Ways to Encourage Youth Leadership
How to Create a Leadership Culture
When we say creating a leadership culture we do not mean students don’t need you or other adult leaders. A leadership culture simply means students are taking accountability for their involvement in the youth ministry and the spiritual growth of others. All youth pastors have seen how powerfully the Lord moves when a student encourages or challenges their peers. There is a unique role youth have in each other's lives and we must be wise about how to best use and encourage this role.
Start Small: Sharing from the front or helping with worship team can feel very intimidating for some students, while others may be too excited to be the center of attention. Small jobs like set-up, break down, or serving meals can be a great place to start. This will start to create a culture of accountability for what happens at the youth gatherings and also set the tone for leadership being an act of service before anything else.
Be Quick To Encourage: Whether it is cleaning up or leading a small group your approval and appreciation will mean the world to students. Being intentional about encouraging often will also trickle down in the ministry as the student leaders will be quick to encourage those they are leading as well.
Give Mentorship Opportunities: You probably don’t have time to mentor every student leader consistently and even if you have lots of volunteers the need is probably still too great. Consider giving mentorship opportunities instead of stretching yourself and volunteers to mentor students, simply have students come alongside in the ways you are already leading. Have a high school girl join with the volunteer leading the middle school girls small group, this can give them valuable experience and make the student feel comfortable before asking them to lead something on their own. You can also ask a student to help you give a message or meet with you to plan and lead an event. This is work you are going to do no matter what, it can be helpful to include a potential student leader.
Trust Them: The moment when you give a student the reins to something seemingly more important can be pretty scary. The temptation can be to micromanage to ensure everything gets done exactly the way you want. However, as anyone can attest, mistakes are usually the best teachers. Once you allow a student to lead it can be most helpful to let them run with their new role, of course checking in to help and offer suggestions will be necessary; but giving them the freedom to learn and make a few mistakes can be one of the best ways to develop a culture of leadership.
As you move toward more student leadership be encouraged, this can be a long-term goal that you may not see fruit from. However, know that as you are developing a culture of leadership you are preparing students to lead not only in the youth ministry but for the rest of their lives. Even if you don’t get the satisfaction of seeing a youth step into a role in leadership and impact the lives of their fellow students you can trust that the foundation you have laid in their life will produce fruit. You are helping them to become leaders that will make impacts in their neighborhoods and workplaces for years to come. That is why creating a culture of leadership is so important in youth ministry.