Whether you are a 20-year veteran or just cutting your teeth in youth ministry, there is one area of ministry that is often overlooked: investing in your youth leaders.
Ministry cannot effectively be accomplished as a one-man show. You need a team, a squad, a gang, a crew– whatever you would like to call them. You need other living, breathing, human beings that love Jesus and students to come alongside to help in the ministry of reaching young people with the gospel.
Once you have that ragtag group of men and women (whether it is 2 or 52), you will have to become intentional about investing in their lives. I learned the hard way what happens when you neglect and take advantage (unintentionally, of course) of your leaders, never once thinking about how you can help them to grow and develop. You lose an important resource, and potentially, you could lose those leaders entirely.
So, learn from my mistakes– let me share a handful of ways you can invest in your leaders.
PRAY for them
Pray for them. Pray over them. Pray with them. Make sure you are taking them and their family to the throne of God on a regular basis. Pray for specific needs, their walk with God, the salvation of their children, the protection and provision of their family, godly wisdom and discernment, just to name a few. There is no better way to invest in your leaders than to pray for them.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy that we are to commit or entrust the things we have heard and learned to others who will also be able to carry along the same message. This is discipleship. A friend of mine says it this way, “we are to reproduce reproducers.” When we encourage and teach our leaders, we are equipping them to encourage and teach others. Often, we think of our discipleship efforts being only towards students, but our impact multiplies when we focus on discipling leaders who will then disciple students.
One mistake we often make is putting leaders into positions for which they are not equipped. We either have them in the “wrong seat on the bus,” or we don’t prepare them for the particular seat they’re in. One thing about doing ministry in the 21st century is that there are many ways to train people. This includes videos, podcasts, blogs, conferences and even youth ministry coaches that can bring training straight to your leaders. One way my pastor invests in me is by purchasing a “spiritual growth” book for me that we walk through together. Equip your leaders so that they can grow their impact for the kingdom.
Celebrate like it’s 1999. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, successes, achievements, new hair cuts, anything and everything. Celebrate as a team, in front of the students, and in front of the entire church body when possible. This is not only fun and has the potential to attract more leaders, but it also expresses how much you truly care for your leaders. I can remember when a pastor made a huge deal about the impact the youth ministry was having from the pulpit and how it empowered me to serve and invest even more in the coming weeks. Invest in your leaders by celebrating them.
I hope that you will learn early that your ministry can only be as good as the team that you have around you. Invest in them!