“We don’t have enough youth leaders”.
Most youth ministries have faced this challenge. It is scary. You need a team of leaders to teach, disciple, love and invest in youth. Programs, camps, and activities take people power. You don’t want to burn out the leaders you have by expecting them to do everything. However, youth ministry is just one of many important ministries in a church and often there are not enough experienced leaders to go around.
The solution is not to ask anybody and everybody to lead youth. Leaders have a very important role in God’s Church and this responsibility comes with high expectations (James 3:1). Every youth leader will affect not only the youth in your church but their parents and other leaders. They represent your church and Christ. You need to carefully choose who will invest in the next generation.
So what is the way forward? Here are my top five tips to help you identify new youth leaders.
Find people you want your youth to model
Identify members of your church—of any age—who are people of integrity, whose faith in Christ is integrated throughout their whole life. The Apostle Paul emphasises character every time he describes Christian leadership. Look for people who love what is good, are upright, holy, disciplined (Titus 1:8). One reason character is so important is that every leader is a powerful model. Your youth will do what they see in their leaders. Recruit leaders who model an integrated, grace-filled, and consistent life of faith. Youth ministry skills can be taught. Find people you want your youth to model.
Look for people with initiative
Identify members of your church who don’t need to be asked to love others. These are the people who move out of their friendship groups after church to meet new people and other church members. They see a need and do it without fuss. They seek out people to pray for. Initiative is a beautiful skill that we often fail to look for. It takes pressure off the youth minister having to see everything. It produces a team who are constantly looking for different ways to serve others. It is a skill we want youth to see and learn as they learn to serve Christ in all spaces of their life.
Look for team players
Youth ministry is not a solo activity. Your youth team, whether it is two people or 20, will be more effective working together than as individuals. The culture and model your team display will directly shape your youth. In looking for new leaders, we need to focus on building a team more than doing tasks. Identify leaders who will complement the team with different personalities, experience and ideas. Avoid leaders who refuse to work with others. Identify leaders who will help other leaders lead. Avoid leaders who are in it for themselves. Build a team of different ages, experience, culture and maturity that understand that together they have the joyful privilege to invest in the next generation.
Look at your youth
Your current youth are your future leaders. Yes, that is scary! They are immature, frustrating, works-in-progress—just like you. However, they know what a blessing your group is. They understand the culture and the values. They are invested. So don’t wait for them to leave youth group before you plant the seed of leadership. Build a leadership culture within your group. Take a risk and give some of your senior youth responsibility alongside younger youth. Offer opportunities for youth to serve each week. Train them in Biblical leadership, equip them to work on their character, open their eyes to service, and encourage them to take risks to help others. Send them on Youthworks Leaders in Training camp, so they can be trained with hundreds of other young Christian leaders. Pray for them and with them to be the future leaders of God’s Church.
Take a risk
Most people are not ready to become leaders. They’re too young, too old, too busy, lack skills, confidence or a myriad of other things. We often don’t start a conversation about youth ministry with people who aren’t yet ready to lead. Take some time to pray for the members of your church. Then choose five people with godly character, who are not ready to lead, but are ready to have a conversation. Then have a clear conversation with them. Share the vision for the ministry and your team. Invite them to pray for the ministry and think about becoming partners. Ponder what support and training they may need. Ponder the parents of your youth. Think about the grandparents. Could you take a risk and have a conversation about whether they may like to be a bigger part in youth ministry? Complete leaders are very rare. Potential leaders may be everywhere in your church.
If you’re interested in talking further about how Youthworks Leaders in Training camp might serve your church, contact Ed Springer in our Ministry Support team.