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Youth Leadership 101: What to look for in a youth leader

Youth Leadership 101Most paid youth workers know they need to put together a team of adult leaders to serve the teens and the ministry, but surprisingly few actually know what they’re looking for besides someone who is breathing. It almost feels like anyone qualifies to be a youth leader just because they’re out of high school and attend the church.

While you will never have a perfect person serve on the team, there are a few qualities you should look for when recruiting leaders, or considering to accept someone who approaches you about working with the youth. Here are some of the most important qualities to look for.

  • Growing Edge – First and foremost, there needs to be a hunger for personal and spiritual growth. We cannot lead where we have not been. Look for someone who will be a positive spiritual role model for teens to look up to, follow, and imitate.
  • Positive Attitude – The ability to work with and see people and situations in a constructive way. Nothing destroys a team’s momentum than someone who is usually negative.
  • Servanthood – The willingness to sacrifice time and energy for others without needing anyone to notice.
  • Team Player – The mind-set of looking out for others and lifting others up.
  • Follow-Through – A commitment to be responsible and to fulfill any specific ministries or jobs taken.
  • Integrity – Trustworthiness and solid character; consistency in words and walk are key.
  • Discipline – The willingness to do what is required regardless of personal mood. Someone who understands that youth meetings and events are for students, and thus they stay student-minded.
  • Relational – The ability to make others feel comfortable. Every student counts and needs to be known, greeted, and cared for.
  • Sense of Humor – Ability to laugh at yourself, try new things and have a good time learning from your mistakes (and your youth pastor’s mistakes!).
  • Patience – Someone who is patient with himself/herself and with others and doesn’t stress when the learning curve is high. Look for someone who is willing to learn. They also be patient with others, remembering that everyone is at a different place. Youth leaders need to reach out and love people where they’re at. Feeling comfortable and connecting with students takes time – going to camps, retreats and special events will help intensify and solidify your relationships with students. The more they invest, the more they will get out of it, so find someone who can take initiative.
  • Teachable Spirit – The ability to be humble, open to loving criticism and able to learn from others.

Question: How many of these qualities to you possess yourself? Which ones do you need to work on to become a better youth leader for your ministry?

What else do you look for in potential youth leaders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted on January 21, 2009

  • david

    I like this post, although I would say people with these qualities are often approached and asked by churches to be their youth leader just because they have these qualities and they think they would work well with youth. I think in addition they [the person recruited] needs to have the DESIRE/PASSION to work with youth. Maybe you are already assuming this in the nature of the post but it’s worth noting. Working as a nurse people can tell immediately if you are there for THEM or if you are there for another reason. Just a thought.

  • @david: Yeah, you’re right — it’s worth pointing out the obvious. However, there have been times when I know someone could make a good youth leader, but they’re too nervous or even intimidated to give it a try. Those people aren’t very passionate when they start, but I can tell that after they become more comfortable with it they’ll be great and that passion will totally be there.

  • You forgot “The ability to consume large amounts of pizza in a single night!” Seriously, I can’t think of anything else that should be added to this list. I am will use this in my new leader packet (to update the “My expectations” list in their packet)

    Thanks Tim and Go Steelers!

  • i would add a few more traits:

    1. A solid theological education. I think it is imperative a youth leader not only know but know how to articulate basic Christian theologies.

    2. A handle on youth and pop culture. If a youth leader doesn’t have a clue about youth fads it may be difficult to relate.

    3. A basic understanding of adolescent development. It will help a lot if the youth leader know the common traits of how a mid to late adolescent will act, behave, talk, think, speak, and process because this is all apart of their spiritual development as a teenager. A youth leader needs to know that a teenager’s spirituality is not going to look exactly like an adults spirituality and we shouldn’t expect them to experience God like we experience God.

  • @jeremy zach: I totally agree about having a solid foundation on the Word. I guess I should’ve explicitly stated that under “growing edge,” but yeah, I agree.

    I’m not so sure I agree about how necessary it is for every youth leader to have a handle on pop culture and adolescent development. They’re helpful, yes, but I’ve found that my best youth workers aren’t necessarily the people who are all full of youth-y knowledge. They’re usually the old retired couples who really, sincerely love teenagers. My observation has been that teens don’t really care so much if you know all the latest bands or if you’re up to date with the latest fashion trends as long as they know that you genuinely love them — that’s what they really care about, and that’s what teens latch on to.

  • Thats a great list Tim! I need to improve on being more relational and follow thru. Thanks for the list!

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