Implementing a Student-Led Service Team

Volunteers are a huge part of the life of most churches. They bring energy, new perspectives, and much-needed manpower to make ministry events and Sunday mornings go ‘round.

The beauty of church volunteering is that those directly benefiting from the ministry get to give back, see some behind-the-scenes, and exercise their ministry muscles. There are often adult volunteers who are involved with church youth ministries, which is a wonderful way to establish mentorship across generations and get the church congregation involved in students’ lives. But students themselves can get lost in the mix regarding volunteers.

Maybe you’ve noticed that some students in your youth group also have an eagerness to serve – and while adult volunteers are needed and wanted, there is an opportunity to bring students along into the life of leadership and serving in the church.

There are a few key building blocks for creating service and involvement in your youth ministry:

+1 mindset

One of the best ways to get students thinking about getting involved in serving is by encouraging hospitality and generosity in their relationships. A +1 mindset is used to help church members invite friends to church events and Sunday mornings with them.

The more you remind your students to always be thinking about who their church +1 could be, the more likely you are to have a ministry overflowing with guests who feel welcomed and eager to get involved. And while youth students can sometimes be timid, you may be surprised that they are often the most eager to invite and bring friends along with them! A +1 mindset could be the first step for encouraging your students to take more ownership and participation in your youth ministry. A step beyond this is to:

Develop a dedicated student leadership team

This is where the student-led aspect of your ministry truly takes shape. Just like many adults in your congregation want to have a role in shaping the way that Sunday mornings go, students want to feel ownership over their youth ministry activities. One of the best ways to let them exercise this ownership is through developing a leadership team.

There are a few different options for setting up a student leadership team.

The “path of least resistance” option would be to gather the students you think would be the most eager to have a volunteer role. Those could be the students who seem like they would want to get on stage and make announcements, who have a big personality or those who are already making their opinions heard.
But in the same way that the most obvious volunteers aren’t always the most needed volunteers, we encourage a “shoulder tapping” method of finding students ready to serve.

If you make an announcement at youth group that you’re looking for volunteers, you may get a lot of sign-ups. But sometimes the students with the most humility and true willingness to serve aren’t going to put themselves out there. To find those students, you may need to build a quieter model of servant leadership within your group. Spend time thinking about those in your ministry, and whose heart postures would truly advance the heart of service on a student leadership team. It’s true that sometimes your student leaders will be on stage, but often they’ll be moving tables, running errands, and involved in behind-the-scenes conversations.

At Mission Hills, our student ministry leadership teams are set up as follows:

Junior and Senior Leaders

These serve team leaders are upperclassmen who show a vested commitment to the Gospel and the ministry they’re serving in, and are willing to have serious conversations about the responsibility they bear as ministry leaders.

Serve Team Members

Beyond the upperclassmen leaders, any student who is willing and eager can join the serve team. From there, they will be divided into different serve team categories.

Prayer team

This team serves through dedicated prayer for other students in person, to read over submitted prayer requests, and to spend time in prayer for the ministry as a whole. This is one of the most “behind the scenes” student leadership roles.

Activities team

Students with an eye for organization and a talent for group leadership can help facilitate activities like gaga ball, nine square, card games, or whatever other activities your particular group of students enjoys. It takes a special kind of person to get a group of people excited about playing a game, and it’s so helpful to have a few students who know it’s their role to get everyone off their phones, and out of their small circles of friends, and into an engaging game.

Outreach team

This team is focused on hospitality – welcoming visitors, thinking of ways to reach new attendees, and staying engaged in local and global outreach initiatives.

Administrative team

This team will help with events, camps, and retreats. All the logistics that go into planning trips can be lightened by the help of students who make packing lists, post on social media, aid with organization, and communicate with students about important updates and information.

Worship Team

The worship team is a part of student leadership, but it often will take on a life of its own due to the particular nature of their area of service. While a youth pastor or adult volunteer oversees the student leadership team, the head worship leader will oversee the student worship team. This is a great opportunity for musically gifted students to connect those talents to their faith and desire to serve!

These different types of teams and leadership “tiers” work well for Mission Hills because of the size of our youth ministry and particular giftings of our students – it isn’t an exhaustive list or required template to follow!

The point of sharing these details is to show all the different areas that your students could serve in, and the ways that students with different maturity levels can all have opportunities to serve.

No matter how you set up your student-led service team, we encourage you to disciple your students in the mindset of Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Involving students in ministry early on will set them up with hearts of service and an understanding that no matter what church or context they find themselves in down the road, they can always serve gladly for the Lord.

“Handing the reins over” to your student leaders can feel scary if you’ve never done it before – but we hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way your students are eager and able to come alongside you in ministry. While of course there have to be boundaries in the way that your ministry makes decisions and leads students, the more that students are able to drive the ship, the more your ministry will connect to them.

If you’re interested in a conversation about how to implement a healthy student-led service team in your church, we’d love to help.

This article was written in collaboration with Stephen Boyer, the Mission Hills high school pastor. If you want to continue the conversation, you can contact him directly at

Interested in learning more about Mission Hills Association and gaining access to our members-only resources? Contact us today!

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