10 Secrets to Keep Your Student Leaders Motivated

Losing your student leaders? 

Keeping student leaders serving year after year with all of the changes going on in their lives can be a challenge. Listed below are a number of factors that will determine the depth and length of a student leaders commitment to the leadership team.

1. Selection

–if you tell them that, “anyone can do it” they will feel that their contribution is minimal. If you say that there will be a trial period to determine the best place of ministry there is the possibility that they will not continue on but having the out for the leader and for the student is very valuable.

2. Orientation

– When you take the time to give a volunteer the big picture you have not wasted a minute of your time. The sooner that student or adult leaders gain an understanding of how they contribute to the kingdom through their ministry the sooner they are willing to commit wholeheartedly. On the other hand, after a good orientation to the ministry, students or adults feel that they are not able to commit, then it will avoid conflict later on.

3. Training

People resent being asked to do something without being given the proper instruction. Conversely people enjoy the mastery of a new skill when they come to practice it with relatively little effort. Excellent training produces excellent teams and highly motivated ministers.

4. Proper Placement

use their gifts for the ministry. When students are given the opportunity to use their gifts they soar. The tech crew at a church that this writer worked at were so into their area of ministry that they would work far into the night to set up the lights in the best way. Eventually these same high school guys led two of their techy friends to the lord back in the sound booth.

In this placement the students grew and provided an important service to the group. Others found their place in the worship band and were thrilled at the opportunity to practice for hours on a Friday afternoon. Purpose Driven Youth Ministry explains how to  help student and adult volunteers determine their “shape” for ministry and this helps to place them where they will flourish.

5. Community

–leadership team builds affirming bonds,  Community is the glue that keeps them ‘sticking around’–potlucks after church –appreciation dinners all of these things help build community –Students need to have a sense of belonging. Although they may work hard at times and may be tired while others are having fun, there is a camaraderie that is a special blessing for servant leaders.

6. Coaching

–Everyone can use some coaching from an expert from time to time. Training can be far removed from the situation. Coaching on the sidelines at a drop in center or at a camp is powerful because of the immediacy. Right there in that context the student knows that they are being noticed and they are being counted on to contribute to the ministry.

7. Evaluation

–This need not be a scary thing. In fact it should really be a time to encourage and challenge a student to excellence. Without evaluation students may feel that it does not matter that they have given a poor effort. Also evaluation is an opportunity to show a student how they have improved in the last six months.

8. Affirmation

–constructive feed back, group affirmation- look for these opportunities. Encouragement notes, a pat on the back, a quick phone call or an email just to say that a student did well is pure gold. The youth leader is not the only one who can participate in this. Other students should be encouraged to thank student leaders for their ministry.

One camp sets up secret prayer partners for the counselors each week. The junior and senior counselors take this responsibility seriously not only taking time to pray but also the time to put little notes, chocolates, or bottled water in their camp mail slot. Student leaders or leaders in training love this!

9. Public Recognition

This can begin with a church commissioning service, even if the students are working with Youth for Christ, Young Life, or another ministry. If there is a regular Sunday to recognize leaders it is imperative that these student leaders are not left out. They may shun the recognition but over time these students recognize that their ministry is an officially sanctioned role within the body of Christ. It is a good idea to publicly thank youth leaders in a wider forum.

10 . Promotion

What is meant by promotion is not that students’ faces are used to promote the youth ministry. Instead this means that when leaders have proven themselves “faithful in little” they are given the opportunity to become “faithful in much.” It is a good management approach to keep challenging them up to higher levels of responsibility and privilege. Anyone who sees the position that they are in as a “dead end,” is more likely to give minimal effort to the responsibility.

Hit as many of these as Possible

I can’t guarantee that if you do all ten of these that you’ll never lose a student leader but I can promise that if you do these they will have a better experience on your team. They may stay longer and they may recruit their friends if you do student leadership the best way possible!

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com