A couple of weeks ago, I invited my good friend and colleague in ministry, Curtis Zackery, better known as CZ, to speak to my high school students at our weekly gathering called Anthem.
That's him in the above photo! CZ is a highly gifted speaker, hip hop artist, and pastor. Over the course of our short friendship together, he has sharpened me into a better husband, pastor, and thinker. We routinely swap resources and ideas. I value our friendship, and I am grateful for his witness in my life.
During his time with us at Anthem, I realized an important component to student ministry before which I had never considered: the value of a guest speaker.
I once heard that students require at least 5 healthy adult friendships in order to fully embrace and become a Christian. Intuitively, this makes perfect sense.
Students have a greater chance to cling onto church and faith when more adults speak and echo the same good and faithful values of Jesus from Scripture into their life. This core reason alone is why I strive for low student to adult ratios and extend an open invitation for any caring adult to journey with our student ministry.
And now, I am convinced that part of this scheme ought to include inviting other well-equipped adults to speak and share with my students.
I have been mulling over my thoughts about this for the last couple of weeks, and I have compiled 3 reasons why you need to do this. Before I list them, however, let me interject a well-meaning caveat — and one in which I had to wrestle through myself: This only works well when you set aside your ego — your fears and selfish desires — for the sake of your kids hearing another adult share about Jesus. If you can wrangle this aside, then the benefits of a good, high quality guest speaker are exponentially beneficial for your crew.
First, good, clued-in speakers will echo your words and honor your leadership. In the case of my good friend, CZ, he lifted my leadership to the kids and actually echoed verbatim some of my classic sayings and phrasings. In doing so, he honored me, spoke a familiar language to my crew, and ultimately, set himself up for my kids in such a way that they could respond to him. This situation taught me early in my career about the importance of early preparation and well-articulated standards for the speaker.
Second, well-prepared speakers set you up for continued work with your students after they finish. Because I informed CZ ahead of time about some core issues facing our community, he could speak directly to them and set up the other adult leaders and me to respond to them. Moreover, as much as my students value me and my talks, fresh insights awaken and enliven kids (and anyone for that matter) to hear the same things in a new way. Good speakers know this, and want to transfer the spotlight from themselves to the long-term leaders. When interviewing or preparing a speaker to share with your students, be sure to explicitly discuss how to make this transfer in a concrete way.
Last, take advantage of the moment, seize it, and make sure to follow-up. This will ensure the long-term success of your leadership and communicate your collegiality and humility to others, especially your leaders. I must admit: CZ is a better communicator than me. And I felt tempted more than once to make my leadership known to my students and adult leaders by taking control and reminding them of my authority. This would have been extremely detrimental — not only to CZ — but ultimately to me. Your leaders and students know that you are in large and in charge. They do not need to be reminded. Rather, they want to be led through this event and given the opportunity to process it. Leverage the opportunity of a better speaker to share the Gospel with your students and leaders by honoring the speaker, expressing the importance of collegiality and access to the wider Body of Christ, and providing concrete follow-up to your leaders and students.
Seek out good speakers. Share your platform. And chase after other caring adults who will echo the good and faithful words of you and a child's parent for the sake of Jesus Christ.
QUESTION: What has been your experience with guest speakers? What process do you use for finding them and preparing them to speak to your community?