3 Observations about Developing Student Leaders

three lessons learned
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Last week I got to spend time at camp with a group of six student leaders. For the last three summers, I have helped develop and grow what we call the Horizon Leadership Camp (HLC).

The concept is simple: when a church group comes to camp, they have the option to have a student or two apply for HLC. The student goes to camp with their own church group, is part of a leadership focused small group, help lead rec, and pour back into someone from their group–trying to grow relationships that will last well beyond camp.

In total, HLC has convened seven times over the past three summers, and I have been in the room for most of them (although not all). Along the way, there are a few things I’ve started to notice:

  1. Students are hungry for the leadership conversation. Some of the students who walk into HLC have been through some leadership training already, but nowhere near all of them. Prior training or not, however, almost every student has been hungry for the leadership lessons and the opportunity to step up and lead.
  2. Shared experiences build community. Kind of a “no duh” statement, right? But it’s true, and I’ve watched it play out over and over. As the students lead rec, get put in awkward situations thanks to over-zealous adult leaders (rarely students), and then evaluate their time, they begin to trust one another more and more, which in turn makes the processing times even more rich.
  3. Youth Ministers benefit from the leadership conversation with students. I know this is true for me, and again, I’ve seen it play out over and over. As a student comes into HLC, the youth minister is challenged to up their leadership in order to help their student grow.

All in all, I have learned so much about myself over the past three summers (running concurrently with the beginning of this blog, if you hadn’t made the connection). Few things in ministry excite and energize me as much as being able to have authentic conversations with a student who is wrestling with their own understanding and ability to lead. In turn, my leadership influence grows as I challenge those around me to grow.

So, as I ask from time to time, Student ministers: what are you doing to train your student leaders? How are you equipping them? How are you pouring into them? What opportunities are you providing them? Where do you need to start?

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