Most churches have a natural hierarchy of top-level responsibilities, spearheaded by the lead pastor or ministry leaders. But all believers should be ready and willing to lead, and it starts with teaching children in the congregation leadership skills.

Research shows that leaders tend to have higher cognitive ability, more self-confidence, and more motivation to drive. Most importantly, however, nurturing leadership qualities in children is a crucial way to support their faith and spiritual growth.

Many parents enroll their kids in sports with the hope of teaching their children valuable lessons about teamwork, positive sportsmanship, and, of course, leadership. However, Sunday school provides a valuable opportunity to teach children these same lessons (and more!) within the context of living a faith-filled life devoted to Jesus Christ.

The kids in your children’s ministry will experience fulfilling spiritual walks when they learn to lead. Let’s explore five ways your ministry can turn children into leaders.

  1. Provide leadership opportunities

Leadership can’t just be observed and encouraged; it must be learned through active participation. Allow children to exercise leadership in small ways through your ministry by identifying opportunities that fit their unique talents and interests. Then, encourage them to explore different leadership opportunities and learn what best suits them.

While the opportunities you offer will differ depending on the age groups represented in your children’s ministry, here are a few easy ways to let kids lead:

  • Prayer: Ask kids to pray for your children’s ministry, perhaps even taking prayer requests from each member. 
  • Group activities: Allow kids to lead their peers in learning during your ministry’s various activities, such as summer Bible school or a Christmas program. 
  • Service projects: Encourage kids to take leadership over age-appropriate service projects, either by serving the community or your church. 

Along with learning how to lead, hands-on experience offers kids the ability to explore their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, a child who leads their peers in designing handwritten church fundraising letters may discover that they dislike overseeing the design and would rather take part in passing the cards out. Provide a variety of leadership opportunities so that kids can experiment with different roles. 

  1. Encourage collaboration and teamwork

Rather than thinking of leadership as the selection of one leader, teach kids that leading is a team effort. Just as your church has different leaders for its various ministries, kids will need to work with others in every aspect of their lives to achieve their goals. 

Facilitate opportunities for them to practice working together in leadership roles, using the following strategies to encourage collaboration:

  • Create group activities and projects. Organize projects that require kids to work together toward a common goal. Then, explain how they can practice communication and cooperation as they complete the activity.
  • Delegate roles and responsibilities. Use what you know about kids’ talents and strengths to delegate responsibilities appropriately. Then, show kids how all their unique talents and strengths work together to accomplish something big. 
  • Encourage active listening. As you encourage kids to see the value in their peers’ skills and talents, explain the importance of open-mindedness and welcoming others’ ideas. By teaching kids to actively listen to one another, you’ll equip them to be more inclusive and to share Christ-like love.

According to Double the Donation, people who apply their unique skills to their roles bring innovative ideas and fresh perspectives with them. In other words, practicing teamwork is an opportunity to teach kids about the importance of collaboration with others. After all, they’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. The language of Christ-like leadership is love.

  1. Teach communication skills

Leadership requires the ability to not only work with peers but to also navigate relationships with others and solve any conflicts that may arise. Kids should be equipped to communicate for the sake of building relationships with like-minded believers, ministering to the unchurched, and leading well. 

Teach communication skills by:

  • Encouraging kids to invite others to visit their church
  • Modeling effective communication in your teaching
  • Offering public speaking opportunities within your children’s ministry or church
  • Practicing conflict resolution scenarios that are relevant to your ministry

According to Wonder Ink, children’s church curriculum should facilitate relationships between the kids in your ministry and parents, peers, and ministry volunteers. This means communicating well with others and being willing to further those relationships.

Be sure to choose a curriculum for your ministry that teaches the importance of relationships with like-minded believers. This will build a foundation for encouraging kids to communicate well with others. When they understand the importance of a Christ-centered community, they’ll be more likely to deepen their relationships with others in the church.

  1. Offer mentorship and guidance

Learning to lead in a way that exemplifies Christ takes more than just one life-changing sermon. Kids should see a positive example of leadership in your children’s ministry to understand what it looks like in practice. 

Equip your children’s ministry volunteers to be role models for the kids in your group, demonstrating the leadership qualities you teach. Establish trusted relationships in which kids feel safe asking for advice, then offer guidance for kids as they exercise leadership in the opportunities you provide. 

  1. Position service at the heart of leadership

The most accurate way to teach leadership is by explaining it from a biblical perspective. And while leadership may seem like an opportunity to wield power, the Bible tells us that it’s actually about serving others. 

Teach kids the importance of serving others, using Bible verses to demonstrate what leadership should look like. If your curriculum has a biblical focus, you may already have the resources to teach leadership from Scripture. If you’re deciding which Bible verses to use to guide these conversations, here are a few verses to help you get started (from the ESV):

  • Matthew 20:26a: “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,”
  • Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

The ultimate example of leadership was Jesus. Use his story to not only show kids how they should approach leadership, but also remind them of the leader they should always follow.

Parents are constantly in search of resources for their kids that teach valuable lessons and further their development. At the end of the day, the best place to look is within the church! As a children’s ministry leader, it’s your responsibility to provide the teaching needed to develop vital skills from a biblical perspective.