Ask Rooted: How Do You Train and Empower Lay Leaders in Your Youth Ministry?

It wont be long before we transition from summer camp and mission trips back to the regular pace of the school year in youth ministry. The start of the fall semester provides an opportunity to regroup with our youth ministry teams.

We asked our Rooted writers to share encouragement and practical suggestions for training lay leaders to serve teenagers. We hope their responses will be helpful as you equip your team to share the grace of the gospel with the teenagers of your church!

On Tuesday, July 19 at 1:00 CST well be hosting our next Rooted Webinar on Building a Youth Leader Team.” Panelists Connor Coskery, Terrence Shay, and Syler Thomas will join host Chelsea Erickson to share their experiences and insights about equipping lay leaders in different contexts. There will be an opportunity to brainstorm together as well as time for Q&A with Syler, Terrence, and Connor. We hope youll join us!

Clark Fobes, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church in San Fransisco, CA

When I was a new youth pastor, I was always told to not take just any warm body” who was willing to serve in the youth ministry. I tried as much as possible to heed that advice, but in my context, simply finding a warm body to serve alongside my one-man-show small youth group felt like a near impossible task. After I moved to another church with a youth group ten times the size of my previous one, the task of finding and equipping volunteers felt just as overwhelming to fully staff this monstrous youth ministry. I came to realize that I could take any warm body”— with the caveat that person was humble and teachable enough to go through rigorous training with me and my team.

Since then, Ive taken each youth volunteer team I’ve led through an extensive training packet at the beginning of each school year to prepare them for youth ministry. This training usually occurs over a weekend retreat or a one day intensive in August or September. We cover the vision, mission, and core values of the church and how our youth ministry will implement them. I also talk leaders through a series of studies focused on that years theme, and what I want us to grow in and embody as leaders of the ministry. Finally, I also teach them basic hermeneutics along with Bible Study and teaching skills to help them as they lead and teach throughout the year.

Once the school year begins, Ill revisit those core values and areas of desired growth periodically to evaluate how were doing, and consider how we can continue to grow in them. Since my role as an associate pastor covers multiple areas, I now also encourage and empower my volunteers to lead youth ministry and Bible studies on the weeks I am pulled elsewhere (anywhere from 1-3x per month). The process of training and empowering lay leaders is one Im still growing in, but its one Ive come to find is a vital part of my leadership in ministry.

Kendal Conner, Groups Minister at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City, MO

The number one advice I have for youth ministers in regards to building a volunteer team is this: before you recruit volunteers, you need to know what you are recruiting them for. You must know your own mission, vision, and values so you can recruit volunteers to something, not simply for something. The reality is that your leaders will likely have a greater impact on your students than you ever could, if for no other reason than time spent with them. So how your train leaders matters deeply. It will take time and work on the front end to build a leader pipeline. However, you would much rather have a volunteer need than a volunteer problem. Our volunteers have to be more than just fun, warm bodies. In fact, they even have to be more than simply nice, kind, and present. Our volunteers need to be people we can wholeheartedly trust with stewarding the gospel, grace, and even theology to your students. That is a significant and weighty role.

So how do we train leaders to carry that ministry to our students? Once you have recruited your leaders, here are a few important training them. Be consistent. Be future-focused, not needs driven. As yourself: would my ministry be able to continue if I were not there? If the answer is no, then you do not have a leader problem, but a training problem. Your ministry is as much to your leaders as it is to your students. They are disciples who you are called to raise up. Equip them for the work of the ministry, not just to work for the ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16).

Also, consider what they are sacrificing to serve and find ways to care for their needs. For example, if they are giving up adult Sunday school hour, or the ability to attend service with their family, consider how you can fill those gaps in service to them. Finally, your most effective ministry is to your leaders. So bring your leaders into every opportunity you can, invite them to join you in meetings, at events, in planning sessions—whatever will allow them to be trained in the work of the minister themselves. They are more than warm bodies or busy hands, they are ministers of the gospel, in partnership with you, so bring them in every chance you get!

Dave Wright, Coordinator for Student Ministries in the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina

For a leadership team to be effective and gospel centered, I think it needs four priorities.

Prayer needs to be number one. We are in a battle for the souls and minds of students, and we need God to intervene. Pray first and pray often. Learning to listen is my second priority. We live in an age where this is a lost skill for many. Good listening requires a curious mind. We need to ask good questions. Being listened to is experienced as being loved.

Gospel clarity is a third priority. We need to be able to communicate the gospel in a concise way to others. I placed this behind listening only because we will more likely be heard if we listened first. Finally, our vision for ministry will solidify and guide our teams work. It needs to be explained clearly to all and repeated regularly. It is what sets our team apart from any other teams people may serve on.

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Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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