As the Awana year comes (or has already come) to a close, you start to think about next year … and the several eighth graders who will be in high school and would like to be student leaders.
But wait – student leaders need to be more than simply kids who show up in time for club.
Student leaders (like any leaders) need to have specific qualifications and they need to be prepared for the responsibility of leading younger children.
1. Student leaders need to have a meaningful relationship with Christ. You wouldn’t think of asking an adult to volunteer without knowing if he or she had trusted Christ as Savior. Sometimes, however, student leaders are absorbed into the group without any conversation. Even though Emma doesn’t attend your church, she’s Bailey’s good friend. You remember when Bailey trusted Christ in Cubbies and her dad is on the church board. You assume that Emma is also a Christian – she’s been coming to Awana with Bailey off and on for the past year or so. Or, when a group of five freshman ask if they can help, you say “yes,” without checking out that one of them not only doesn’t come to church, but never attended your church Awana program. Student leaders need to know Christ as Savior.
2. Student leaders need to know how to lead a child to Christ. Young kids gravitate toward high school kids. They see them as heroes and want to be like them someday. One of those young, impressionable kids might ask a student leader how to trust Christ as Savior. Student leaders need to know how to answer.
3. Student leaders need to go through training. Yes, some of them have been in Awana since they were Cubbies, but they need leader training the same as any other leader. (Taking them to an AMC conference can be a great way to get it. Or, ask your area missionary for a schedule of area trainings.)
4. Student leaders need to go through the church child protection policy. This is so important. Little kids admire big kids. Little girls get crushes on high school boys. The high school kids gladly let the little kids crawl on their laps or give them piggy-back rides. The high school kids don’t even think about something looking inappropriate to a visiting parent … because it truly isn’t inappropriate. Student leaders need to know that there are standards in place for their protection, the child’s protection and the church’s protection. Even though Brad might carry his six-year-old sister around on his shoulders at home, that’s not something he should be doing with the kids at club. Be gentle, but firm while talking the rules through with the teens.
5. Student leaders need to enjoy working with little children. Just because someone has completed all her Awana books and is now in high school doesn’t mean that she is good (or even likes) little kids. Remind them that they’re there at club for a purpose, not because they want to hang with their friends.
6. Student leaders need to confidently answer basic questions about the handbooks. Most of the time this isn’t too difficult. In fact, sometimes student leaders know more about the handbooks than the adult leaders, because they’ve actually worked through them. (They could answer the adult’s questions!) But make sure this is true and that your teens know the answers or know who to ask to get the answers to handbook questions.
7. Student leaders need to know their specific job in club. Honestly – many teens enjoy working in club because that’s where their friends are. And that’s great! Serving with friends is something that we all enjoy doing. But often, when teens have no specific responsibilities, serving with friends because another opportunity to go off in a corner with friends and get in some screen time or talk about someone’s party. Give your students specific responsibilities.
Student leaders can be a big asset to your club. As Sparks director, I depended on the teens and in many cases, they were more faithful than the adults. One of those student leaders (now in her early 20s) is now the director of the club where I’m serving!