Framing Leadership

understanding student ministry leadership

Sometimes, people ask me “What I really do?” They ask sort of tongue in cheek because they know that youth pastors often get asked this question. They (and I) laugh about it and move on. But as I have pondered that question long after the laughter is over, I wonder what I really do? I started out in youth ministry seeing ministry as pretty simple. Hang out with people and love teenagers. That was it. That was the essence of youth ministry. As time went along, this seemed to change and morph into a lot of different things. Administrative duties began to take the place of relational structure and relational tensions had to be managed between other staff members and people that were close to me.

In fact, if I look across the landscape of what I do, I do very little relationship interaction. With my wife, my staff members, and my closest friends, I seem to have a strong relational bond. But with teenagers that I work with, not so much. Instead, I am focused on things like registration, prep time, planning, email (way too much time spent here), passports and trips, communicating with parents, doing my quiet time, inviting people to events, training staff, communicating with staff, service projects, and the list goes on and on. I wonder if you resonate with this list?

The thing is, sometimes I mistake these things that I do for ‘leadership.’ Certainly, most of these things are necessary for leaders to really succeed in ministry. If I wasn’t doing these things, then I would be known as a youth pastor who doesn’t provide any structure and is unwilling to do the ‘hard work’ of administration. I must remember what I was originally called to do in youth ministry. I was called to love and disciple teenagers. That is the call of each of us. When we forget that, we live in a dangerous place where we don’t have the fortitude to say ‘no’ to things that will disrupt our mission. We lose touch with the very people that we are trying to lead. And we are ineffective, regardless of our age, with the very group that God has called us to lead and love.

While I don’t take lightly the call of youth ministry, sometimes I forget what the essence of leading this group really is. I hate that. When I am sitting across from a student in deep pain doing what I was called to do and thinking “Yeah, I’ve heard this a million times. Why don’t you hurry up and share whatever you have to share so that we can be done” I have lost the purpose and mission that God clearly gave me earlier on in ministry. How sick is that? I want desperately to be living the faith out with people that God has placed in my sphere of influence and yet I trade that for an administrative way of life. That’s sick.

I’m not saying that administrative duty is not important. In fact, I think some youth pastors need to take very seriously their administrative duties so that they can keep their job in an administrative organization called ‘the church.’ Youth Pastors that don’t administrate the programs that they lead are often known as ‘lazy.’ It’s something that we must wrap our hands around. But not at the risk of forgetting what God initially called us to with teenagers.

Remember your first call today. Remember who you are here to serve. That is Jesus Christ. And if he called you to love teenagers and lead teenagers, then continue to work out how to do that with all of your energy and strength.

If you would like to dialogue more on this subject, please email me at


About Me, Chris Rollman

Chris Rollman, youth pastor, youth ministry coach & trainerMy name is Chris Rollman. I am married to a wonderful woman, Cassie, and we have two pretty cool kids. Isaiah is a handful but a wonderful handful and Evy is a bundle of joy and alot of fun!

My mission is 1. Lead my family well and 2. Multiply churches that multiply churches to saturate our county with the gospel and reduce the lostness. I am the "Pastor of Church Planting" at West E. Free Church in Wichita, KS.

I grew up in Central Iowa, North of Des Moines in Ankeny, Ia. I realized at a young age that church could be a real dangerous place to be and went through high school going to a solid 'safe' church. But the extreme experiences that I had with church was only mirrored with the extreme experiences that I have and had with God. He seemed distant sometimes and so close other times. I realized that discipleship and following him wasn't about whether it felt good, but whether or not I was consistent and obedient all because I was madly in love with him. I want others to experience this growth in their lives. I want those that don't know Christ to come to know him through the relationships that they have with people that know and follow Jesus!

If you want to contact me, you can email me at or check out my twitter,, or find me on facebook. Looking forward to connecting with you.


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