Letting Teens Lead

The Purpose of Youth Ministry…

Letting Teens LeadDEFINITION: Youth ministries are the ministry of students to the world, not the ministry of the church to students. The difference is huge – either way, we see students as needing help or we see students as the answer to the world’s needs in the name of Christ. (Definition from Leader Treks)

“One of the hardest things to do as a youth leader – even just as an adult working with a teen – or as a parent – is to let them take the lead.”

We meet monthly together as a group of youth leaders here at Wesley. Adults that have volunteered their time and their hearts to students not only help us lead in various ministries (Sunday school, Wednesday night small groups, retreats, Bible Studies, mentoring, etc.) but also commit to a monthly adult meeting to learn and grow together as adults.

In a recent meeting, the training piece of the evening was The Purpose of Youth Ministry. The definition is listed above. The definition alone was enough to spark interesting conversation, and open our eyes to see youth ministry not just as a program within a church – but a movement of young Christian disciples that we are blessed enough to work with, serve with, and challenge.

One of the hardest things to do as a youth leader – even just as an adult working with a teen – or as a parent – is to let them take the lead. What kind of thoughts come to mind when you envision a student taking the lead in a worship service, in organizing a retreat, in leading a study, in repairing a home? Messiness, missed details, chaos. Those words come to mind, and sometimes that indeed happens. The tendency is to anticipate those things happening and “control” the effort.

By entrusting students to lead, by encouraging students to lead, by allowing students to lead, we actually help them learn to depend on God. Christian leaders look to God for guidance and help. When students lead it provides teachable moments – opportunities to help them work through mistakes, to learn to anticipate possible problems, and to learn the importance of teamwork. If we just do it for them – where is the growth opportunity? Sure, it might be prettier – or easier, at this point, I can throw together a junior high night in a day if I needed to – but how will that stretch our students to be willing to step out in their church and community and lead now and as they grow into adulthood.

When students lead and have supportive adults surrounding them, encouraging them, helping them, it builds another relationship. Those students know that these adults trust them, value them and respect them. Students allowed to lead will open up about challenges in their own lives as we work to help them with difficult situations in their leadership.

You can begin to see how simply allowing a teen to lead opens up many new possibilities to ministering to and discipling those students. This applies to parenting as well.

Sometimes all of the i’s aren’t dotted, the t’s aren’t crossed. Sometimes the results might not be what we originally envisioned. But through allowing them to try, allowing them to make mistakes, and through teaching, debriefing, and encouraging these young disciples – we are helping them to strengthen their leadership skills, showing them the value of Christian community, and encouraging them to actively live out their faith.


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