In student ministry we focus a lot on “what”. A what is a program, event, curriculum or a whole host of other things that we use in ministry. We also focus a lot on “how”. A how is a strategy to achieve a what. How are we going to reach this campus? How do we recruit and keep leaders? Most of the time our what determines our how. We have to have small groups (what), so how do we get leaders to lead them? 

The question that most gets left out of our leadership discussion is not what or how, but WHY. The leadership lesson I’m learning right now is that my why is so vitally important to everything I do.

Simon Sinek, from a Ted Talk in 2009 said “People don’t buy your what, they buy your why.”

One of the most crucial roles of anyone in leadership (whether leading a ministry or a small group) is to remind others constantly of the why. When people lose sight of the why, they lose focus and motivation. The tasks before them seem meaningless. The extra work doesn’t seem worth it. But if your why is compelling then people will follow you, even when it’s hard.

There is a real difference between leading with your what and leading with your why. Here’s an example:

Recruiting leaders through your what:

“We have an 8th grade girls’ group that really needs a leader. Would you pray about joining our team?”

Recruiting leaders through your why:

“I’m convinced that the best way for a teen to experience a relationship with Jesus is by having a relationship with an older Christian who loves them like Jesus does. I’m looking for other people who think the same way to invest in the teens in our church.”

One approach gets someone to sign up for a task (leading a small group), the other compels someone to join a cause. When life gets busy, which leader is more likely to stick around? It’s the person who joins a cause because of a compelling why.

So what is my why in student ministry? It’s this: “Teens matter to God.” (I didn’t say it was eloquent). This why informs how I do everything. It gives me a reason to ask people to join our leadership team. It gives me a reason to be the best communicator I can be. It gives me a reason to help other student ministry leaders become the best they be. If ALL teens matter to God then that means I’ve got to do whatever I can to get as many adults as possible in on the mission of student ministry.

So, what about you? What is your why? Do your leaders and students know what it is? How are you going to communicate that this week? Knowing and communicating your WHY will take your leadership to the next level.