are in the parade and not just crowd control?
It’s About Multiplication
If we believe that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” and continue to do all the heavy-lifting in “our” ministries, we aren’t multiplying. Our ability to reach further and deeper into a growing number of students’ lives comes through developing workers AND putting our hands to harvest. It’s about discipleship and leadership, not creating fans and entertaining them.
From Theory to Practice
Maybe it could look like this: We could spend half our time developing adult and student teams (discipleship) and the other half of our time deploying them in ministry contexts (leadership). Remember to take time outside of “youth group” beforehand and afterward. Beforehand to tool and empower these teams, and afterward to debrief and coach them according to experiences and challenges that arise. As our adult and student leaders increase in their capacity and character, we delegate! We give “our jobs” away and look to invest in and develop others.
It could be scary.
It may not be polished and perfect.
But it could be amazing, and we just might have a movement on our hands instead of a ministry on our shoulders.