7 Traits of the BEST Student Pastors

The next generation represents the leadership for our future.

I’m encouraged by the young student pastors at 12Stone Church. They are sharp, passionate, innovative and dedicated to their work. They are leading the way for the next generation coming up and setting a great example.

This past weekend and next weekend our student pastors will have over 700 students attending a retreat where they, and their adult leaders, invest deeply in the spiritual lives of the students. The stories are already truly life changing!

The person we choose to lead the way for their spiritual lives is so important. That’s why I’ve always been passionate about and grateful for the leaders in student ministry.

Who you choose and place into leadership is incredibly important.

Your student pastor has tremendous influence over the next generation. They have an extraordinary opportunity to represent the moral compass that points the way to Jesus.

The best student pastors teach and encourage teens how to live a life based on Christian values in a culture that no longer puts God first.

How do you know you’ve made the right choice in a student pastor or volunteer leader?

A few key indicators are:

  1. Teens are giving their lives to Jesus and getting baptized.
  2. Teens are maturing in their faith and inviting friends to church.
  3. Teens are serving and a few are called to full time ministry.
  4. Teens are living out stories of personal life transformation.
  5. Teens are living out healthy relationships with family and friends.

So, what is the best type of leader to help lead the way to these results?

After consulting several student ministry experts and student pastors, the following is a list of seven traits that comprise the very best of student pastors.

7 Traits of the BEST Student Pastors

1) Emotional Maturity

We all love student pastors who are fun, but we respect student pastors who are mature. These two traits are not mutually exclusive, but not always found well balanced together. The ability to relate to teens and speak truth is vital.

A sense of security rather than people pleasing, not prone to anger, and possessing self-control are essential facets of emotional maturity.

2) Personal Drive

The best student pastors do not depend on the senior leadership to fuel their spiritual intensity, stoke their energy, or give them pep talks to reach more students. Leadership drive for progress is something born internally and can’t be borrowed from someone else.

Encouragement, coaching, direction and support are always needed, but the best student leaders possess their own inner drive to reach more students for Jesus.

3) Servant Leadership

Great student pastors are leaders, not event planners with theological degrees. And the best student leaders are servant leaders. They show humility, get along with teammates and demonstrate the ability to submit to the senior pastor’s vision.

I was a student pastor in a small church a long time ago. I remember having my own ideas of how to grow a church, but somehow possessed the notion that the pastor who hired me gave me an opportunity to serve not rule. I’m confident that was God’s grace in the form of the Holy Spirit guiding me, because my natural bent is to do it my way.

4) Relational Savvy

Student ministry is not easy. Not only does every leader of student ministry need to know how to relate to and connect with a wide variety teens, (from artists to athletes and academics etc..), he or she must also connect and gain trust with parents.

From a troubled teen to a stressed-out parent, a great student leader possesses relational skills that allow her to listen well, gain respect, offer encouragement, and instill confidence.

5) Love for Students

The charisma of a magnetic personality is an asset in student ministry, but nothing trumps genuinely caring about and loving the students.

This authentic love comes from carrying God’s burden for the students. While leadership drive helps propel the vision to reach more teens, a burden for students ensures that each one is seen as a person that matters. A soul that needs a shepherd.

6) Organizational Competence

Organization is critical. A student pastor is the point person for casting vision, providing engaging teaching, worship, discipleship in small groups, and events. This is no small organizational feat and includes considerable recruiting, training, and delegating of responsibility to a large number of volunteers. It’s a big job.

In addition to the organizational elements, the student ministry environment should be fun, but the primary focus is the transforming truth of God’s word and subsequent life change of the teens.

7) Passion for God and Biblical Wisdom

He or she realizes that without God’s favor and blessing no amount of activity makes an eternal difference. But with God, all things are possible and true life change takes place.

The best student leaders have a close and intimate relationship with Jesus, seeking his voice through prayer and scripture.

I’m very grateful to all student pastors who wholeheartedly dedicate their leadership to spiritually better the lives of teens!

Their investment is truly a gift!

10 thoughts on “7 Traits of the BEST Student Pastors”

  1. Thank You Dan,
    At 76, I realize I have been a slow learner. That’s when I’m envious of young Christian people who can learn from wisdom and experience of people like you. Thanks for teaching, giving and sharing so much of yourself.

  2. My husband and I taught high school Sunday school for almost 20 years. You nailed it! They aren’t looking for a pal. They’re searching the Truth–for someone they respect enough to follow.

  3. Those who want to be excellent leaders seek out excellent leaders to lead them and are willing to pay the price of faithfulness to that leader. Excellent leaders are a blessing to those they lead and those who lead them.

  4. Great stuff. I’m wondering if being a leader of leaders isn’t something which should be added. We don’t do ministry by ourselves in any area of ministry, however, in youth ministry especially building a team of folks to buy into your vision and be part of what the Lord would have you do is huge. Thanks for your insights as always!

    1. I think you are right Paul. It’s probably true, however, that many of the great student pastors don’t start out as a leader of leaders… because they begin so young, in their early 20’s. But I sure agree that the best student pastors become leaders of leaders! Thanks for your comments Paul.

  5. Sharing this in our campus team huddle today as our student guys are hosting our Kickoff Party with Students tonight. During the kickoff party they introduce the project the students will be working on to raise funds for people around the world. They have a busy month with not only this event but also a 30hr fast at the end of the month where they share how much money was raised and then are involved in dozens of local impact projects on that Saturday. They work hard and this post is a great way to celebrate the guys God has given to our church! Thanks Dan

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