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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
is the greeter team. This is the curbside. This is the new student
registration station. This is the one sitting in the room with the
teens. This is the one connecting with other leaders as they arrive,
giving them the low down, cheering them on at the starting line. This is
the one that has no problem playing four square or talking to parents.
Many times the connectors are high school students who begin to feel a
passion to love middle school students!
is the round up crew. The people movers. The ones who watch out for
things I’ve asked them to watch out for. Their eyes are wide open. They
are resourceful. They are trouble shooters. They are value givers and
assimilators. Motivators can amplify messages, stories, announcements.
They are contagious.
bring the fun. They join the fun. They facilitate the fun. Sometimes
our gamers are teachers because they’re so great at commanding
attention, giving instructions, and participating with students.
Sometimes our players are more free spirited, wild and “all-in”. We need
all types of players on our team.
are bringing us together, give us instruction, lead us. They are
pastors, they are worship leaders, they are artists and writers. They
are the support who sends emails and texts. Another layer are the
students themselves who share, post, tag, like, and tweet the message we
are trying to send.
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.
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?