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Youth Leadership 101: Questions to ask a new youth leader

Youth Leadership 101It’s a good idea to interview every new youth leader before unleashing them to be a spiritual role model for the teens. If you’re the paid youth director, you’re the one who stands between a potentially harmful adult and the teens, so be very careful with this process. Even if you know the perspective youth worker very well, have a formal meeting anyway where you sit down with the individual and clarify some very important issues.

Your church’s insurance company may have a list of questions they want you to go through with each youth leader, so be sure to check with them if you haven’t already done so. Here are some additional questions I like to ask:

SPIRITUAL

  • When and how did you become a Christian? List any circumstances or people that influenced you to make this decision.
  • How is God working in your life now?
  • How would you describe your spiritual journey and your relationship with God today? What are your struggles (we all have them!)? What’s going well?
  • In what ways has God used your gifts, talents, and abilities to bring glory to Himself? How has that tied in with your heart for student leadership?
  • How well do you know your Bible? Do you feel comfortable teaching it to others?
  • How have you gained the amount of Bible knowledge that you presently possess?
  • Do you have a spiritual accountability partner?
  • Are you open to greater spiritual accountability?

PAST HISTORY

  • Have you ever gone through treatment for alcohol or drug abuse?
  • Have you ever been ticketed for reckless driving or driving under the influence?
  • Have you ever been arrested, detained, or questioned by police for any other illegal actions of any type?
  • Has there been alcohol abuse, drug abuse, physical or sexual abuse in your family background?
  • If yes, what steps have you taken to minimize the impact that those issues will create for you, both now and in the future?
  • Have you ever been treated for any type of psychiatric disorder?
  • Have you ever been accused, charged, or alleged to have committed any act of neglecting, abusing or molesting any child?
  • Is there any circumstance or pattern in your life which would make it inappropriate for you to serve with minors or would compromise the integrity of Alexandria Covenant Church?
  • Do you have any communicable diseases, such as TB, Hepatitis B, HIV, AIDS, etc.?
  • Are you under medication or treatment for any disease or condition?

MINISTRY

  • How do you decide which movies are acceptable for you to view?
  • Would you feel comfortable recommending all of your music to a student? Why or why not?
  • Please list the dates and activities of other ministry experiences that you have been involved in here at Alexandria Covenant Church.
  • What is your personal vision for ministry at Alexandria Covenant Church? Do you have any ideas of how God might accomplish that through you?
  • Why would you like to join the youth volunteer leadership team.
  • Is there anything else you feel that we need to know about you?

Please note that the none of the answers to these questions will necessarily eliminate someone from serving in our youth ministry. They’re just here to open the dialog and make sure we bring up the issues.

PRAYER PARTNERS
In addition, we also ask each youth leader to find 5 prayer partners, other adults who will commit to praying for them on a regular on-going basis about their ministry to the teenagers. The youth leader turns their prayer partners’ names and contact info in to me so I can add them to our ministry’s prayer mailing list.

REFERENCES
Each youth leader also submits two references, which we either call and interview, or ask them to fill out a questionnaire about the perspective youth leader.

BACKGROUND CHECKS
Do it! No exceptions. No excuses. Make sure the church has a background check on file for you, too! Having worked in two churches where youth leaders were taken to court for inappropriate sexual conduct with youth (one went to prison, the other didn’t), I know first-hand just how critical this is. No one is immune or an exception. Do it now before it’s too late! Seriously. Do it.

A common criticism: It’s been said that this process of interviewing leaders, setting boundaries and expectations is too rigorous. They say, “We’re just thankful to get people to work with the youth! This process is a obstacle — no one will take the time to be so scrutinized.” My response: “It is absolutely an obstacle, one that is totally necessary. If a potential youth leader is either too apathetic toward the ministry and teens to go through the process, or is nervous about being scrutinized, then I don’t want that person on the team in the first place.” Anyone who is passionate about teens is glad to go through it and sees the value in being very careful about which adult leaders are officially established to be spiritual influences and which ones aren’t.


Posted on February 3, 2009

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  • http://youthministrygeek.wordpress.com Dj

    Couple of comments:

    I don’t think churches should ask about diseases. Believe me, I understand why. But it just opens the church up for all kinds of liability.

    As for background checks, I agree that they need to be done. However, they get really pricey! I know of one particular mega church that doesn’t even do them, but instead reserves the right to. They just don’t advertise that they don’t do it. I think thats pretty wise. If you take the information and let possible volunteers know that you’re taking information for a background check, that will serve as a deterrent as well. And then you have the option to do certain checks on individuals you may feel unsure of.

    Just my opinion.

  • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

    @DJ: I can’t speak authoritatively about what kind of liabilities there are if you ask about diseases, but I’ll take your word for it.

    For background checks, though, they can be pricey and are worth every penny. My previous church also just collected the information and never followed through. The problem with that is if there’s something on a leader’s record, you’ll never know! The $25 to have someone screened is absolutely worth the kids’ safety. It’s much cheaper than legal fees that could come later. The only reason that church isn’t following through is because they haven’t been scared enough to see how big of a deal this really is, and if they ever are scared enough (God forbid!) it will be too late. Trust me, I’ve been in two different churches where a youth leader was taken to court over sexual misconduct. It’s worth the cost of the background check. In most cases, insurance companies require that the checks be done. If your church goes to court and the background checks were never completed, you might be left dry on your own.

  • http://youthministrygeek.wordpress.com Dj

    Well, I’ll keep pitching the idea hopefully they’ll see the value in it someday (and I hope it’s not because we’ve been sued!!)

  • D

    I find it interesting that everyone in the church is so adamant about background checks. These just give the appearance of protecting children, in my opinion. There have been several adults in my community that have been convicted of indecent liberties with a minor, and every single one of them would’ve passed a background check. I just feel that background checks give a false sense of security.

  • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

    @D: Yes, you can do a background check on someone before they’ve committed an offense. The background check is to screen for people who have already committed and offense. If you ever go to court, it shows the jury that the church has done a reasonable job of trying to protect its children and rules out negligence, protecting you from all sorts of law suits and legal complications.

  • http://messiah-lutheran.org Ally B

    Actually, there are some very reasonably priced ways to do a check. Check out http://www.protectmyministry.com as one example. Also, don't forget that the background check is also a protection for your volunteers. If someone if falsely accused of something it is good to have this on file for both the church and the volunteer.

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