I hold a philosophy of leadership that allows much space for my adult leaders to own and embrace the responsibility of faith formation within the lives of our students. Essentially, I want to create space for my adult leaders to function like youth pastors in the lives of their 3-5 kids.
With each passing week that I serve with my leaders at Wyldlife and Anthem, I am landing all the more on this paradigm for adult leadership in youth ministry. I touched on "the why" part of this subject a couple of weeks ago in my post: "Take Your Head Out of the Sand." It may be helpful for you to read that post first before continuing with this one.
At the end of the day, I cannot do youth ministry by myself, and neither am I equipped to do everything by myself. Moreover, and perhaps most important, the more of the ministry that I release to my volunteers, the more that others, including our students, see the collective body of Jesus living and growing in our community. This in and of itself has compelled me to think deeply about the role of our adult leaders. Are they merely providing a chaperone role? Merely building friendships with students 1 or 2 hours per week? Or, are they youth pastors in their right to the kids and families with whom they serve?
Ideally, I want to suggest the latter. Realistically, however, they live somewhere in the middle.
My challenge (and yours) is defining their role. Personally, I have undergone more than 8 years of educational preparation and training to assume the position Pastor to Students. Granted, others go through far less training, and some churches require less than where I serve. Yet, my personal preparation illustrates the enormous magnitude of what this role could potentially require when serving students and their families. It is a daunting, awesome responsibility.
Unlike the medical or business field, the field of ministry behooves one to give away her or his abilities, knowledge, and resources. One of my seminary professors used to say, "You are receiving a Princeton Theological Seminary education so that the people in your church may receive a Princeton Theological Seminary education! Give it to 'em"
Ideally, yes! Functionally, how?
I want to offer 4 introductory ways to begin the process of shifting your youth ministry paradigm from that of adult leaders as chaperones to adult leaders as equipped and called youth pastors:
1.Give Away the Wins. The quickest and easiest way for a leader to recognize her or his own God-given call is for that leader to experience a profound win with a kid. This should be a no-brainer, for how did you decide to become a youth pastor? You hit home runs with kids and experienced wins. This is how I found my way into youth ministry. Like you, this motivated me to explore the vocation and subsequently go all-in. Let your leaders experience the same thing, and in doing so, you will have a leader for a life and a potential vocational partner.
2.Give Away the Kids. I will say this again and again (because I need to hear it): you cannot do youth ministry by yourself. I have made myself available for 2 kids who desire time with me. And that's it. I do not choose them. I let them choose me. And let's face it, you are not God's sole gift to kids. For me, 2 was not an arbitrary number. There were only 2 kids who wanted time with me. :) But as it turned out, 2 fit my schedule better than 3. Thus, the other kids are up for grabs. We require that every kid who has attended our programs more than a handful of times be associated with a leader, even if they do not return except on rare occasions. Therefore, every kid receives attention from a leader. Every kid is chased. And every leader tends a flock.
3. Give Away Your Time. I have discovered that when I give my time away to equip leaders and build parent partnerships, the return on my time investment exponentially benefits everyone involved, i.e. the kids, the leaders, and the church. It was a step in faith to move toward this direction and paradigm for ministry. Yet, this model of equipping and adult leadership is founded all over Scripture. The initial move away from youth pastor centric youth ministry may jolt the system, especially you, but the yield of faith is the proof in the pudding.
4. Give Away Your Control. …in order to live and lead freely into your call. Giving away your control alleviates stress, regains your focus, and balances your life. ALSO, it embraces the call and humanity of the other person! Shift your focus away from the self-centered benefits and realize that as you give away your control and power to others with whom you trust and have equipped, you actually participate in the life and worth of another individual. This ought to be enough of a reason to realize that your Pastoral responsibility and duty means that you walk alongside of your leaders with open hands… for their sake.
Do this! Give away your ministry and entrust it to those who God has entrusted to you!
QUESTION: How have you equipped your volunteer leaders for the task of youth ministry? Would you consider them youth pastors in their call and service?