Part of my job is to read youth ministry books. Some are good, others are… well, the author’s mothers are proud. One thing I find in the books that come south of the 49th Parallel is some wisdom on “how to get volunteers for your youth ministry.”
Now I don’t want to knock my brothers and sisters from the lower part of the continent, but they tend to operate out of a paradigm that is just not… how do I say this… real. Sometimes it seems like it is assumed that every church is big (they aren’t) and every church has at least 30+ youth (they don’t). When it comes to getting volunteers we are told to “have the prospective volunteer fill out an application and then set a time for an interview.”
Now I’ve worked in a big church but I’ve never done business like this. Fill out a form? Have an interview? I’m wondering if we have made the whole finding volunteers, youth leaders a little bit more complicated than it really is. Finding leaders or, for many of us, developing leaders is one of our primary tasks in youth ministry.
Need#1 = maturity
The first thing the wise youth leader must do is to understand exactly what they are hoping for when it comes to developing a leadership team. What you aim for is what you’ll hit etc.. So, my first bit of advice is pretty straightforward: you want leaders who are disciples of Jesus. These disciples of Jesus will set their hearts on helping you to make disciples of Jesus (see 1 Cor. 11:1 & Phil. 4:9). Now I realize that what I’ve just said is pretty basic but… you know what? In my experience many of our churches are so desperate for leaders that they put people into leadership positions that aren’t mature disciples. It’s like that children’s soccer team that doesn’t have a coach. After finally realizing that no one is going to do it, a father says, “Heck, I’ve never played soccer but it can’t be all that difficult.” This type of thinking will doom any youth ministry. Find mature Christians. If you can’t find mature Christians the goal of your youth ministry is for you to personally spend your time ministering to a small group of people and take them to maturity. Then, presto, you have some mature leaders to help you minister to others.
Need #2= instinct
Your goal is to develop leaders that can disciple others “intuitively.” They are so in tuned with what you are doing that they merely take the reins and keep doing to others what you have done to them. Remember the words of Paul to Timothy, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it…” (2 Tim 3:14). Timothy knew the scriptures and was wise for salvation because he knew deeply those who taught him these scriptures. Timothy’s knowledge was ‘second nature’ to him.
This is our goal in ministry—to develop people who’s ‘second nature’ is to teach God’s word and to do it well.
Need #3= imitation
I want to give you the most simple way to make leaders: be like me! You find this in 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” You also read it in Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” The simplest form of leadership is to raise up a generation of youth who follow you. Now I know what you are thinking, “Follow me!?! No way… you don’t know me like I know me!” This is true, and I’m thankful for that… but you are wrong. You are, most likely, worthy to be imitated by someone much younger than yourself. Don’t let the Devil fool you into thinking otherwise.
With these three things in mind, put away the formal interview sheets and raise up an army of youth who will soon grow up to become that leadership team you are so desperate for. Godspeed!