Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Student Advisory Team - Ownership and Influence

One of the challenges of student ministry is helping students feel genuine ownership in the ministry.  For far too long student ministries have asked students to sit on the bench and watch while the "grown ups" play the game of ministry.  It's no wonder they feel little to no ownership.

The reality is students have so much to offer.  They are uniquely gifted by God and are in a position to give great guidance to the direction of ministry.  As youth leaders we are called to "equip them for service".  

Wisely and carefully developing a student advisory team is one way to gain perspective and give students real ownership in the ministry.

The student advisory team is a carefully selected medium sized group of students (no more than 16) who provide perspective and advice to ministry leaders.  The SAT doesn't have authority to make decisions but they do have tons of influence.  

4 reasons you must have an SAT...

  1. Students have a better sense of what's going on in the hearts and minds of their friends than we do.  Many times we make ministry choices in the dark without being aware of what students think.  It's easy to ASSUME things. (you know what that does)  By having a group of trusted students you can learn so much about the morale of the ministry and the genuine and felt needs of students.
  2. It models teachability and humility.  By asking students for advice you're admitting you don't know everything and have a heart to learn and grow.  If their is one thing many students are lacking it's teachability.  And by the way, sometimes it's better caught then taught.
  3. It gives students great ownership in the ministry.  When students offer advice and the ministry moves in that direction all of a sudden the ministry belongs to everyone in the decision making process.  The feel like it's their's because it actually is.
  4. When asking the SAT for advice you're affirming the work and wisdom of the Holy Spirit in their individual lives.  This can go a long way in encouraging them in their ministry to friends or whatever God is calling them to do.
So, how do you select the right students for your SAT without showing favoritism?  

This is a huge challenge.  There are many ways to do this but here's a method I've used for years.  I believe it battles favoritism but also helps assure the right students are on the team.  It involves student nomination then staff selection.

Student Nomination

The first step is to allow students from each individual class (freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior) to nominate.  We create a nomination sheet that explains the characteristics of a SAT member.  It's so important that you explain to students that this isn't a popularity contest but a careful process to discover students in our ministry that are pursuing God and engaged in the student ministry.  This is also a way for EVERY students to have influence on who is on the advisory team.

After all the sheets are collected we ask someone from our staff team to tally the nominations and provide the staff team with a list.  For example, for the freshman class nominees we would see a list of 4 girls and 4 guys.  This would be the 4 girls and guys who received the most nominations from their class mates.  At this point it doesn't matter which student had the most nominations in fact it's better if the staff team doesn't know.  It's just a list of 4 girls and 4 guys.

Staff Selection

At this point the team will select the 2 of the 4 girls and 2 of the 4 guys they feel will be the best fit on the team.  A lot goes into this decision.  First of all, character is priority.  The wisdom your SAT gives must be spiritual in nature so you want your SAT members to have a growing relationship with Jesus.  You also need to think about diversity.  It's important to have voices from different schools, different family situations and if possible different ethnic background.  Prayerful consideration must be given as you seek the wisdom of God.

In our ministry we have 16 slots on the SAT.  If you have a smaller ministry you may want to go with 8.  Whatever the case, how you choose to select the students balancing having the right students while avoiding favoritism is key.  

Whew, that feels like a lot.  So what are you waiting for?  Begin praying and thinking today about how you can develop your student advisory team.  It's so worth the time and effort.

Next week we'll talk about what you do with your SAT once you have it.  The possibilities are incredible.

Other Posts About Student Leadership

By the way, please chime in.  I'm all ears.


  1. David, I love your thoughts on the SAT! Question: How do you avoid getting a panel of only the strongest students? Wouldn't it benefit some of the weaker students to be a part of the process and grow into leadership?

  2. Hey Ben,

    The truth is we reserve the SAT for the stronger students. With the emphasis focusing on prayer and wisdom it just makes sense to have kids who are spiritually sensitive in that role.

    For other students, strong or not, we hope to have a variety of serving opportunities that would be appropriate for where they are. The heart is to stretch students in leadership but not to the detriment of those they are leading.

    And by the way, the sat isn't the only way to share advice. Many of our student leadership gatherings include some type of seeking of wisdom from students.

  3. David, that's an interesting point that Ben raises. I think that he's right to want to include the weaker students. Perhaps pair them with one of the stronger leaders?