When it comes to teaching leadership to students, a wide range of possibilities comes to mind. Some ministries have leadership teams where leadership skills are cultivated through curriculum, experiences, and assignments. Other ministries might use a council of students for areas of ministry such as leadership for camp, D-Nows, or the weekly student service time. Each council has leadership over their areas of ministry to help them grow in leadership skills. However leadership might look for you in your ministry, it never looks the same across the board. I would like to recommend one avenue of leadership development in which most ministries participate.
Mission trips are great opportunities to show students a broader view ofGod, to connect them with the universal church, and to push them out of their comfort zones. It allows them to participate in the mission of God for a concentrated period of time that will hopefully remind them of their roles in God’s mission in everyday life. In addition to these great benefits of discipleship, mission trips are also great avenues for developing leadership skills in three ways.
Having requirements in order to go on a trip shows that not everyone is ready for a trip in the same way that not everyone is a leader. Giving requirements for students to participate on a trip communicates the value of the work to be done but also pushes the students to take it upon themselves to ensure they fulfill all the requirements. These requirements could be character-based, meaning students need reference letters and interviews, or training-based, requiring a certain amount of training sessions or lessons completed. This practice will continue to be brought up as they continue on in your ministry and into college, they will always come in contact with opportunities with requirements they must meet. Having them for a mission trip can help them in the long run.
When it comes to a mission trip, students are given a great deal of responsibility. First and foremost, they are given the responsibility of sharing the gospel and being prepared to do so. This is, of course, their greatest responsibility. Beyond sharing the gospel, there is a host of logistical tasks to be done. What is their plan of action to raise funds for the trip? What supplies can each student bring? How responsible can they be in traveling, keeping up with their passport and plane tickets? Participating in a mission trip requires so much prep work, which helps students grow in responsibility and, in turn, the confidence to be able to handle a call to leadership.
Every position of leadership has a role or scope to it. In the business world, there are millions of specific roles given so that organizations can function smoothly. In the church, these come in the form of believers using their gifts to grow the church in maturity and encouragement. So how will students play their roles? Who will lead music, lead teaching time, help with games, spearhead evangelism, and a variety of other roles? How can they use their gifts to help the entire team accomplish the mission work before them? Giving each student a role helps them see how they are playing a small part of a larger whole, which is what God is calling us to in joining his mission in our everyday lives. He uses our individual roles to accomplish His mission of bringing redemption to the world. Giving students a role helps them discern what their gifts are and can teach them to lead others to their roles as well.
As you plan mission trips for this summer and for years to come, see them as vehicles of leadership training. Having requirements, giving responsibility, and assigning roles will help create leaders in your student ministry through a trip you are already planning on doing. Through these trips, may you cultivate leaders who lead others in the mission of God for the glory of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANDREW HARPER
Andrew is the husband to Amber, a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the student pastor at First Baptist church of Altus, OK. He spends his time reading, drinking coffee, and schooling students in ping pong. His goal is to see students find their place in the mission of God.