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Do you build up your youth to be leaders? 

I have always known that the ideal in youth ministry is to identify youth that have potential to be leaders, then to work with them, mentoring them so they can become leaders, not only in youth group, but also in the church.


But… in practice, I and other youth leaders that I work with, often do all the leading ourselves. It is less complicated, isn’t as messy, and takes less time. In the rush of our week, with work, family and other obligations, who has time to involve the youth in actually leading youth group on a Wednesday night. It is just easier to do it yourself.


However, I am convinced that this is one of the reasons young adults are leaving the church after high school. We have made them consumers, they come to youth group and take what we have to offer, but they do not have a stake in youth group or the church. So when youth group is over after high school, so is their interest in church. I know this is a very simplistic version of why young adults are leaving the church, and there are many other reasons, but I am convinced this is a major factor.


In my previous blog I talked about our Classis’ fall retreat for youth. The day before that retreat at Muskoka Woods, 32 youth and 8 leaders attended a day of leadership training for our youth. This is the second year we have done this and it has been hugely successful. One of the reasons it does succeed, is because when we send 5 youth from our church, they have to have a leader go with them. This leader had a day of training 2 weeks previously and was prepared for the day. This leader also had to commit to working with these 5 youth for the next year, building them up in their leadership skills. So far these 5 youth are excited to be part of the leadership team for youth group this year. They meet with the adult leaders to plan the year, help lead small groups, and are in charge of some of the youth group evenings.


A few weeks ago I heard Craig Groeschel speak at the Willow Creek leadership summit. He said, “Do not delegate tasks to youth, which creates followers, bur delegate authority, which creates leaders. “ When you delegate authority, you define the goal for the youth, but not the means to achieve the goal.


So lets spend the time and energy to develop youth that are leaders, not just followers.

  • Are you building up leaders in your groups?
  • What ways have you seen those leaders excel?


Ray, youth can certainly be leaders, with or without our help.   The question is, how will they be good leaders rather than bad leaders?    While giving them authority is necessary, giving them wisdom is even more important.   Helping them to understand how to make decisions that are pleasing to God, rather than decisions and plans that are just pleasing to people, is a good place to start.   Without that focus, it won't matter whether they are leaders or not.   Without that focus, they will simply lead others down the path to perdition, instead of to the glory of God. 

Jack Tacoma on January 2, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

This is great topic  Ray.  The photo with the post shows a welcome sign at the entrance to a dining hall. It reads something like: “Youth Leaders: meet your mentor”. Mentoring builds youth leadership better than almost anything else. It encourages leadership development and maturity. Having been a youth leader, I can clearly and with much fondness remember each one of the adults that took time to coach and mentor me.  God’s desire for good leadership in me may have been crushed without their wise and loving presence.  What a great vision of Christian community-based leadership: wisdom of the mature working with the ideals and energy of the youth.

I am not sure that I agree with John’s implication that youth (more than older leaders) will try to please people more than please God.  My own observation over many years in leadership is that older leaders get this one wrong more than youth do.

Jack, I actually agree with you.  I was not comparing youth to older leaders so much as emphasizing that authority without wisdom will lead to problems.   And yes, I agree that older leaders are also often "people pleasers" rather than "Christ followers".  I am thinking that older leaders were once young, and if they did not learn wisdom earlier, they often do not gain it later.   I think most of our problems with leadership is that we often assume that they can obtain wisdom after they obtain authority.   Sometimes that happens.   But it is better if they learn Godly wisdom first.  

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