7 Deal-Breaker Traits of the Best Student Pastors

“The charisma of a magnetic personality can be an asset, but nothing trumps genuinely caring about and loving students.”

I think about the next generation a lot these days. I think about my own kids who are in their 20s. I think about the students who will graduate from high school soon, and the children who are not far behind.

What’s in store for them? What will their future be like?

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 a 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 with several student ministry experts and student pastors, the following is a list of seven traits that comprise the very best of 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 being prone to anger and possessing self-control are essential facets of emotional maturity.

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2. Personal Drive

The best student pastors do not depend on 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 I 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. Great leaders can follow their leader and possess a heart to serve.

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), 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 him or her to listen well, gain respect, offer encouragement and instill confidence.

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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. This heart for students helps keep the priority of people over programs.

6. Organizational Competence

Organization is critical. Leading a student ministry is like leading a church. A student pastor is the point person for casting vision and 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

A great student leader is dependent on God. 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.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.