The Face of Youth Ministry | Volunteer Leader Roles

She doesn’t look like brown hair and green eyes.
He could have blonde or black or blue hair. Her eyes could be hazel, blue, yellow, or purple.

They don’t sound like a girl.
They may sound like one sometimes but not always.

He doesn’t come from wealth.
Although she might.

She doesn’t speak English.
But sometimes he does.

They aren’t married yet.
And often they are.

He doesn’t have 1 youth ministry conference lanyard.
She might have 37.

What does a youth minister look like?
Over the years I’ve had the tendency to lean in a specific direction when looking for youth ministry leaders. I outwardly denied such a habit but it existed.

I was misguided as I narrowed my focus. Looking for college age students and young adults who looked like me to help me run the ministry.

What I want now are people of differing ages who don’t always look like me and I want to support them as they share the ministry.

I’m a believer that youth ministry leadership should seek to be as diverse as those we seek to reach with the love of Jesus.

As a mosaic of ministry leaders comes together, the ministry gains depth and perspective, color and value, mutuality and equality. We encompass the investment with owndership and care. Each of them, whether they are experienced educated extroverted esteemed...or not...are deeply vested. ALL are interested.

When leaders like this are interested in our ministry. We give them a short application to fill out and then we meet up. We get to know each other. We run a background check but we rely more on relational intelligence and cultural IQ to help guide our assessments. We pray a lot over each other.

We look for the part of the mosaic that would be strengthened by the addition. We look for the place in the ministry where the leader would shine most vividly. We look at their personality and their abilities, their heart and their habits and we do our best to create places where these things can grow.

When asked what our leaders do, I’d answer:

They…pray, listen, cry, laugh, snort, entertain, experience, invest, mourn, celebrate, transmit, teach, overnight, caffeinate, serve, ask questions, lead, imagine, create, animate, step us, take risks, try new things…and more.

In youth ministry, some leaders have multiple roles (and multiple personalities). Some are very specific in their time investment and roles. Still others are free spirits and change roles as they grow and change.

That’s why we don’t give leaders labels. We give them goals and as they work on those goals, roles tend to rise to the top.

Here are some of the roles that we identify as leaders begin to serve in our youth ministry. Many leaders serve in multiple roles.
Most serve on Sunday mornings or on Wednesday nights.
Many journey with us on events or for one time program opportunities.
Some are with us always, they never stop thinking about how we can get better, connect more often, support parents, cheer for healthy friendships, and how teenagers can developing a lasting faith in God, and have more fun.

The level of involvement is leader led. They decide when to shift into another gear. Even when we advise that it’s time to shift up or shift down, they have a big say in that.

I may be missing a few roles and I have a lot to add to each description, but it’s a good start! Each role is different yet simultaneously communal in purpose. Your role may be making sure the game leader has a trash can. It may not seem like much. But it’s perfect and worth it. Your role may be in the quiet spaces, listening. It’s perfect and worth it. Your role may be on the floor hashing out the Bible with teenagers who smell like beef jerky and five different levels of fruity goodness. It’s perfect and it’s worth it.

After reading this, maybe you’ll feel inspired to talk to your youth leader at your church and dive in--somewhere, doing something. Maybe you’ll see your youth ministry differently. Or you’ll reorganize. Some will say, yay, right on and keep on!

What do you say? How do volunteer leaders develop and grow in your ministry?