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How to help students take ownership over their youth group

I know a lot of youth workers struggle with trying to help their students take ownership over their youth group. Sometimes it’s because it’s not clearly understood by either the youth worker or the student what it is exactly they’re taking ownership of. Other times it’s because “taking ownership” is really a fancy way of getting kids to do some work.

In my experience I’ve noticed that most ownership comes naturally to students when they know you, trust you and even love you. This means you have to get involved in their lives. Invite kids over for a meal, go to their games and concerts, take them out for pizza after school, etc. This year I’m even helping to coach the high school wrestling team, so now I’m on their campus every day after school.

Here’s two recent examples of how students have taken ownership in my youth group based on our relationship.

Story 1. I meet with a high school guy every Wednesday after school to go out to eat and do one-on-one discipleship stuff. Because of the relationship we’ve developed, I asked him last night at youth group, “Hey Kyle, here’s the game I’m thinking about leading, but I’m not sure if it’ll work or not. What do you think?” He told me it was lame and offered a different idea, which was great! So I asked him if he’d lead his game idea for us. He agreed and took over and everyone had a lot of fun.

Story 2. Another girl in the youth group is close to my wife. This girl really has a heart for people who are less fortunate and thereby is a huge fan of 30-Hour Famine. Rather than me planning the whole thing, she agreed to help with it, but now she’s taking charge of the whole thing without me. She just needed to see that she has our support.

So I think it works like this:
1. Develop the relationship.
2. Have them join you in ministry.
3. Give them ownership of it.

Jumping to #3 doesn’t work.


Posted on December 10, 2007

  • I heard from someone at work (the ER) that a trait of a good leader is someone who is able to inspire others to do on their own accord what you need done. Looks like you explained the “how to” in this post. Seems like this would apply to any business, not just youth group. People take ownership when they know you care about them personally, rather than because it’s your job.

  • Pingback: Students and Youth Ministry Ownership « Random Bloggings()

  • hey tim, very good thoughts. It’s too important to involve students into the ministry, to disegard this.

    But what can i do, if i have a youth ministry above 100 students?

  • Schrotty, my youth group is also over 100 students. I obviously can’t spend individual time with all of them on a consistent basis, but that’s why I team up with other adult leaders. Together we can each invest into different students. And even if you don’t have enough adult leaders, don’t let that stop you from spending time with a couple students on your own anyway. It’s better to invest into a couple than into none of them at all, right?

  • Hey Tim, you are totally right, and that are also my thoughts. As a leader alone you are not able to spend time in everey student. Teamwork is the only solution! And if there is no team, i can only repeat what you actually said: It’s better to invest into a couple than into none of them at all!!!

  • MentalRover

    Tim and Schrotty, this is one thing which seems very important to me.

    I obviously can’t spend individual time with all of them on a consistent basis, but that’s why I team up with other adult leaders

    Regarding who you are as an “adult” (say: what age) and who are the “couple of them” (say: their maturity), teaching to “take ownership” can mean to teach this couple of them to be in relation with the other ones themselves.

    And even if you don’t have enough adult leaders, don’t let that stop you from spending time with a couple students on your own anyway. It’s better to invest into a couple than into none of them at all, right?

    Instead of distinguishing between the “adults” and what their task is, and the “youngsters taking ownership” and what they do, you can let them participate in the whole relational and caring-about-others stuff too.

    Often in church it’s about “giving ownership”, not “taking”, but we only trust them with organisational parts (both of your stories of game leading and this event planning are in principle about this same stuff only!).
    That notion exactly leads to the said problem of “some lack connection, but better some connected than no one”.

    What I miss are (adult) youth leaders who educate their students being … youth leaders. Means: teaching them to do exactly(!) the same stuff they do.
    That involves also counselling to others, and doing ministry.
    “Be for your comrades what I be for you”.

    What I mean: Don’t divide the kind of tasks between the “adult” stuff and the “ownership” things. Divide the severity of tasks between what you take over and what they do themselves.

    Let them also pray for one another. Train them to help each other in critical situations, listen to each other, ask about the other’s life circumstances. Even guide them to lay hands on each other. And so on.

    This way investing time into “a couple of them” is indeed investing into ALL of them.

    (PS: This idea is partially related to how peer mediation is installed at schools, and also by the concept of general priesthood. There is no “age” limit, only “maturity” limits)

  • interesting stuff. I agree. Discipleship and one on one growth is key. We are seeing this with our students as well. We embrace them, give them a change to run with an activity and support them whether it is a "success" or "tanked". No matter what happens, they got the experience of having ownership and leading.

    amen brother. Keep it coming.

    -Jordan

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