by Neil Christians
What is youth leadership? Well, first of all, let’s make sure we define what youth leadership is NOT.
• Youth Leadership is NOT Discipleship. Some define youth leadership as being active in Bible study or doing a leadership-training program. While these are both great, the youth involved are not really leading, they are learning.
• Youth Leadership is NOT Service. Having youth sing in the praise team or turn some dials on the sound system is not leadership. This is serving in a role at church. Youth know when they are truly valued as leaders and when they are being seen as helpers.
So, if it’s not discipleship or being in a service role, what is youth leadership? If we want to be serious about youth leadership, we must have enough faith to let go of control. We must have faith that God has gifted these individuals for ministry. We must have faith that everyone can grow as a leader.
Here is our best thinking on what it takes to grow youth leaders.
• Training. One foundational piece of growing leaders of any age is training. Some church leaders say they have difficulty finding volunteers yet never offer training for volunteer roles. We cannot ask people to volunteer or to lead without providing them training in how to be successful. You can learn more about how to train others using the Leadership Pipeline and the Leadership Square on our Camp Hope Ministries website.
• A Clear Task. If we want youth leaders to be successful, we must be clear about what our expectations are. What specifically is it we want them to accomplish? Without a clear destination, they will wander aimlessly in the desert.
• Permission. Youth leaders must have the freedom to lead in their own way as well as the freedom to be creative in using their own ideas to accomplish the task at hand.
• Decision Making Power. In order to be a leader, one must have the power to make decisions. Youth must be empowered to try a different game if one isn’t working for their group. They must have the power to teach younger children responsible behavior. They must have the power to choose their own images for the pastor’s PowerPoint presentation.
• Practical Application. Everyone needs to be able to put into practice what he or she has learned. In order to grow as a leader, youth need a practical way to put into action what they have learned.
• A Mentor. Everyone needs a mentor to guide, encourage and evaluate him or her as a leader. Check out this resource about being a mentor and starting a mentor ministry.
This is what Camp Hope Ministries has learned over our 25 years of ministry. This is our best thinking about what it means to grow youth leaders. Youth leadership is much more than just a summer program or a one-time retreat. It is a congregational commitment to invest in our young people and partner with them in ministry as full members of the body of Christ.
But don’t just take our word for it. Listen to the youth leaders themselves
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