Written by Shane Fraser
About a year and a half into youth ministry, I realized I was missing a crucial element of leading a healthy and thriving youth ministry – student empowerment.
I preached, taught, and did pretty much everything else expected of me. If it wasn’t in my capacity to do it, another staff member or youth leader would step up and help out. But, little by little, this idea started to root in my heart; What if the students led? What if I gave them a place to try, with success and failure? What if they started to move from consumer to contributor? I realized that’s how I knew they got it. Not when they crushed it but when they were willing to be a part of it. They don’t just show up to receive something, but they show up knowing they are a part of something. I believe Jesus works powerfully in this model.
The Open Generation – Canada Report produced by Barna puts it like this: “Authentic investment of peers, family members, leaders and the other members of a teens’ circle may be a catalyst to empower teens to realize their hopes of making a change in society.” Students need someone who will say, ‘I believe in you,’ and then create a space for them to lead.
The Youth Ministry I lead is now full of students that own the house. They lead in all sorts of capacities. I get no’s, sometimes the no’s turn to yes’s, and sometimes they are just no’s. However, amidst all that are pockets of moments where students who say yes share how God spoke through them, used them and filled them with a desire to go deeper. So is student empowerment the hack to running the dream Youth Ministry? By no means. But when they are given space to lead, develop, and have someone say, “I believe in you, God’s going before you, and you’ve got this,” it’s as if something is drawn out of them that the Lord has placed there all along; he’s just been waiting for them to step into that calling.
Youth Alpha creates so much space for this. They build ways for students to take things and run with them. Recently, I’ve been chatting with some teens who are going to run a Youth Alpha in their local High School. They want to evangelize in their school, and I’m so proud of them. We sat down last week to chat about it, and it was easy for me. All I had to do was point to the resources designed just for that. The Student-Led Starter Kit allowed them to take it and go with it. I just had to say, “I believe in you. I’m in your corner. Just let me know where I can help.”
I truly believe in this generation of teens. I know that they have what it takes to lead.