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How many things do you do before, during, and after your youth events?

During the week?

Throughout the year?

How much does it rely on you?


As the leader of your youth ministry program, you have many responsibilities. Many things rely on you, but should they?

I once attended a youth ministry conference where I was introduced to one phrase that resonated with me and haunted me simultaneously.


“Don’t do anything that a student can do!”


I’ve similarly heard Andy Stanley say, “If you are doing something in ministry that someone else can do, you may be keeping them from the ministry God has called them to do.”


You might be thinking…”That’s crazy talk. I am the one responsible. The success of the program is MY responsibility! If it fails, it is MY fault!”

Matthew 28:19 says – “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

We are called to make disciples, not to make great programs. And you cannot make disciples by having those disciples watch you do everything. It’s like a coach who demonstrates to his team how to throw free throws but never lets his players get on the court and try. They’ll never learn!


“But I can’t put students in charge.. what if it fails, what if… they don’t.. do it like I would.”

GREAT! It’s not about you, your program, or your way. It’s about giving youth a safe, encouraging environment where they can be free to learn, to succeed, and yes, even to fail. Because when they fail, they learn, and when they learn, they grow.

Now, before you just hand the keys to the program over to your Jr high boys group you need to understand a few things:
  1. When you let students lead means more work for you not less. You have to teach them to lead, provide encouragement and have patience. You could definitely do it quicker and more efficiently.
  2. When you let students lead means that they will not do it your way. You need to be there to keep them going the right general direction, but it requires you giving up some control.
  3. When you let students lead not everyone will understand. “So you have the students do everything? What are we paying you for?” You will have to do some explaining of your purpose and why you are doing this.


Considering these things though, giving students leadership in your youth group is worth it, for your ministry, for yourself, and for those students who step up:


Letting students lead will also be a process. As you identify students who can lead, and determine their gifts and abilities you can slowly give them more and more leadership.


Here are some easy things to start with:
  • Leading Worship – This is hard for me because it’s what I do and love. However, I have had some incredibly awesome and talented youth who can lead 2 to 3 songs every week. Have your youth learn 5 songs, and rotate those through for a few months.
  • Screens – Whether you use propresenter, media shout, powerpoint or whatever, students are adept at running the screens. Have students help with the creation and presentation of worship slides and other screens.
  • Series Planning – Ask youth what issues they are facing that you should consider sermon/small group series on. They came up with several I would not have thought of. If you want to reach youth, include them in your series planning.
  • Set up/clean up – One of the best indicator of a student leader to me are those who voluntarily clean up, and set up without being asked. Make this a ministry opportunity and ask these students to take on this role, and get others involved.
  • Leading games – Ever planned a game and no one wants to play? Get your students involved in planning and leading games. They will get experience in speaking in front of others, explaining things clearly and commanding a groups attention. Give them some games websites or accounts to follow.
  • Member Care – Find some youth who send cards for birthdays, sympathy, get well, etc.. Provide cards and address lists and turn them loose. Create a card station in your youth area and keep it stocked with everything they need.
  • Social Media – Yes your students can run your social media accounts. Find those you trust and give them the password to instagram or facebook. Alternatively you can have them get on canva and use it to schedule posts.
  • Photos/Videos – Along with social media is the taking of photos and videos at events. Set up an email, dropbox, or google photo drop where students can upload photos of your events.

This is a short list of ways I can think of that youth can lead in your ministry. But we’d also love to hear your thoughts as well.

For more thoughts on student ministry leadership, check out any of these great episodes!

Student Leadership with Daniel Acton
Student Leadership V2 with Brandon Hair
Student Leadership V3 with Ty Lust
Empowering Students to Lead with Brent Aiken
Leading Well In High School with Ella and Taylor
Youth Room to MainStage with Melissa Graves

Russell Martin

Russell Martin


Russell Martin is the Senior Pastor at Lake Houston UMC and the co-host of the Student Ministry Conversations Podcast. He is a gifted communicator and loves talking with and coaching student pastors through the many challenging aspects of ministry. He loves listening to other podcasts, cooking and growing plants in his own garden.


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