9 little known traits of a great youth worker

9 little known traits of a successful youth workerUnfortunately, when many people think of a youth worker, they think of someone who is outgoing, athletic, has a goatee, and can play the guitar. In reality, though, we all know that these qualities have absolutely no bearing on whether someone is a great youth leader or not. There are much deeper character issues that are essential, such as spiritual maturity and a passion for teenagers. Maybe we haven’t considered some of these other not-so-public traits that are a part of every great youth worker out there.

1. They don’t know everything

The funny thing about knowledge is that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Great youth workers are more than willing to admit that they don’t know everything. In fact, those who have been in ministry for decades are the ones who admit that they have the most learning to do!

2. They are teachable and humble

Since great youth workers are willing to admit that they don’t know everything, they are also very teachable and open to learning from others. That doesn’t mean they accept all input as wisdom, but they’re at least willing to honestly weigh it against their experience and make any adjustment as deemed necessary.

3. They are approachable

There’s that unspoken quality of great youth leaders where people just feel comfortable talking with them openly and privately, not because the leader signed an agreement to be confidential, but because they are naturally trustworthy and respected.

4. They spend time with the Lord

There’s a saying that that behind every great leader is a great spouse, but even more importantly, there is a great God in front of them with whom that leader communes with every day. A youth leader can only be great when they are first and foremost wholeheartedly following the Lord in their own personal life.

5. They take plenty of time off

A good youth leader recognizes that youth ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. They establish healthy boundaries in ministry, they maintain good relationships at home, and take plenty of time to keep their emotional and physical batteries charged, knowing that they are no good to anyone else if they don’t first keep their own lives in check.

6. They train others, then delegate

A good youth worker knows that ministry is not about trying to do it all on their own. Instead, they equip the body of Christ for service and then, once properly trained, they hand aspects of the ministry off to other people, knowing that only then will the ministry really start to grow.

7. They never stop learning

Reading both ministry and non-ministry material is a regular part of any good youth worker’s schedule. They attend seminars when possible and regularly interact with other youth workers who challenge and stimulate their thinking. This ensures that both their minds and ministry will never fall into a rut.

8. They model more than they teach

The most effective learning takes place when something is caught, not taught. Great youth leaders know this and live lives that are continually investing into the teenagers and parents around them, not only from a stage, but in everyday life by letting them see how faith and real life intersect in their own lives all the time.

9. They admit weaknesses

Not only do the admit weaknesses, but they don’t dwell on them either. Instead, they delegate their areas of weakness in ministry to someone who is strong in that area. Together they form a team that is exponentially more powerful than they were apart.

What other traits would you add to this list?

Posted on November 18, 2008

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  • 10. They ask great questions

    Great Youth Workers find ways to get students to open up by asking probing questions that draws things out of them. They have learned that by having a students answers questions, it allows the students to discover the answer for themselves instead of always giving an answer.

    Thanks Tim.

  • Great post, it’s nice to see all these traits written out. I know them, internally, but it was good to read them and think of different situations for each.

  • 10. They have a great wife who is their better half.

    11. They can be silly and serious.

    12. They don't take themselves to seriously.

    13. They start blogs………and .com themselves.

    • Jeff G.

      A little sexist there – huh ? What about the female yp's out there ???? :) There are many.

    • Dave

      "10. They have a great wife who is their better half."

      So does that mean that since I'm single, I can't be a great youth leader? I'd like to disagree.

  • @jeremy zach: .com themselves? lol Nice one!

  • Any suggestions in implementing #5 when the senior pastor is a workaholic?

    As for #6 how do you get the people to train in the first place?

    Love to hear your answers. Thanks

  • @Peter: Just because your pastor is a workaholic doesn’t mean that you should be. I realize that he probably has unrealistic expectations of you because his value system for ministry is completely twisted, but don’t let the sick make you sick. Set clear boundaries and always put your family first. If your time with them is suffering, quit your job — your family is infinitely more important.

    And as for recruiting leaders, here’s a post I wrote on How to recruit ministry volunteers. I’ll be posting a longer series on that sometime soon.

  • Thanks! That is what I thought about the first one!

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  • Some of those I would say are the distinguishing characteristics of a "youth worker" and a "great youth worker". Great list!

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