By Kristin Schultz
You don’t do ministry in a vacuum. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the benefits of having different voices to speak into your ministry. Involving youth in leadership and decision-making is a valuable way to ensure your ministries meet all ages’ needs.
Of course, there are risks when elevating youth to leadership positions. Teenagers have schedules that include school, work, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Obviously, a person newer to their faith should not make major decisions that will impact the spiritual health of others (1 Timothy 3:6). Yet, the Bible admonishes us that age is not a limiting factor for servant leadership (1 Timothy 4:12). Despite these challenges, involving youth is beneficial in all ministry areas.
Benefits of Involving Young People in Leadership and Decision-Making
Youth have a perspective that adults do not. While we were all young once, today’s world is very different than the one we grew up in. Students face different pressures, stresses, and challenges than we did. If we don’t know what they’re facing, we cannot reach them. We need to capture a diversity of experience and give them a chance to lead in this rapidly changing world.
Giving youth a voice in leadership also creates buy-in. Youth go from feeling like ministry spectators to participants. If they feel like a valued part of your ministry team, they become more likely to promote the work of the Church.
Youth have the skills to operate the newest technology, and they’re fast at it! Instead of feeling embarrassed about a lack of know-how with the TikTok app, we can embrace their knowledge to expand our Gospel-impact through technology. We should not only encourage the use of new platforms but involve youth in deciding technology best practices.
How to Engage Youth in Leadership and Decisions
In addition to having peer leadership in student ministry, there are other ways you can encourage young people to take an active role in your church.
- Invite them to sit on committees outside of student ministry. If they have musical talents, invite them to participate in your worship planning process. Others may be interested in serving on your outreach team. Don’t constrain youth to their age group. Involve them according to their interests and talents.
- Pair a young person with an adult in co-leadership opportunities. Set them up for success by giving them the chance to make decisions alongside a seasoned leader. Co-leadership allows youth to observe and learn with the support of an experienced person.
- Let youth lead a project or event. Give students the opportunity to take on a service project like a canned food drive or worship event. Empower them to make decisions around timing, advertising, volunteer organization, etc.
The Importance of Mentoring
The key to successful youth leadership is ensuring appropriate mentoring (also known as discipleship). No one likes to fail, and we’re all prone to making poor decisions from time to time. Mentoring youth leaders helps ensure success and encourages future leadership. Effective mentoring is built on a few key components:
- Shared Interests—Pair adults and teens who share a passion for a particular ministry area. Common interests get the relationship off to a good start.
- Regular Contact—Mentoring isn’t a one-and-done event. Mentors and mentees should meet regularly to discuss their ministry area. Consistent communication keeps everyone in the loop.
- Mutual Respect—Mentors should be aware of their tone and behavior. Mentors do not talk down to mentees but respect their gifts and abilities. Mentors should listen more than they talk. The goal of mentorship is to build the mentee up and answer their questions, not to focus on the mentor’s years of experience.
- Expect Bumps in the Road—Mentors and mentees should expect success but not feel surprised by failure. The mentor’s job is to encourage the mentee regardless of the situation. A relationship built on trust and forgiveness is strong and ensures future success.
Involving youth and teens in decision-making will benefit churches. Their perspectives enrich our ministries and open our eyes to emerging community needs. The key to successful youth leadership and decision-making is to ensure that mentors and opportunities are a good fit.
The Lord calls us all to share the Gospel and gives us the people—of all ages—we need to shine his light in our communities.
Kristin Schultz is a freelance author, has served in various church leadership roles, and is a pastor's wife.You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2022 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.