For centuries, ancient cultures have recognized the value of developing and preparing youth for leadership.
During their formative years, these young people have developed military strategies, formed alliances, negotiated treaties, and discovered new lands long before most of us could even drive a car.
Certainly, we know that junior high students are capable of great things or else we wouldn’t be so committed to ministering to them.
The process of developing as a leader reminds me of the ancient art of growing and pruning miniature banzai trees.
It takes years of training and skill that is mastered over an entire lifetime of the artist.
And just like those artists, there is no point at which we “arrive” at being the perfect leader.
As we progress at better communicating, better decision making, and better leading, it allows us to show others how to be better.
Your role, not only as a junior high leader, but also as a follower of Jesus, means that as you grow, your students will grow too.
HERE ARE 5 WAYS TO DEVELOP JUNIOR HIGH STUDENT LEADERS:
1. Understand all students have leadership abilities, although at varying degrees.
If you have more than one child of your own, you already know this.
Of course for many students, those abilities are raw, undeveloped, and unfocused.
Leadership ability and capability will vary from student to student and will progress in much the same way.
Once the Holy Spirit helps you to recognize that leadership quality, it is up to you to help the student see it as well.
It may be as simple as observing interactions in a room.
- Who are different groups of students gathering around and why?
- Which student is already giving direction without even realizing it?
- How are the different groups treating others?
By watching objectively, you will begin to see patterns and leadership qualities.
Use that knowledge to move that student to where God wants them to be.
2. Help students recognize their God-given gifts.
As grown-ups, many adults recognize their abilities and giftings, and church leaders can position those adults in places where they can thrive and be fulfilled in serving Christ and the Church.
Some churches and leadership teams will use a variation of a Spiritual Gifts assessment, based on 1 Corinthians 12.
This tool can help students, as well as adults, to understand the gifts that God has already given to them.
For some leaders, a simple conversation or discussion can help you to help your students identify his or her gifts.
Once students know this, they can begin to work their way into putting together the calling and purpose God has for their life.
There is no greater feeling that a student can have than that of purpose, and no higher purpose than one that serves God’s plan.
3. Invest time and resources based on the student’s willingness to be developed as a leader.
Because time is irreplaceable, it is one of the most highly valuable keys to developing good Junior High student leaders.
Creating memories and moments, led by your example, will be one of the most significant investments you can make in a young leader’s life.
Setting aside a good amount of financial resources will also show your church leadership and parents that you value these Junior High students.
To be sure, there will be times when a student will only progress to a certain point and no further.
It’s okay to let them continue to grow at their own pace.
Be careful to know when it is time to move on and continue to invest in others.
Some of the most impactful leadership moments you will have with student leaders are when you took the time to see their potential and worked to develop it.
4. Encourage students to step out in boldness, even if they are scared.
Face it. We all know that Junior High is an awkward time in a student’s life.
Compound it with insecurity and even a little fear, and it can be a challenge to get some Junior High students to step out.
The best way to encourage these young leaders to move past that fear is to stand with them.
Permit them to make mistakes, because they will.
James 3:2 says “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.”
Fear is one of the biggest reasons that students hold back, and mistakes are a big part of that fear.
When you permit your new leaders to fail, you are also giving them permission to move forward and learn from any future mistakes.
When students know you are there to support them no matter what and they will be encouraged, rather than beat down for their failures, they will work harder and show a higher level of boldness.
5. Share your wisdom and life experiences with students – even when you have made mistakes.
There’s no doubt you have stories about great adventures in ministry and the lives that have been transformed.
Students need to hear those.
But they also need to hear that you’ve made mistakes in the past.
Some leaders might try to hide weakness by only showing success.
But very little is learned by only studying success.
Junior High students are vulnerable, and some regularly fear failure and mistakes.
By allowing them to know and see that good leaders make mistakes, and own up to them, you give students a more realistic outlook on their shortcomings.
Never underestimate the value of investing time into developing student leaders – their impact on the world around them has eternal potential.
It is a privilege to play even a small part in God’s plan in the lives of your junior high students… never forget that.
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