Even in the short time that I have been doing student ministry, I have encountered a number of student ministry leaders that have their own Home Depot DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach to their ministry. By this, I mean, they feel as though they have to do EVERYTHING themselves – the programming, the teaching, the planning, the curriculum, hanging out with students, and even the discipleship (if there is any). Often times, as a result of this, the leaders in their student ministry function as mere chaperones or adult bodies to focus on crowd control.
There are a few problems with this approach:
- You’re going to get burned out. You just can’t do it all yourself.
- Jesus never modeled this kind of leadership, so why are you doing it?
- You’re not equipping leaders to lead and disciple students. Or, as Mike Breen and Alex Absalom would put it, you’re not releasing “God’s people to do God’s work.”
It’s important, in creating disciples, to release your leaders (and your students) to GO FOR IT! Jesus modeled this in Luke 9 and Luke 10 when he sent His 12 disciples, then later, other disciples to GO into the world. They didn’t fully understand everything. In fact, at this point in the story Jesus’ disciples didn’t even understand that He was the Messiah and all that this entailed. Regardless, Jesus sent them to go make disciples. Basically, if you wait for your leaders to “understand everything” then you will rob them of opportunities to GO and make disciples. Discipleship and investment in people’s lives is messy and you can’t be afraid to let people GO for it.
A philosophy that we have adopted for this leadership approach is Low Control, High Accountability. This is a saying we use in our student ministry, as well as the overall church at RiverTree, that provides a releasing of our leaders.
Here’s 3 different ways we implement Low Control, High Accountability with our leaders:
- When our leaders hang out with students we don’t tell them what to do, where to go, or what to talk about. Our leaders have the freedom to do what they feel led to do with their students (Low Control). However, they are held to an account to disciple students, pursue students outside of weekly gatherings, and to ask discipleship questions – what is God saying to you? what are you going to do about it? (High Accountability).
- Concerning our high school GoCos, we don’t control the leaders’ decisions about what they will be discussing (they know their students best) or where they will GO to serve (they come up with that as a GoCo). The GoCo leaders are held to an account as to whether or not their GoCo is in the Come, Thrive, GO rhythm. See the post on our rhythm.
- One of the things that we definitely don’t control with our leaders is which students our leaders disciple. This is a Spirit led relationship that needs time to develop. We ask and expect each of our leaders to disciple a group of students (High Accountability). But we let them discern and figure out which students they have affinity with and who they feel God is leading them to.
We have found that when you release leaders and provide an atmosphere of Low Control, High Accountability then leaders feel the freedom to disciple and lead in a way that they feel called. It is very empowering and Spirit led. If you are the student ministry leader at your church, I cannot emphasize how important it is to NOT CONTROL every aspect of your ministry and to GIVE aspects away. When you release your leaders you will see growth (spiritual growth and discipleship) not only in your students, but in your leaders, as well!