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Developing Student Leaders – Jeff Beckley

How do you keep your students engaged and thriving in student ministry all the way through high school? Not only that, how do you develop them into leaders? Brian talks about this with Jeff Beckley, the Youth Pastor at Memorial Baptist Church in Columbus, OH.

Student Leadership – Involved in serving, being mentored, and mentoring others.

Why? – Why is having student leaders important to you in your ministry?

  1. Jesus’ model for us in His work with the disciples: He set aside time to train them individually for their future ministry.
  2. Students can lead in a way that I never could: A personal invitation from a teen is always the best and most effective invite.
  3. There is more investment: The teens’ responsibilities and planning keep them attending, promoting and investing in the youth group, serving as an extra arm of your ministry.
  4. Provides a safe training ground for their transition into ministry as adults: Teens should be serving as a regular part of the large church service. Leadership team members are required to serve in the church service, and we help them find places to do so. Then keep them growing by encouraging them to take the next step in their specific area of service and get an adult to mentor/advise them. Ex. If a teen is serving in children’s church, ask a teacher to help them prepare and teach a lesson. This makes them feel more prepared for when they will serve as adults, like being a Sunday school teacher.

Serving should be normal in your ministry’s culture.

How? – How do you identify or determine who your student leaders are?

Student Leaders must be a Junior or Senior in High School: Reason 1 – Maturity. Reason 2 – Gives them a new level of involvement to be excited about and look forward to. The number one reason teens leave the ministry as they get older is because of a lack of connection. Servant Leadership builds connections by keeping older teens active but engaged in a new way, keeping them from getting bored.

Application: We announce it to the youth group in September. Those who show up with potential may surprise you. Our application form asks about their testimony, how they serve, what they want to learn, their gifts, personal walk, baptism, and quiet time with Lord. Applications also may provide great topics of discussion for the occasional interview.

Sign a Covenant: The covenant lists the requirements of Student Leadership, such as church attendance, meeting attendance, church and youth group service, and the behavioral requirements. A covenant keeps the bar high and grants more authority when addressing issues.

(Usually by now, the process has weeded out those who are not really willing to commit.)

Leadership Training Meetings – They make it special and fun by starting with a meal at their home. Build the meeting up, as something exciting to look forward to.

Leadership Meeting Structure – Meetings are once a month on a Sunday after church.

Start with a meal and allow some informal social time after. Begin with prayer and then share from an article on leadership (usually from a blog) and discuss it.

Go over each individual student’s assignments, also keeping them accountable. These assignments include both their service roles in the church (Be creative in what roles you give your students.) and their service in the youth group. At this point you would go over their homework as well, usually involving some required reading.

Leadership 365 by Doug Franklin is what we use as a starting place for our leadership training curriculum. It explains leader tracks and gives easy, biblical examples.

  • Plan – Trust them. Guide them, but also step back and watch. Once, Jeff let their Leadership Team run a new Easter Egg event for the church and it led to great and continual success. Opportunities like this changes the church’s culture regarding the teens and shows what the teens can do.
  • Evaluate – How did this event go? Could be both good or bad, and there may need to be some difficult discussions about how they should step out and be better servants. Student Leaders will learn and grow from evaluating.
  • Close in prayer. Pray for Leadership Team activity, but also for each other as well, bringing the group closer together.

What kind of stuff are your students involved in?

Serve everywhere, for all people in all stages of life. Examples: Yardwork coordinating for Seniors, working with the Trustees, being on the welcome team.

Be creative in what they do, and where they serve. Intentionally seek to understand what your teens’ gifts and abilities are, because they may not know their gifts themselves. See what they do well, then get them in a serving role with a mentor. What God can do with them will blow your mind, and the teens enjoy discovering it too.

Closing Thoughts:

Mentoring – Each Student Leader must have a mentor they meet with at least once a month. They must also mentor a younger student as well (This is more relaxed). Mentors can be anyone in the church, which happily involves more adults from the church body as a whole. Leadership 365 also explains mentoring as well if you would like to learn more about it.

Start Small – The first time, only two student wanted to join the Student Leadership team. However, it was still great because Leadership Team allows you to give extra effort towards their leadership capabilities before they begin ministering on their own.

Never underestimate the potential of your teens – Keep raising the bar by encouraging them to take the next step. Allow God to use them in amazing ways, preparing them to be lifelong servants in the Body of Christ.


“Bottom Line Devotional” written by Jeff Beckley – A year long devotional on the Psalms with an interactive journal. A great tool to get teens involved.  Find it at, also available on Amazon.

Here is a sample for Leadership 365: https://home/


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