You must have other leaders besides the youth pastor in youth ministry! If you think you can run the whole ministry on your own, you either need to repent from pride or you need to repent from the lack of trusting people.
Youth ministry (and any ministry, for that matter) is a group effort. There is a leader (elder or pastor) and then other leaders that assist in the ministry. These people are invaluable and are needed.
Knowing this, I have scoured youth ministry books for what to look for in youth ministry leaders. There has been a lot writing about “how to train leaders” that are helpful. But in all my looking, I could not find a “what to look for before making someone a leader in youth ministry.” Therefore, I have had to come up with my own list and I want to share it with you.
FYI: this will not be a nicely written and argued blog post, because I am still in process with this. In other words, I am thinking out loud here today, so please bear with me and if you think I have missed any leader qualifications, please comment.
What kind of leaders am I looking for?
- A life that is worth following (1 Tim 4:12; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Thess 1:6).
- Is your commitment to follow the Lord such that, when others see your life, it will encourage them to walk in a manner that will please our Master Jesus Christ?
- NOT: perfection!
- YES: a life that reflects a sincere love for Christ, a dedication to His Word, a love for the church, and an actively growing holy life.
- Matt 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
- Those who have a heart for youth, not just “I can do it.”
- Anyone can “work with” teenagers, just like anyone can babysit.
- I want leaders who will engage. I want leaders who will see the youth of my church as those they love and therefore give them not only the gospel, but also their lives (1 Thess 2:3-8)
- I want them to ask the students questions to get to know them, hang out with them outside of Wednesday nights, go to student’s special events, have lunch with them, meet for coffee, do discipleship 1-on-1, etc.
- Adults who are ordinary, but desire to see God do the extraordinary in the lives of these teenagers (1 Cor 1:26-31)
- Look at the disciples of Jesus. They were a fairly motley crew of people. No real special talents. Not the brightest. Not the elite. But they changed the world through the power of the Holy Spirit working in them (Acts 17:6).
- The disciples made a substantial commitment to whatever Jesus said they were to do and they did it, and God accomplished the extraordinary.
- In other words, it is not the most good-looking or most-talented or most-popular person or best-personality that I want. I want adults who have the desire and commitment to seeing Jesus in my student’s lives.
- Folks that know it is a time commitment.
- Change, real change, takes time. Rarely will much get accomplished in a short period of time, especially when you are working on the souls of teenagers. Therefore, the leaders I want are those who are willing to make the time to disciple and be a part of student’s lives.
- I know only a handful of people who can make an impact on someone with 1-5 interactions. However, I could make a long list of people who have made an impact on people because they made the commitment to spend weeks, and months, and years with people.
- Practically: I ask every youth leader to make a 1-year commitment to youth ministry. During that year, they must be at every youth group time (Sunday morning, Wednesday nights, special events, retreats, camp, leader meetings, etc.), for the purpose of spending time with the students to disciple and be an example. At the end of that year, I get together with that leader and ask if they desire to do another year. If they want to walk, they are free to. Or if there is something wrong in which I need to ask them to step down (sin, pride, etc.), then I have an “out” also because they only signed a year on.
- Those who are teachable.
- Because the elders of my church have made me the leader of youth ministry, I lead. Everyone else follows. Now, I bring in others that will help me lead (e.g., planning activities, Bible studies, music, organizing, counseling, etc.), but I am the leader. Therefore, where I lead, my leaders must follow, even if they think they have a better direction.
- They totally can bring me their ideas or concerns. I hope they do.
- They need to trust me that I have listened to their concerns or feedback and that __________ is the way we are going and then follow and support.
- Furthermore, if they cross the line theologically, they need to be open to correction, or if they are in sin, they need to be humbly rebuked and need to seek repentance and reconciliation.
- Those who are committed to prayer.
- “A prayerless Christian is a contradiction in that if our life is under the control and influence of Christ’s Spirit, we pray to the Father with delightful confidence.”
- Prayer should be a priority in a Christian’s life (Matt 6:5-15, “when you pray …”; 1 Thess 5:16) and it must be one in ministry (1 Tim 6:12). Therefore, I make it an unrelenting priority to pray with my leaders at every meeting we have. Alongside that, I ask the leaders to pray daily for youth ministry and for the students by name. In this way, in order to pray intelligently, the leaders need to know what is going on in the lives of the students.
- I want God to be in absolute control of my ministry and that will only be accomplished through prayer (Eph 6:18). So I keep a close watch on the prayer life of my leaders.
- NOT: perfect prayers
- YES: faithful to pray.
- A Deacon’s life
- A deacon in the church is a leader in the church who serves under the elders and pastors, in order for the elders and pastor to concentrate on prayer and teaching (Acts 6:5). In my estimation, then, all my youth leaders are deacons. And since that is what they are, I look for leaders—men and women—who fit the qualifications of a deacon in 1 Tim 3:8-13.
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 Derek J. Prime & Alistair Begg, On Being A Pastor (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 62.