I have been serving in student ministry for close to 20 years, and I have recently become burdened with the responsibility of raising up the next generation of leaders in the church. When I look out into the crowd of students that I have the honor of leading, I see nothing but world-changing potential. I wholeheartedly believe that as student ministry leaders, we have the responsibility to identify, equip, train and send out the next generation of leaders. So, how can we do this in today’s context and culture? I honestly think it is easier than we may think.
Call Them Out
Scott Pace and Shane Pruitt, in their book “Calling Out the Called,” challenge readers to be proactive in the way that we call out potential leaders in our student ministries. We must not shy away from teaching on not only the universal calling on all believers but also the unique calling for each individual. We all have students sitting in our chairs that God has placed a special calling on. We must provide opportunities for these students to surrender to that call on their lives. Extend that invitation and give them space to wrestle with that call on their lives.
We must also be willing to identify these gifted individuals and speak the truth of God’s calling on their lives over them. If you see potential, tell them! My story of being called into ministry starts long before I surrendered to that call while I was a freshman at Gardner-Webb University. One of my high school Sunday school teachers, Mr. Berry, would often tell me “Darryl, God has big plans for you and has gifted you with the ability to lead … I pray that you see this and serve Him with these gifts.” I would often laugh him off and just go about my morning. But it was that seed that was planted when I was 16-17 years old that sprouted into something bigger. It was Mr. Berry’s words that came to mind when an invitation to full-time Christian service was laid out before me during a chapel service when I was 19 years old.
Let’s make sure we are doing all that we can to identify and call out those who have the gifting of leadership.
Train Them Up
Once we identify the leaders in our ministry, we must do all that we can to train them up to be used by God for His glory! Guide them; meet with them; disciple them. Do whatever it takes to help them not only to see the gifting that God has given them but also to develop that gifting. Give them opportunities to serve within your ministry; let them teach; let them lead groups; let them stretch their leadership wings. This takes work on our part, but it is absolutely worth the extra effort. Walk with them in this process, and watch God work.
Send Them Out
This last part can be difficult because we are often selfish with our leaders. I don’t know of a single ministry that can say, “You know what … we have plenty of leaders,” so hear me clearly when I say that we need to have a loose grip on these leaders that we train up. We must be willing to allow them to be trained up by us and go somewhere else to serve. This may be another ministry within your church, on the mission field, or even another church altogether.
My church here in Oviedo has a vision statement that helps me in this understanding of releasing leaders. It goes like this: “To share the Gospel of Jesus wherever we live, work, play, and go so that the sun will not set on the ministry of CrossLife Church.” We have a goal of seeing our church members trained up as leaders and sent out so that our ministry can stretch beyond our church walls and our little corner of the world. At one point in our church’s history, we had a missionary or pastor from our ministry in every time zone around the world. If you train up a leader who is called to the mission field or pastoral ministry and that leader goes somewhere else, don’t mourn the loss of that leader, but celebrate the spread of your ministry’s impact around the world!
Let’s call out the called, train them up, and send them out so that we can see the next generation of leaders spread the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth!