Find the RIGHT leaders for your youth ministry
...plus 8 ways to look after your youth leaders.
In the first article in this series, we looked at the 3 options for starting a youth ministry and suggested that the best youth ministry is not primarily about "entertainment" or "social services", but rather it is Bible-focused.
The aims of a Bible Focus type of youth ministry are:
- To teach and study the Bible
- Be a Christian community
- Live out the values of Jesus
- Engage real life with real Jesus
- Be a counter-cultural experience (a glimpse of heaven, even!)
Why be Bible-focused?
You do this type of youth ministry because: you want kids to know and trust Jesus and adopt his values, you believe this can only happen by God’s Word, and you want kids to “do life” with Jesus.
Your first step then is to recruit some leaders who can commit to sharing the Bible with passion and creativity and do not doubt that the Word of God is powerful to change lives. You really need to start with a good group of committed leaders – this is crucial! When choosing leaders, remember that “youth leader” does NOT mean “young leader”. In fact, the Christians in your church who are post-kid age (probably in their 40s and over) are possibly your best leaders. They don’t need to be “young and hip” (their out-of-touch character probably makes them cooler). Your older leaders will provide stability, experience, Christian maturity and a wealth of perspective on young people – especially if they’ve already raised their own!
Make sure you give your prospective leaders clear expectations of what being a youth leader involves. Click here for an example.
Value your leaders highly
Youth leaders are the engine room of any youth ministry large or small, be it of 6 young people or 600. The value of unity and sustainability in your youth leadership team cannot be underestimated. You want a team of leaders that works together, loves each other, is committed to each other and can sustain an enjoyment of youth ministry that will last the next 20 years. The average turnover for a youth minister or leader is something like 2 years and you must wonder what the damage of that inconsistency causes. A lesson worth knowing is that even the most average youth minister/leader can do extraordinary things over enough time (or extraordinary damage with the wrong foundations!) so choose the right leaders and hang on to them for the long haul. A stint of 6 years - seeing a group of new high schoolers (grade 7) through to the end (grade 12) - should be the bare minimum.
8 ways to look after your youth leaders
Here's a few tips to help look after and sustain your leaders for the long-term:
1. Design a “basic overview” year program so your leaders know what’s happening and when. (The program is not just about what’s on and when, but more about planning what you’ll be teaching throughout the year. Here are some teaching plans I’ve used)
2. Keep their role clear (i.e. keep to the “leaders' expectations” document).
3. Each term, give them a current term program that is more specific than the year program. Here are some examples. If you use the resources on this site, then putting together the term program doesn’t have to be a committee process (tedious!), because each week you do at least 5 of the same things:
- Interactive Bible teaching
- Prayer time
- Sharing time
- An activity that helps them know God or their peers better (or both!)
You just do these same things in different ways each week. In that way, the program has the safety of familiarity and the excitement of the unknown by being predictably unpredictable for your young people. So just do the term program yourself or nominate 1 person on your team to do the term program for everyone.
4. Schedule leader’s meetings often enough that you are able to keep good communication but not so often that they become meaningless and burdensome.
5. Plan the agenda of your meetings so they stay on track and don’t go overtime.
6. Train them and/or be trained together.
7. As far as you are able, don’t schedule things in the holidays. Give your leaders 2 weeks rest each term.
8. Do some social things together. Have dinner, watch a movie, a live-in for a week, a retreat, whatever…
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