09 Jun, 2015 Chapter 4


(A process for selecting, approaching and caring for young leaders)

An entire book could be written on this, but, as this is only one area we want to cover in this book, this will be simple.

Every ministry needs a continuous renewal of leaders.  We have already discussed in the previous chapter how we select new leaders. The following describes in further detail how we screen, equip and prepare them so that they will succeed in their roles.

I note that, in my context, the majority of new leaders we need to raise each year are for our Cell Group (small group) ministry, though we do need new leaders to fill the ‘holes’ where leaders have left for other ministries such as worship, welcome, web, outreach, etc.  I also recognise that I cannot know all of our youth, and thus the systems mentioned below are all about helping me identify the kind of future leaders I am happy with, when I may not actually know them at all.  My current leaders, however, do know them – so we will elaborate on how to work with those leaders to select and screen the possible future leaders. As with previous chapters, please freely contextualise the principles to your situation.

New leaders are much easier to raise up if they have first been groomed in roles of lesser responsibility

(1) Identifying potential new leaders

As already mentioned I meet with key leaders in July each year specifically to do this. I uphold the standard desired (a certain level of spiritual and emotional maturity, and a proven track record), but depend on my leaders’ assessments of the youth, as I cannot know them all.

New leaders are much easier to raise up if they have first been groomed in roles of lesser responsibility.  In our small groups, we encourage our leaders to establish ‘core teams’.  This is a way of involving their members in leadership roles such as organising outings, facilitating prayer, planning and leading worship sessions, etc.  Creating such roles for youth to be involved in is certainly helpful when it comes to identifying exactly who you will raise up for the more key roles in leadership.  Some other ways younger ones can be ‘groomed’ are through giving them small leadership roles in other ministry teams, or through co-leadership roles in small planning committees for events.  Through these involvements, we can observe their faithfulness in service, and potential for greater responsibilities.

The application process, while simple, is important, for it helps them recognise the seriousness and the responsibilities of spiritual leadership

(2) Approaching the potential leader to gauge their interest

Our leaders approach the potential leader to communicate three things:

1. the role they are being invited to consider,

2. the process involved in applying to serve in that role, and

3. whether they are open to / interested in the role.

(3) If they are interested, we then start them in the application process

The application process, while simple, is important, for it helps them recognise the seriousness and the responsibilities of spiritual leadership.

(a) They receive a letter of invitation, explaining what is involved (Attachment ’04 – New Leaders Invitation Letter’ in the Kick-start Resource CD)

(b) They fill out an application form (Attachment ’04 – New Leaders Application Form’ in the Kick-start resource CD)

(c) They read (and need to agree to) the ‘Leadership Expectations’ document, which explains what is expected of leaders in terms of commitment and character (Attachment ’04 – Leadership Expectations document’ in the Kick-start resource CD).

There is no other ministry in the entire Church that has the same challenge in its leadership development as a youth ministry does

(d) I, or my staff, then meet with them personally to discuss any matters arising from their application form, to check their parents have been consulted and approve of their involvement, to check they really have read and can agree to the ‘leadership expectations’ document, and to then affirm and encourage them that we believe in their potential and that God will help them in this important role in ministry.  This interview is also important for me, as I may not know the particular new leader very well.  I therefore want to establish personal relationship with them, as I’ll be working more closely with them in the next few years.

(Please note that, for us, we do not allow any youth to serve in a leadership position without their parents’ permission)

I would like to make special reiteration of the ‘Leadership Expectations’ document.  This has played an important role in helping to ‘screen out’ those who are not up to, or ready for, the necessary commitments and standards needed in spiritual leadership.  It has also proved to be a useful document in encouraging some to step down from leadership when we noticed spiritual lethargy or compromise in their lives.  Having a clear definition of what is expected of leaders can be very useful in an otherwise tricky situation.

(4) The new Cell Leaders attend a one session leaders training

The training session (four hours) functions to give them basic skills and perspectives, before they navigate the deep waters, with God as their help!
The training of Cell Group Leaders will be addressed in the next chapter, including reference to some of my own training in the Kick-start Resource CD, which you could take and adapt for your own use. While we do a one session new leader training, we have found it beneficial for most of our training to be done through our existing monthly meetings, rather than ‘extra-curricular’ training seminars.  This ongoing training will be discussed later.

The need for diligence

It is important to always be diligent in the raising of new leaders.  There is no other ministry in the entire Church that has the same challenge in its leadership development as a youth ministry does. Leaders in other ministries usually arrive with some basic leadership experience (because they are then older).  Youth ministry leaders do not.  And, by the very nature of becoming young adults, many of our leaders will leave within three to five years because they desire to be with their own peers. They are – in truth – very much still teenagers themselves.  Our new leaders too, by the very nature of being young, will need to be grown almost from scratch to become competent in every area of leadership.  Such leadership development is hard but important work, for the health of the youth ministry depends on it.
As we will discuss young adult ministry later on, we note here that this challenge of raising leaders from absolute scratch will be significantly alleviated by the time we come to tertiary young adults ministry.  By natural maturation, many who showed no leadership ability at all at 16 or 18 years old will begin to demonstrate not only natural leadership intuition and ability, but also interest in serving.  Leadership teams made up of young adults are comparatively a pleasure to lead, for at that age they more easily comprehend what is taught, engage with it verbally, and apply it much more competently.  Youth Pastors, be encouraged! You are raising brand new leaders.
You are AMAZING!

The dream

The dream, then, is to keep as many of our older leaders in the youth ministry for as long as possible!  Their maturity will be a great strength to the youth ministry, and also a great support to the youth pastor.

Keeping young adults serving in a youth ministry is a challenge.  There are many factors that lead to their attrition, including

(i) the faster pace of youth ministry (its tiring work),

(ii) the sacrifice involved in selflessly building relationships with ‘young kids’,

(iii) the competing desire within them to be with their own peers (for they are not much more than teenagers themselves), and

(iv) the pressures of their tertiary studies.

Keep on going, Youth Pastor. Your efforts in raising new leaders, year after year, are not in vain.  God sees what you do, and He is raising up leadership through you who will accomplish truly great things for God with their lives.

Something to reflect upon

1. Who can you get to help you choose leaders?

2. How high a standard are you looking at for a leader in terms of their spirituality and emotional maturity, and skill set?

3. What new leaders might you need in six months’ time?

4. Who could you consider approaching and preparing now for these roles?

5. What ‘application processes’ might you employ in approaching them, and for what purpose?

Previous Article
Next Article