A few weeks ago one of my volunteer leaders called me up and started the conversation saying, “I hope you don’t mind, but I went ahead and…”. Now, I don’t know about you but anytime that phrase or something like “I hope you are not mad at me, but” start a conversation, my mind always ventures to the worst case scenario. Like, “I hope you are not mad at me, but…”
- I was hanging out with kids and we drank beer together.
- I got arrested for dealing pot.
- My girlfriend is pregnant or I am pregnant.
- I let a kid drive my car and he totaled it. What do I do now?
Even though I have had comments close to these said to me before, I am thankful that I have never had these exact comments reiterated to me. Regardless, my mind, as weird as it is, always ventures to the worst case scenarios when someone begins a statement like the one above.
So, as I’m bracing for a terrible scenario to unfold, my leader floors me as he continues. He said that he went ahead and asked 2 sophomore high school students to start thinking about being leaders down the road! Now that is a conversation starter that I have rarely experienced with another volunteer leader but welcome with open arms. This is a volunteer leader who decided to take it upon himself to plant a few seeds with some youth he has been building relationships with. Don’t we all wish we had leaders who did this all the time?
This conversation encouraged me for a few reasons:
- The leader took initiative. Not only was he actively involved with these students, but when he saw something in them, he encouraged them and planted a seed. How do you think those students felt that this leader believed in them so much that he asked them to be a leader?
- If you were to ask me for some future leaders amongst our current students, I do not know that they would be students I would have picked out first and foremost. This is not to say these are bad students, I just do not know them! Had this leader not done this and planted the seeds, I do not know if these students would have ever been asked to think about being a leader down the road. Our leadership potential pool just got bigger because of this volunteer leader.
Seed planting is a big part of what we do in youth ministry. As you know, we spend countless hours with students in hopes that God impacts their lives and they become fully devoted followers of Christ. It is called seed planting because unfortunately for most of us we can pour our lives into students all throughout their adolescent lives and often see little or no fruit for our work. Do not get me wrong, there are definitely times when we see fruit from our efforts, but with the many hours we invest in the lives of students, the fruit seeing is very little compared to the seeding. Hopefully, one day we will see the fruit of your work by getting a thank you note in the mail or a facebook message saying how much of an impact we made in their lives. So, although we may not see the fruit while we spend time with them, we plant seeds in hopes that God uses our time with them to bring them to Him one day.
Planting seeds is not just limited to instilling Christlike principles into the lives of students. Planting seeds also means to give students the vision for a ministry to others. Students at this stage in their lives are looking for direction and a path to follow. They will either choose a right direction or a wrong one. By identifying and affirming leadership traits in students, you are encouraging them to make an eternal impact in the lives of others. But, as with building into students, we may never see some students in leadership roles. Keep the end in mind and allow God’s timing to take place. Whether God chooses to use them now or down the road, continue to build into them and pray that God uses them in a mighty way. At the very least you are increasing your potential leader pool for future use.
Just because God may choose to use these students in leadership later does not mean you cannot help them develop and fine tune those qualities while they are still in your youth program. As I have stated before, working at small to medium size churches, volunteer leaders are not necessarily easy to find. Because of that, you have to get creative in who can help you lead. So, by encouraging students in their leadership ability, you are not only planting the seeds for future leadership but you can give them an opportunity to demonstrate and test their budding leadership potential in some way while they are still in your youth program. For instance, they could:
- Give a message to the youth or share a testimony
- Be apart of a ministry team like a welcome or program team
- Help out with a younger age group like the middle school or children’s ministry
Seed planting is vital in our ministry as it gives students a path to take and affirms qualities in their own lives that can have an eternal impact. So the question is, are you currently planting seeds? Not just building into students and sharing Christ with them but giving them a vision for an eternal impact they can help make in the lives of others?
TAKE A MINUTE and…
- Continue to invest your life into students. Write down the students you are currently planting seeds in. Think through how you are encouraging them in Christ and in leadership.
- Identify a few other students who you or another leader can start planting leadership seeds into.
- Encourage your leaders to be planting seeds in the lives of students they are reaching out to.
Tom is the Youth Pastor of Cedar Run Community Church and blogs regularly at www.notamegachurch.com.