Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
— 1 Corinthians 11:1
Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.
— Exodus 18:17-21

If you have been in youth ministry longer than 10 minutes you have felt the temptation to be the SUPERMAN youth pastor.  By that, I mean, the pastor that does it all and gets it all done.  After all, you want to work hard to earn the respect of your Pastor, Parents, and Church Board, and furthermore, we all want to substantiate (and hopefully increase) our salary.  Now listen, I’m a firm believer in working hard and putting in an honest days work.  Most youth pastors work well over 40 hours a week (not including the part time youth pastors who work a full time secular job) and we all know the ever-lurking “crisis” never happens at an opportune time.  However, if you are going to be effective in reaching students, last longer than 6 months in ministry, and be a Biblical leader, you must develop a team.  Here is a “Top Ten” things I have learned over the years.

1.    THERE IS NO PERFECT LEADER:  The perfect youth leader would be, in my opinion, a young married couple that loves the Lord and students.  They have the accountability of marriage but have time because they don’t have kids.  The problem, they will most likely have kids or get a promotion requiring more time.  College kids are great because they have lots of time and energy but they can be very flaky, want to date the kids they are leading, and not always have the best life experience.  Parents can be there only to “hover” over their students and are not always the most “relevant.”  So what do you do?  You use all of them.  I would never overlook a parent, a college student, or a young family.  I have great leaders in each category.

2.    YOU DRIVE YOUR CAR BETTER THAN A RENTAL:  This is an extension of point number 1 but I think it is worth repeating.  If you are like me, when you drive a rental car you don’t quite drive it or take care of it like your own car…especially if you buy the extra insurance.  My point?  Parents of the students have much more buy in than other leaders because their child’s eternal destiny is at stake.  Yes, you have to make sure you are not dealing with a helicopter parent.  However, I cringe when I hear a youth ministry has a blanket policy of no parents.  Many, if not most of my leaders are parents. In some cases they are the only example of a healthy God-honoring marriage some of my students see.  Don’t discount parents.

3.    HAVE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP:  Not everyone is meant to be a Navy Seal, some people are simply a part of the Army.  In the same way, if you only have one level of leadership you might detract quality volunteers.  For example, we have some leaders who simply help with security, check-in, or special events.  They are quality and they are helpful.  We have “workers” and “leaders.”  This gives some leaders an on-ramp to getting involved in your ministry.  One lady simply takes my son to the nursery and picks him up so my wife and I can be with the students.  That is a HUGE help.

4.    CAST BURDEN AND VISION:  Vision, Mission, and Strategy are all so important.  However, those mean nothing if a youth leader does not have a burden to help students.  I believe this is something you want to look for in a leader and something you need to share.  Your leaders need to see, feel, and hear your burden to help people.  Ministry is not a job, it’s a calling.  Let your team see, hear, and feel your burden.

5.    TAKE CARE OF WHO YOU HAVE:  I believe the parable of the talents is so true when and pertains so much to leadership teams.  If you are not preparing and equipping the leaders you have, God will not give you more.  However, when you do, leaders will come out of nowhere.  Have regular meetings with your leaders.  Equip them.  Share your heart. Teach them how.  Prepare them.  Stand behind them.  Celebrate wins.  If you do this you will have a successful team.  Your current leaders are the best recruiters you have for more leaders!

6.    INVESTIGATE WHAT YOU DELEGATE:  When you delegate authority check in to make sure its all going okay.  Often times we set it all in motion and don’t look back.  You need quality control and you need to be able to catch  your leaders doing well.

7.    TURN ON YOUR BLINKER:  Its so frustrating when someone in front of you turns without putting on their blinker; in fact, its easy to crash into them.  When you are leading through a change, turn on your blinker.  You might have heard from God, but your leaders are hearing from you, and you are not God!  Tell your influencers first.  Then tell others.  By the time you get to your meeting to announce it, almost everyone should have already heard your heart and heard from you.

8.    TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEADER’S KIDS:  The students of my leaders (for those that have students in our ministry) are a top priority to me.  If an adult is going to serve many kids, I am going to do my best to do all I can to help their student be healthy.

9.    ASK THE QUESTION:  The most important questions is, “Do I want students in my student ministry to act like this leader?”  If not, don’t have them on your team or at least address the situation.  A leader will reproduce who they are.  Someone will be influenced.

10. FIND A RHYTHM:  I think most of us under-estimate the long term and over-estimate the short term.  The best leader you can have is a healthy leader and nothing beats longevity.  So build your leadership for the long haul.  Be realistic about expectations, requirements, and events.  Leadership meetings every Sunday is probably over kill.  For us small groups every Monday night, on top of everything else we did, looked great in an annual report but was killing our leaders; so, we adjusted. Think about it, not only are we working with volunteers, but we expect them to pay 10% when they show up.  You have to pace your time.

Ryan Summers has been on staff at the The Bridge in Mustang, OK for 8 years.  For the first 5 years he was the middle school Pastor and is now the Student Pastor, overseeing the high school and middle school ministry.  Ryan has been married to his love,Sarah, for 9 years.  Their son Cooper is 3 and they are expecting their second child this fall. 

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