Leading in Your Youth Ministry Back to blog list
I was 24 when I took on the senior leadership roll of the youth ministry at our church. I know by most standards that probably isn’t that young, and there are probably plenty of senior ministry leaders out there who are and have lead at much younger ages. One of the things I was told in my first two years of leadership from one of our staff was “Unfortunately, don’t expect the church to respect your leadership until you are at least 40 years old.” As a young person, I guess that statement bugged me, after all leadership is about influence and if you are to have influence without respect, can I really say I have influence? 12 years on, I have dealt with many situations that have challenged my influence. To be fair, the person who made the statement to me was talking more about older members of the congregation who may have just seen me as a young buck probably trying to make his mark and make a few risks that would prayerfully extend the Kingdom. But, to be honest, time has taught me that it’s not just the older who I perhaps felt tension from when it came to me taking the lead, making decisions and trying to work out the vision of our youth ministry (which incidentally is the same as our church vision – and there is another article in that statement perhaps). I have also had challenges from those I have led, younger, rising stars that were serving with me. I guess what I am perhaps highlighting is that there are times as leaders we can feel surrounded by opposition, not just from one part of the church, but perhaps at times from those unexpected parts of the church who we think might have our backs, the ones we can usually rely on to get behind the direction we are leading.
If we are not careful, we can be derailed and robbed of the vision for leadership. You know when you get low. It’s when the usually smallest challenge, perhaps a challenge on the way the posters look for an event, or perhaps when those three youth leaders don’t like your choice of guest speaker. When things like that start to wear away at you, could I suggest it’s time to get in the presence of our Father and allow him to renew our strength. Because if left unchecked, you may find yourself not just questioning the relevance of your dress sense, but if allowed to blossom, you may find yourself questioning the relevance of your leadership (especially if you’ve entered ministry at a young age and you are waiting for 40 thinking it’ll all change. I’m not 40 yet, so I’ll let you know how that pans out in a few more years).
Noah is a great inspiration. A man who led against great opposition, doing what he knew was the call of God. In Genesis 6, God looks down at humanity and our wickedness and then sees Noah to whom he says, “for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” Now I don’t know about you, but if I was the only one capable of leading in the purposes of God and I knew that “I was it”, I would find that pretty debilitating. Noah was ridiculed far worse than I’ve ever had to be exposed to, and so the challenge to me is to focus on the vision and make sure I don’t get robbed by criticism. Praise God I don’t lead a youth ministry that doesn’t have a loving relationship with Jesus! It’s an honour to lead a group of people who love Him and want to see God’s best for their lives and that is the goal. Leading with a ‘WHY’ will always be more fruitful than leading with a ‘WHAT’.
I think that when it comes to influence and gaining respect, often it’s earned. Maybe the problem is that we’ve decided that respect in leadership is a demand, but the reality is when you lead by example and people see the WHY behind your own leadership you will inspire others to follow you. When the WHY is the focus over the WHAT, they’ll want to serve the vision you are leading no matter what your choice of stage layout is or the corny jokes you tell. In Joshua chapter 24, Joshua gives the people of Israel a choice A) serve the God who they had always served, the one who had brought them into the land or B) serve the gods of the surrounding lands. “But as for me and my house,” he says, “we will serve the Lord.” The people answer in unison that they will pledge their allegiance to God. Because they believe in Joshua’s leadership, they follow Joshua’s example. He doesn’t have to threaten them; he merely inspires them by his example.
You’ll always have critics who will have opinions on the WHAT in our ministry and churches, but if we like Noah stay true to our WHY I believe our vision, calling and identity in leadership will be stronger for it.