Training Modules

Cultivating Student Leadership


Every Youth Ministry has a different definition of what student leadership is but most can agree that leadership is a part of our discipleship.  It is learning to think outside of ourselves and care for others.  The best student leadership programs are born out of healthy youth ministries where the reigns aren’t turned over for the youth to “run the show” but where they are fully engaged and empowered in promoting the concept of unconditional love and acceptance within the group.  As Mark DeVries says in his book, Sustainable Youth Ministry:

“The most profound student leadership programs happen not when students are asked to plan the calendar or evaluate the quality of this or that program, as a student council might. Traditional approaches to student leadership might give students power, but they fail at a basic level. They fail to provide students with the life-on-life, uncomfortable ministry experiences that allow them to feel awkward enough to inspire their growth and effectively catalyze a culture of welcome in their youth ministries.”  [Sustainable Youth Ministry (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), p. 174.]

Be attentive to discern natural leadership within the group that may be untapped or unpolished. Spend time listening to the wisdom that young people have and help them to own agency and advocacy roles because they have these gifts to share.

In this course, we’ll explore cultivating student leadership. The course is designed as an interactive exercise and divided in sections.  Each will provide an opportunity for you to “prepare, engage and reflect” on each topic. If every section were to be completed, with the group meeting weekly, this course would take five weeks to complete. It is also possible to complete the course in a shorter period of time by combining sections based on your team’s availability. Similarly, this could be expanded, and the focal Scripture passages—merely used here as a discussion starter, and a backdrop for the youth ministry topics— could be used as a jumping off point for a whole Bible study for each gathering.  We are hopeful that the person leading this effort will feel free to adapt what is provided to their particular community’s needs.

Yale Youth Ministry Institute