5 Ways to Develop Student Leaders

Can students lead? Yes! Sometimes when we observe high schoolers, their lives may seem misdirected and chaotic, but students lead all the time. We only need to pause, watch, and listen, and we can quickly see there are clearly leaders and followers. They lead in many capacities such as their social circles, social media, classrooms, sports teams, really everywhere. Many lack the confidence, experience, encouragement, or even the “know-how” to lead, but with careful attention and loving investments, students can develop the heart and drive to lead. It really is only a matter of developing and focusing their heart on kingdom purposes.

Take Them With You

Jesus called His disciples by saying “come follow me.” For three years Jesus took them with Him wherever He went and involved them in what He was doing. Jesus’ invitation was (and still is) for people to see His example of how to love the Father and others. He also displayed how to identify the needs of each person and how best to reach them. Jesus wanted to be their example so they could experience His ministry firsthand. His plan was to hand over the ministry to them, so He lead by example- showing them a way to lead that He knew they could apply to their lives.”

Take a student with you when you talk to a coach, share Jesus with a student, or lead a small group. Take someone along when you do your quiet time, go for a run, or even go shopping. Discipleship happens “along the way” so look for opportunities to take students with you. If something great happens, take a moment to debrief it with them. They need to see you lead so they can do it next time. Remember, a common rule of thumb is to never go alone, but use these opportunities to mentor someone else no matter what it is you are doing. Whether it is prepping for an event, speaking to a group, or ministering to individuals, always ask, “Whom can I take with me?”

Cast Vision

Vision is so important for every part of our lives. Knowing where you are going and why you are going there is motivating and empowering. We all need to know why we do what we do. 

Cru’s vision is that more people would know and follow Jesus. Showing students their part in the vision can lift their view of their capabilities. They need to see that they can be part of something bigger, significant, and beneficial to others. Ask them how they see themselves contributing to the vision and how they can love those to whom they are connected.

Making the vision tangible can be a helpful exercise. Have students write a sentence describing their vision for their ministry on a piece of paper. Then engage them in coming up with three easy steps they could do to help reach the vision. Next, ask them what they could personally do to accomplish those three steps. You may also want to have them list the resources they would need. Then do all you can do to help them see that vision become a reality in their world.

Another great way to cast vision to a student is through the Key Volunteer Challenge. It is a great way to help students get their arms around how they can join God in His vision to see people come to know Him.

Give Them Ownership

Ownership is huge in building confidence. When you give students the freedom to take something and make it their own, then they will have a deeper connection to it. They will become invested and feel ownership. Jesus set this example for us. He delegated to the disciples in different ways. He employed them to distribute food to the 5,000. He also paired them up and sent them out to engage people with the gospel. Up-and-coming leaders need to be able to wrap their arms around something and make it their own.

Of course, each person is different and what is attractive to one person may be different from what is attractive to another. One student may love to be up front and emcee or lead skits, etc., and another may be scared to death of being in front of a crowd. Some students enjoy the background and can contribute in many different ways on a major scale. Every student does not have to be given great and grand responsibilities Giving them small responsibilities such as greeting at a weekly meeting or handing out comment cards can be a simple incremental step toward ownership and bigger responsibilities. Releasing things to them and giving them the freedom to fail will go a long way in building trust between you and them. This will also show you trust them and have confidence in their abilities.

Throughout history, God has used students to impact the world for the kingdom. That is still true today.

Encourage Them to Lead Where They Are

We do not have to go far to lead spiritually. This is especially true if you are a student. Students are daily surrounded by their peers in their classes, extracurricular groups, clubs, athletic teams, etc. Each student has multiple “spheres of influence” where they can lead by their faith. Simply reaching out to a student who may be sitting alone or helping a struggling classmate study for an exam are simple ways to lead with the love of Christ.

“Go into all the world” includes our immediate living space. Leading in our daily areas of life is simply enacting Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Who are our neighbors? Where are our neighbors?  Our neighbors are those who are around us wherever we are. Helping your students see those opportunities and act on them is a huge step forward. That is “loving the Lord with all your heart” as you “love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Point Them to God's Word and the Holy Spirit

All we have discussed is good, but will not be effective if the vision is not grounded in God’s word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We all are prone to DIY Christianity, meaning we easily default to personal fulfillment and actualization by what “I can do.” Our issue is not our ability, but our motivation and where we get the power for that motivation. Scripture is the only thing that helps with this issue and guides us back to dependence on God. God’s word empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our foundation and battery for leading. Letting our students see our own need to rely on the Lord is the key to effectively leading in love. Walking them through God’s word in a simple study or referring them to scripture about a topic can begin a lifelong practice of relying on God’s word.

Students also need to see what scripture says about being “filled with the Spirit.” They need to understand it is simple submission to the Lord. We can help them see through confession and faith the Holy Spirit will enable them to live a life that honors God. Keep these things in front of them. They are the basic but necessary elements to guide us in whatever we do. 

Throughout history, God has used students to impact the world for the kingdom. That is still true today. Whether it be in a classroom or speaking at a Christian meeting, a student who loves Jesus and wants to reach  their peers can do it. They just need someone who believes in them and can show them how. You can begin to show them how they can impact their peers wherever they are and hopefully for a lifetime. Do this and just watch what God can do through your students as you teach them to lead.

Next Step
Think of 3-5 student leaders and identify one way you can empower each of them to lead and own the ministry. Now think of 3-5 potential student leaders and consider how you can move them towards leadership.


Cru Promo Videos

It was once said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, if that’s true, a video is worth a million. As we talk about Cru with students, administration, donors, volunteers, parents, and others, having a video can sometimes help them get the feel of what we do.

Below you’ll find a few videos that do just that. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, check our YouTube channels at Cru High School and Gotothecampus. If we’ve got it, it’ll be there.

Cru Promo Video – 3 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version (vertical)

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