We’ve all heard of, or seen, examples of youth leader burn-out. If we hope to reach the current generation of young people, leaders that last the distance are an absolute necessity. Quite simply, it takes time to build the trust that leads to effective ministry. If your church follows these 7 practices, it will be a significant step towards developing sustainable youth ministry and leader longevity.
Offer prayer and spiritual support
Many youth leaders prefer to concentrate on praying for young people rather than themselves, but the church should do both! Too many youth leaders burn out or struggle with personal issues without anyone knowing what’s going on. Praying for them isn’t the only solution, but it’s a good start.
It is so important to have things in place to feed your youth leader and keep them growing in their walk with God.
What does your church have in place to meet the spiritual needs of your youth leader?
Give space for reflection and rest
The truth is that good youth leaders are mentors and role models, not just organisers of events and crazy games. This means that taking time to seek God about the vision and direction of their ministries isn’t incidental to their work. It’s indispensable.
Of course, youth leaders can struggle to do that, just like the rest of us. It’s hard to put aside time for quiet and reflection in the midst of event planning and relationship building with students. The best thing your teenagers can find in a youth leader is someone who’s following God with all their heart.
How do you actively encourage and challenge your youth leader to take time for reflection and rest?
Provide ongoing training and development
A youth leader needs a large toolbox of skills. They may need development in areas like public speaking, leading small groups, mentoring, developing a strategic plan for their ministry, pastoral care, dealing with child safety issues or something else. All of this requires ongoing training (check out the PYM website for info on training we offer).
Are you aware of what training is available through our Church and other organisations?
Give freedom to lead
Sometimes churches fall into the trap of only giving youth leaders a task rather than giving them ownership. When youth leaders are given true authority they are freed to think outside the box, bringing all of their creativity and giftedness to the table. It is in the best interest of the young people and the youth ministry team if their leader is empowered to lead.
Has your youth leader been given the necessary authority to make the week-to-week decisions to lead the youth ministry?
Appointing a youth leader doesn’t relieve the church of its broader responsibility for young people. When we all take on responsibility for our youth, it increases the capacity and effectiveness of the youth leader. Best of all, young people themselves will feel more welcome and at ease in the church. They will know that they’re important, not just to the youth leader, but to everyone.
If you listed everyone who helps with young people in some way, whether regularly or occasionally, how many of the congregation would be involved in the youth ministry?
Provide good management
In exactly the same way that you have entrusted the youth leader to provide a programme that supports, encourages, and at times challenges young people, your youth leader needs support and encouragement, and occasional challenges, so that they can best serve the church.
Churches should work to build trust and respect with the youth leader through clear expectations, mutually-understood communication strategies, and well-developed policies. This kind of supportive management structure will help create the conditions in which the youth leader can thrive, and this means the ministry with your young people can thrive too.
Are there structures in place to ensure that the necessary resources (time, money, venue, equipment, etc.) to lead the youth ministry are available for the youth leader?
Celebrate and appreciate
If you feel valued, you feel motivated and encouraged. If you don’t feel valued, it can feel difficult and demoralising. Being appreciated makes a huge difference, especially when the task is as demanding as youth ministry. Make sure your youth leader knows that they are valued.
How does your church show its appreciation and celebrate the achievements of the youth leader?
Check out the resources on PYM’s website for more info about building sustainable youth ministry.
Gordon is PYM’s national youth manager. He is responsible for supporting youth workers through training, resourcing and being a resource, as well as advocating for youth ministry and best practices.