Help! I’m a Student Leader | Notes & Review

Posted on August 3, 2013


Doug Fields. Help! I’m a Student Leader: Practical Ideas and Guidance on Leadership. Zondervan/YS, 2005. (138 pages)


Introduction: Read This First!

Are you reading for this leadership trip? Do you consider yourself a student leader? (10)

The truth is, you have the leadership potential I’m talking about if…

  1. You have a relationship with God.
  2. You have a heart and mind open to learning and growing.
  3. You want to help other.
  4. You can handle being challenged.
  5. You want your life to count for something.

Does that describe you?

BEFORE YOU BEGIN CHAPTER ONE. Take a few moments to write down your current definition of student leadership. (11)

Chapter 1: Student Leaders Serve

RADICAL LEADERSHIP. Jesus asked his leaders to…serve. Serve! (15) Clearly, Jesus connected serving to leading. He deepened the definition of leadership when he described himself as a servant rather than a king: (Matthew 20:28) (16)

Jesus didn’t just speak about serving; he modeled it. (16)

Given Jesus’ actions, my definition of leadership would include two key words: serve and influence. Jesus did both. That’s leadership! (17)

SERVE…LIKE JESUS. …I had a lot of students who wanted to be known as leaders…but not many who wanted to serve as leaders. We were learning about the big difference between biblical and worldly leadership. (19)

EVEN ME? The Bible doesn’t present one clear description of what a leader looks like. What God reveals to us about leaders through the Scriptures is full of variety and imperfection. (20)

Don’t be so consumed with your past that you lose sight of what God can do with you now and in the future. (21)

The most likely candidate for leadership is the person who submits his life to God humbly, puts the needs of others before his own needs, and has a genuine desire to serve. Are you willing to do that? (21-22)

DO IT QUIETLY. Don’t serve for the recognition; serve out of obedience to God and allow that service to influence others. (23)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. …seek to honor God with your life. | Remember — leadership isn’t about position, power, or prestige…it’s about serving God and others. (24)

Chapter 2: Student Leaders Serve…in Big Ways

SERVE ‘TIL IT’S OVER. Student leaders need to understand that both the setup and cleanup of an event are very important parts of a ministry program. (27)

When you take the initiative in this area, you’ll breathe life into other leaders — especially the leader in charge. (28)

HEY, NO ONE IS DOING THAT. I value the student leader who serves in unflattering ways without being asked and without begging others to help. (30)

BE A CLIQUE BUSTER, PART ONE. …usually most cliques have a negative influence because others feel excluded. (31)

I challenge you to evaluate your own cliquey-ness before you talk about it with other student leaders. Is there anything you’re able to change about yourself before you begin identifying the faults of others within the youth ministry? (32)

BE A CLIQUE BUSTER, PART TWO. Let’s identify three commitments that will strengthen your existing friendships, help break down cliques, and add to the health of your youth ministry. Be the type of leader who doesn’t just talk about the problem — do something about it! Let me give you some ideas on how to be that kind of leader. (32-33)

Commitment #1: Commit to a regular meeting time when student leaders hang out together.

Commitment #2: Commit to separating from each other.

Commitment #3: Commit to being prepared to answer questions about the youth ministry program.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT. …there will be new students and even regularly attending students who’ll feel alone at different times. As a leader you need to watch for these people. (35)

Typically those on the outside feel uneasy because they want to be part of the action but are too uncomfortable to take the first scary step to do what it takes to connect with others. If you haven’t experienced this feeling, please put yourself in an uncomfortable situation so you can identify with people who feel this way. (35)

DIFFUSE…DON’T FUEL. Frustration is a natural response to chaos. The next time this happens to you, diffuse the situation by deciding to help in a positive way instead of adding fuel to the problems with thoughtless actions. (36)

THE MOTHER OF ALL MINISTRY. “Necessity is the mother of all invention.” | A student leader becomes very helpful when she looks for needs and finds ways to meet them. (38)

You don’t have to be a superhero to make a huge impact in ministry. Often all it takes is becoming aware of needs and finding ways to meet them through serving. (40)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. I want you to understand that big leadership happens through relatively small actions. (40)

Chapter 3: Student Leaders Deepen Their Faith

A discussion of your inner world doesn’t have to be spooky or weird. It’s simply a term that helps describe your spiritual life — your heart, your faith, and your relationship with God. A healthy inner world (spiritual life) is vital to the Christian leader who wants to be used by God. (43)

Think about being God’s person even when you don’t feel like it. (44)

WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT FEELING? …student leaders must learn to grow spiritual on their own. Those three words — on your own — are key to being a student leader who is connected to God and his power. (45)

As a leader, if you’re not careful to monitor and watch the condition of your spiritual life, you’ll become a Christian phony. (45)

Pay special attention to the condition of your spiritual life. But don’t confuse passion with feeling. There will be times in your relationship with God when you may not feel close to him. (46)

To help deepen your passion for God, I encourage you to find another student leader to meet with regularly. (47)

NOW THAT’S ATTRACTIVE. I see nothing attractive about arrogance, and I see clearly the attractiveness of humility. … Humility is a sign of a spiritually mature heart. Humility reveals a heart that has been cared for by the growing leader.

Humility is found in someone who knows God and experiences his unconditional and undeserved love. Humility flows from a confidence in God’s love and acceptance. The humble leader doesn’t need to brag, show off, or convince anyone of his greatness. He’s able to display humility because he’s confident God is in charge, and he’s not. (47-48)

THE FOUNDATION FOR RIGHT CHOICES. Godly choices result in a godly life, and a godly life creates more godly choices! (49)

It’s obvious that God’s Word is given to you and me so we might know right from wrong as a guide to help us live life to its fullest. (50)

YEAH, I’M SERIOUS. A growing faith is crucial for a growing leader. (50)

FUEL FOR YOUR INNER WORLD. …six common spiritual habits…

H – Hang out with God
A – Accountable with another believer
B – Bible memorization
I – Involved with the church body
T – Tithe
S – Study Scripture

I don’t care if you choose these six habits, find 42 new ones, or focus on one…what I challenge you to do is to make sure you develop some faith habits that will help you grow spiritually on your own. (53)

BE READY TO START YOUR OWN CHURCH. …I do want student leaders to be so strong in their faith that when they graduate high school and move on to college, they’ll be spiritually strong enough to start a church if they can’t find one to attend. (53-54)

Remember that the reason to start a church isn’t to give you a platform for your leadership; it’s to give God a platform for his leadership! (54)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. I want you to be a successful leader…but more than that I want you to know God. (56)

Chapter 4: Student Leaders Support Their Ministries and Other Leaders

Doing ministry with others is so much more fun than doing it alone. (60)

SUPPORT THE WHY BEHIND THE WHAT. …knowing the purpose of each program will help you be less of a spectator and more of a leader who can leverage your peer relationships to help fulfill each program’s purpose. (60)

WHEN LEADERSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP COLLIDE. …being a student leader requires you to live by a higher standard. Plus, you’re part of a team, and the actions of leaders should support other leaders. | If you want to be a friend and a leader, you’ll need to draw some clear lines so you and your friends know when it’s time to lead and when it’s time to goof off. (63)

Here are two commitments I suggest you consider making. (63)

Commit to protecting the ministry.
Commit to developing relationships.

If your friends choose to overlook the lonely or the visitors, that’s their opinion. You don’t have that option. (64)

When you’re determined to keep these leadership commitments, you’ll find them guiding you and helping you maintain and perhaps redefine your friendships. (64)

WHEN IT’S BAD…GO POSITIVE. When circumstances get beyond human control, one proof you’re being a good student leader is how you respond to difficult situations. Read the following questions and decide how you might react to each:

  • Are you a team player who’s willing to support a plan you may not agree with?
  • Do you withdraw and secretly hope for others to fail?
  • Do you complain and damage the morale of the group?

I challenge you to always be positive about what’s going on in a program or at an event. (67)

HEY, GOOD JOB…THANK YOU. Encouragement is a powerful leadership tool, and it’s easy to do. Just say, “Thanks.” (68)

  • When you notice something positive about a person’s action, comment on it.
  • Jump in to help.
  • Stop gossip.
  • Speak highly of people behind their backs.
  • Be Dependable.

WHEN YOU DON’T AGREE. Being a leader will bring you some pain. Pain comes with the leadership territory. Conflict and leadership go hand in hand. (69)

As a leader you must learn to face your conflicts and pursue peace. (70)

  1. Why do I think the decision was made?
  2. What positive comments can I make about the decision?
  3. What good might result because of the decision?
  4. What do I hope happens as a result of the decision?
  5. Why do I feel so strongly about the decision?

Now you need to decide how to respond… Here are some options:

  • Accept her decision and support it.
  • Make a list of suggestions and alternatives you believe would improve the decision.
  • Get out of the way.

HOLD ONTO YOUR IDEAS…LOOSELY. …be willing to let them go if they’re not accepted. (73)

Taking a loose-grip approach to your ideas allows your leader to evaluate whether or not the ideas will work with the current vision for the ministry. (73)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. …seek to understand the purpose behind all your youth ministry programs. (73)

Chapter 5: Student Leaders Solve Problems

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. I want you to learn to meet needs without being asked. I want you to learn to meet needs before they whirl out of control. (76)

…in most cases I’d rather you attempt to solve problems and make mistakes than not try at all. (77)

Leaders take ownership for their ministry and look for opportunities to meet needs without running to an adult to solve the problem. (78)

KEEP SHORT ACCOUNTS. There’s no getting around this one. Resolving conflict is part of leadership. (78)

  • Don’t avoid the person.
  • Listen until she’s finished.
  • Don’t attack.
  • End with positive comments.
  • Be careful to avoid division.
  • Go to the source.
  • Walk in his shoes.
  • Seek wise counsel.
  • Speak the truth carefully.

When you keep short accounts… …conflict and its resolution become strengthening factors in your relationships. …you’ll be relieved of the stress that comes form bottling up anger or frustration. …you’ll develop skills needed to handle future disagreements. (82)


  • Before you defend your position…take notes.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Point out similarities.
  • Consider a compromise.

Developing these leadership and conflict-management skills will not only improve your ministry, but will also help you better handle conflict in every area of life…at home, school, work, college, and in your future marriage and career. (84)


  • Dispel the rumor by sharing the truth.
  • Invite the subject of the rumor into the conversation.
  • Change the subject.

The bad news about rumors is that they don’t build others up. … I learned how to deal with rumors the hard way. And here’s what I learned: When in doubt, shut up. (86)

IS THE CONFLICT WORTH IT? …learn when to fight for the biggies and let the little ones go. This decision will require you to beg God for his wisdom. Conflict is everywhere, but not every conflict is worth your time and effort. (88)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. I encourage you to choose to deal with your conflicts in an honest, God-honoring way. Seek to resolve conflict in a face-to-face setting. Don’t rush into resolving the conflict. Withdrawing from the situation gives you time to think. Then you can reengage with the person in a calm manner at a later time. (88)

Chapter 6: Student Leaders Have a Ministry

YOU’RE DEFINITELY UNIQUE! Consider how God’s wired you. (92)

A growing leader is required to discover how uniquely she’s created and to discover how God wants to use her uniqueness to serve him. (92)

BE CONTAGIOUS. Here are some things I’ve learned about trying to get others involved in serving in a ministry:

  1. Usually other people are concerned more about themselves than anything else.
  2. Other people want to belong and feel needed.
  3. Other people are capable of having passion for meeting a need.
  4. Other people don’t want to be tricked or pushed into helping. They’d rather do it because they want to.

THINK GLOBALLY. Because you’re reading this book, I’m assuming you’re richer than about two thirds of the people in the world. Most people will never know what it’s like to be able to buy a book and afford some of the other simple luxuries you’ve grown accustomed to. | Because you have more wealth than most of the world, you have something to offer others. (97)

  • Find a good cause and partner with someone to work for it.
  • Create options for student involvement.
  • Go Global.

MAKE CONTACT. …all student leaders should make it a priority to contact their peers within their youth ministry. (100)

Contacting another person represents concern. … The more personal the contact, the better and the more it will have a lasting impact on the person. (100)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. …I want you to be a student leader who has a ministry. … I hope that behind your ministry there is a desire to serve God based on your unique heart, skills, personality, and the needs you see — big needs and huge needs. (101)

Chapter 7: Student Leaders Focus on Their Own Families

INFLUENCE UP. Upward influence can change your family dynamics over time. When you change who you are at home, you’ll influence your family to change. (104)

Just as I’ve challenged you to serve in the church, I challenge you to serve at home, too. (105)

Changing your behavior at home is difficult because home is the one place where all your faults and failures are on display. (105)

You need to understand that when you commit to be a follower of Christ and serve God as a student leader, many people will be watching how you live your life. (105)

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME.  …when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. (106)

God created you intentionally with limitations. You’re not designed to do everything. (106)

WHEN YOU DON’T AGREE WITH YOUR PARENTS.  Obedience is one of the most powerful ways you can be an upward influence on your parents. (108)

COMMUNICATE THE ESSENTIALS. Try to lessen your parents’ pain by following some of these actions:

  1. Listen to all the announcements at youth group and don’t assume your parents are informed about all church activities.
  2. Take extra calendars and other youth group literature home so both you and your parents have all the information.
  3. Read over the calendar with your parents and discuss which programs and events you’d like to attend. Write them on the family calendar.
  4. Fill out registration forms as soon as they’re available and give them to your parents to sign.
  5. Regularly remind your parents of your schedule and follow up on registration, transportation, and payment issues with them.

DON’T DRAIN THE WALLET. As you become more cost conscious, your youth ministry will become friendlier to families. Make sure you thank your parents regularly for their financial support. Do your part to lower the pressure on their finances by keeping costs down or helping to pay when you can. (112)

SURPRISE YOUR FAMILY…SERVE. Leadership isn’t just about serving people you’re not related to. (112)

If you want a healthy family, develop a servant’s heart toward yours. (113)

FIND A MODEL FAMILY. You’ll be thankful you did. (115)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. Don’t allow your ministry to outrank your family. You’re with your family for a very short amount of time…make the most of it and honor God by honoring them. | I challenge you to write a note to your parents and thank them for soemthing. Express your love for them and your desire to improve your relationship with them (even if it’s already good). (115-116)

Chapter 8: Student Leaders Care about Their Schools


CONNECT WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS. …a word of caution…: While it’s essential to connect with other Christians, don’t join a holy huddle that isolates you from others who aren’t. (119)

PROMOTE SCHOOL ACTIVITIES. Being involved with a campus activity is less about promoting yourself and more about being a positive influence at your school. (121)

MEET THE NEWBIES. Be clear that your motive is simply to welcome new people and not corral them as potential members of your church. (123)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. Find at least one other student leader and begin to pray and dream about what might happen on your campus. (124)

Chapter 9: Student Leaders Develop Other Student Leaders

FIND YOUR TIMOTHY. Some student leaders want to become mentors so they’ll have someone younger to boss around. This never works, and it’s damaging to others to boost your pride and enhance your self-image in this manner. God won’t reward wrong motives. (128)

Mentoring is intended to help another person learn what you have learned. If you’re not growing spiritually or leading honorably, you will not be a credible or respected mentor or leader. (129)

HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR TIMOTHY?  The best approach is to be available and humble. As you open yourself up to helping others, you’ll begin to notice others who are seeking guidance. (129)

MENTORING: HIGH CALLING, LOW ATTITUDE. Don’t view yourself as the teacher. A good mentor recognizes he has not arrived and still has a lot of life to figure out. (130)


ENCOURAGE THEIR JOURNEY. A maturing life is a process…a journey. (134)

Make encouragement part of your leadership arsenal that you pull out occasionally to lovingly nudge a friend toward greater spiritual growth. (134)

A LAST LEADERSHIP THOUGHT AND CHALLENGE. Make a short list of people you can begin to develop intentionally. Pray for them and begin to look for ways you can influence their lives. You’ll be thankful you did, and so will they. (135)

Conclusion: The Last Page(s)

Remember when you started reading the introduction and you wrote down your initial definition of leadership? Well, now it’s time to go back to that page and write your new definition of leadership. then write down some of what you learned about leadership from the book. (137)

Enjoy the wild ride that’s waiting for you!

Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT)

— VIA —

Accessible and simple, filled with plenty of good stories and illustrations, and spot on. Excellent primer for student leaders, with the caveat that it is geared and directed towards those in “a church.” I appreciated very much Fields’ inclusive gender language throughout, and it is an ethic that demands to be commended.

If I were to nitpick, (as I have noted elsewhere in other reviews), the overall view of the Bible as a book that tells us right from wrong — i.e., that it is “instructional” — is this book’s weakness. I’m certain there are better ways to talk about the complexity of the Bible, in the context of good youth ministry, and raise up good leaders at the same time. I’m also persuaded that students (Junior and Senior High) can understand the Bible as a woven tapestry of story, drama, poetry, history, polemic, narrative, etc., and glean powerful and relevant insights into their lives by reading the Bible in that way, on its own terms. I would even argue that the relevance of the Bible becomes even more potent when understood this way.

Regardless, I’m deeply thankful to Fields for his work and legacy, and continue to recommend this book, as well as his other resources to my colleagues and friends who have dedicated their lives to serving our world’s kids, a calling of highest virtue and lowest public praise.