Holding Student Leaders Accountable

There is a problem that I have had every since I started in youth ministry over 10 years ago: How do you hold student leaders accountable for their lifestyle outside of church?

What do you do when someone that you have in a high leadership position is also someone who spends their Saturday nights drinking. What do you do when you elevate a student and give them responsibilities when you know that they are sneaking out of their house to meet up with their boyfriend?

In the past I have tried to turn a blind eye to these situations if I didn’t have direct evidence of the “transgression” myself. But that has caused more harm that good. The problem is that when I have students who are leaders I need to be able to point to them and tell the rest of the group. “This is how you should live, they aren’t perfect, but they are trying to live like Christ.” I may never say that, but when I put someone on stage I am implying just that sort of thing.

My dillema is this. Sometimes working with the church and having a job to do helps people come and feel like they are a part of the group. I want to encourage this while at the same time not condoning living like the world. Where is the balance between being a loving place where everyone is welcome and holding leadership accountable for their actions.

I think I am going to work this week on a leadership covenant of sorts. It will be something that I has a lists of things that expect students to both do and not do. I am still working this out in my head, but I think that I will have every leader (myself included) sign it and then also have the juniors and seniors sign it on a voluntary basis. Once a student has signed the covenent I have the right to go to them and discuss with their their lifestyle. I am thinking about maybe a 1 warning system and then telling them that they will have to leave their leadership position for a while.

The only problem I have is how to do this without looking judgmental and harsh to everyone else. It is a dangerous situation, but I think that many students will live up to the expectations that are set for them. I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask people who are in leadership to not drink. I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask them not to smoke (for no other reason than it is against the law).

There are other things that I think they shouldn’t do as well, but when you are in leadership it is those public sins that can be the most damaging to the ministry. Well, maybe it is the private ones too. Crap, now I think I need perfect people to lead and I know that isn’t right. You see I am a little conflicted on this. Why not help me out with some ideas from your own ministry.

2 thoughts on “Holding Student Leaders Accountable

  • September 24, 2008 at 3:58 AM

    leaders are held to a higher standard. i think that the covenant is a good idea. I have used a covenant with our adult leaders (and caught a little flak from one in particular that was not happy that our ministry was nosing into her sex life – we required all leaders to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage). other than her, though we had no problems. we had a very firm policy that would remove a (willingly) fallen leader from leadership for a period of time in which they would meet with me regularly to work together on the problem in the hopes of restoring them to leadership.

    i do feel that leaders need something like a covenant to let them know that their life is being held to a higher standard. Lets them know that you are lifting them up not as perfect examples, but as guides along the way of living lives for Christ.

  • September 25, 2008 at 5:44 AM

    What I am struggling with right now is the line between holding students accountable and offering them grace. Well, maybe I am actually struggling more with perception than anything else. There is this razor thin line between setting standards and accepting them for the flawed people that they are. I think I know the right thing to do, but at the same time I am scared of doing it and having people see it the wrong way.

    I know that is probably just a cop out answer for me, but this subject is heavy on my heart tonight.


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