As a student minister, do you ever truly wonder where each of your students are with their relationship with God? In the midst of the many youth group trips and activities, it is sometimes hard to get intentional one on one time with students to talk to them about where they truly are. This is why leader time is essential to any youth ministry.
Leader time is a strategy that I teach my small group leaders to use during retreat or weekend events such as DNow or a beach retreat. Leader time is a time for the small group leaders to sit down together with a student to hear from his or her heart and to pray with him or her. This is usually a very powerful time that God has used in great ways to open doors for encouraging students.
Begin the concept of leader time by telling the entire group that each one of them will have a specific leader time during the weekend. This gives students an opportunity to prepare for what is to come. Tell them that you are going to spend some time with each one of them to get to know them better. This lowers students’ guard and can make some of them look forward to the time.
Once you sit down with a student, it is important to encourage them to open up by asking easy questions. I would not begin with something like “When was the last time you read your Bible?” This question could catch students off guard and make them feel like they don’t measure up to some standard they believe that you have set for them. I usually begin by asking general questions about family, school, and hobbies. These easy questions allow students to put down their guard and make them feel more comfortable.
The spiritual questions are the focus of leader time. The primary reason you are doing leader time is to get to know where students are with Jesus. I usually begin this time by asking “Do you consider yourself a Christian?” This opens up the door with an easy question to transition to the spiritual. I then follow it up with a question “So when did that begin?” This allows the student to speak of his or her faith journey without framing it in especially religious terms like “ask Jesus in your heart,” “get saved,” or “share your testimony.”
I usually ask a student also about how he or she seeks to grow in his or her relationship with Jesus. This is a spiritual disciplines question that is framed without the guilt of quantifying Bible reading or prayer. This also opens the door for a moment of teaching if the student does not know how to grow in his or her relationship with Jesus.
Prayer is a great way to end leader time. It is always encouraging to a student to hear his or her name being called out to the Lord in prayer. This also allows you to ask the student for prayer needs and to pray for God’s power and blessing in the student’s life.
Leader time is a great addition to any DNow or weekend retreat. God has used this is great ways in my ministry context, and I hope He uses it as a good ministry tool in yours.