Michelle is the Youth Pastor of Ebenezer United Methodist Church. I recently spoke at a retreat for her high school students as was blessed by the way she organizes her youth led ministry. So I asked if I could ask her some question for those youth pastors out there wanting to know how to run a youth led ministry! here is that interview:
Steve: Michelle I was truly amazed at the discussions your guys were having when I entered the guys bunk area.
Michelle: I'm glad you got to experience the guys' late night
discussion. They have done those discussions every retreat for the past
4 years. It is really awesome.
Steve: Tell me a little bit as to how you structure your High School ministry to be able to train up guys like this?
Michelle: The student leadership structure is for high school only. We are currently trying to incorporate more “8th grade leadership” in our middle school program. I have attached an info sheet for both our middle school and high school programs to help give an overview of our ministry. I have also attached a copy of the letter I sent last year for the new student leaders. The old ones get a shorter “renewal” one since they also have the option of stepping down if they so wish. This has only happened twice in the past 5 years.
Steve: How do you select your student leaders?
Michelle: Our leadership team made up of Adults, College Mentors and Student Leaders get together in June and meet about the student leadership holes for the following year and we take a look at who has shown leadership in the past year and where they are spiritually and living their life as a good of example of Jesus Christ. At the end of the year I do a survey with all the students to see what teams they are the most interested in and I compile the survey and bring it to this meeting and we take a look at if those names connect with gifts we see those people actively strong in and if they are a fit as a leader in that area.
After we choose who we think are best for that spot, I meet with the potential student leaders and ask them their interest and meet with their parents letting them know of the commitment and the accountability that goes along with this. Then give them time to think about it, then send out a letter for the parents and the students to sign as a covenant to their leadership.
Steve: How do you train your student leaders?
Michelle: I have a big training day for the leadership team (adults, college mentors, and student leaders) in August and then continue to meet with them every other month. During that time, I give a training devotion time and then we use the other half of the meeting for business stuff.
I also meet with the student leaders on a regular basis one on one for accountability. The adult leaders for each team do a lot of mentoring with their student leaders to also train them. I also use the senior student leaders a lot to build up the younger student leaders and prepare them.
I spend a lot of time with them on their life as an example… walking the walk and living Christ. I emphasize daily quiet times and service. I also monitor how much they are involved in. If they are a student leader, I tell them that I don’t want them involved in more than 2 other teams (I really prefer just one other team). They can participate in everything, but I don’t want them involved in each team’s planning process due to burn out and loss of focus in their own specific area.
As for adults, I take a group of adults and college mentors to the YS Conference each year (or another conference if one arises)
Steve: What material do you use?
Materials very, I do a lot of research and pull from different resources to create my own… you know, the whole dig until you get some good stuff research J
Steve: Who is in charge of creating say the retreat... I noticed you had teens
involved... did they create their area of responsibility? Did they have help? How often did you have to meet with them?
Michelle: Each team is made up of an adult leader (or group of adult leaders) and 2 student leaders and then a team of students interested in being on that team. Once a month that team meets to plan whatever specific event they have coming up. For instance, the Event Team plans for the Winter Retreat. I am usually at these meetings when it comes close to the time for the really detailed stuff, but I am not at a lot of them. This gives them more leadership. They have my guidance when it comes to the Biblical/Spiritual side of stuff. So they meet, and the adult is to encourage them to give their ideas, get them planning, and get them assigned to do different stuff. For example, on the Winter Retreat, the game leaders volunteered to do games, we told them how many they would need, I have them come in my office and I load them up with resources to help them out and they take them home and I threaten them to make sure to get the books back J If the students really need help, I can help them, but usually I just have to give them guidance. It is amazing what they can do! The biggest thing is the point when you have to stop them from the little mistakes that we make from experience.
As for other teams, it is awesome because the students are the ones letting me know what they want to study. For instance, in the summer I meet with the Sunday School team, show them all my resources and they tell me what curriculum they want to do and I order it. For the Wednesday night programs, I meet with the team of students in the summer (I treat this team to dinner because the meeting is so long) and we look at what people have written down as things they are interested in at our June survey and we think about the needs of our youth ministry and block out our program series for the year and I make those and take them to the team each week to prepare and make things even better. I am always at those kind of meetings. But I usually don’t attend the monthly Sunday School prep meetings and other meetings each month unless they have requested or I really need to get them info. I usually pass the info to the adult leader.
Steve: How many teams do you have in your ministry?
Michelle: We have 6 teams in our high school ministry.
Steve: What are the names of the teams? (Michelle was gracious enough to send me a more detailed description of each team. If you'd like a copy of the team details please email me and I'll be more than happy to send it to you!
Michelle: Program Team (focus is Wednesday night youth group), Connection Team, Sunday School Team, Outreach Team, Event Team, Service Team
Steve: Before you had student leaders did just you and the mentors decide? I guess I'm talking about the very first time?
Michelle: The very first time, we were very small and students stepped up when we asked for their input, as our group got larger we gave those students that were already very dedicated an actual “role” and it stemmed into creating an organized leadership structure as our group grew and we needed to add on more students. Before we had student leaders, the team of adults decided to go in this direction of student leadership and who would be the first to be these leaders.
Steve: When you talk about holes are you talking about when a senior graduates a team will need a leader etc?
Steve: Thanks for your time Michelle! I think you have an awesome youth ministry. This information will be invaluable for youth pastors out there that are trying to lead and create student led ministries.
Michelle: I'm not sure what all I might could say that someone might not know,
but you never know.
I have received several other attachments from Michelle. If you'd like to take a look at them please let me know! I'd also ask that if you found this interview to be helpful then shoot Michelle and email!
If you want to start a youth led revolution then go to TeamCE!