How do I train youth leaders to be relational?

Here’s an question that showed up in my Inbox from an unnamed reader of this blog:

I can’t seem to get my leaders fired up about being relational with our students. It’s so frustrating. We have over 150 students in our student ministry and I’m really feeling like I’m getting to the point of burn-out with trying to connect to everyone myself. I see the changes we need to make but I don’t feel like my leaders are ready or willing to make the necessary change. Do you have any suggestions?

What suggestions do you have for this fellow youth worker?

Here’s my response. Please leave yours, as well.

1. Try meeting with each of the leaders one-on-one (or as a couple if they’re married). Talk about their dream for youth ministry. What is their passion in youth ministry? What vision do they have for it? Why are they youth leaders in the first place? Model the relational side with them and create opportunities for them to exercise their giftedness and passion for students. If there is no passion, love or “spark” for students, then they really have no business being a volunteer. Try casting a vision with them for what you want the youth ministry to look like. Make them feel a part of the process. Then, when discussing the strategy and relationships becomes a part of it, they feel like they have ownership over it.

Students and leader hug2. Make sure you say “no” to any unrealistic expectations. Your emotional health is more important than the youth ministry. Besides, if you’re burning out, you won’t do anyone else a bit of good anyway. The best thing you can do for the students is to protect yourself so you can continue working with them for the long haul.

3. Start the leaders off with little steps. First ask them to do something as simple as contact one student a week outside of church. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes, but that simple phone call/e-mail/IM communicates the world to them. After the leaders are comfortable with that, challenge them to contact every student in their small group each week. Later, have each leader attend one student’s extra-curricular game/performance during the semester. Before long, move them on to attending more students events. You get the idea.

Again, if volunteers are resistant to connecting with students, I’d seriously question their reasons for working with the youth group in the first place.

Posted on January 18, 2007

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