Recruiting and training youth leaders can be daunting and sometimes difficult to get people involved in. The thought of ministering to middle and high schoolers can be scary to many in the church. Still, it is arguably the most critical age group in the church that needs devoted and loyal leaders who will pour into them as they walk through these seven challenging years. So how do we recruit and train youth leaders who will give of themselves the way Jesus did to love students well?
I remember every youth leader I ever had because of their radical impact on my life. I was also fortunate enough to have the same youth leaders through middle and high school, and I can say it truly impacts a student’s experience in Youth Group. Your youth leaders are people these students will open up to about things that they wouldn’t otherwise tell people. They need to be around long enough for your students to feel that they can trust them. I had friends in high school who were in Youth Groups where youth leaders changed every semester, and our experiences were drastically different. Sundays for me were refreshing and impactful; I was in an environment where I felt safe and supported by people who I knew wanted to see my relationship with God grow. It was routine, but it had a purpose. Students felt open to being vulnerable because they knew leaders were there for them. Your youth need spiritual mothers and fathers in their lives. People who will walk with them in the good times and the bad. Adults who will speak the truth in love even when it is hard to hear; who will love them well, encourage them, and disciple them.
When recruiting, meet with people in your church who have expressed a heart for students and hear about their lives. If you ask them to volunteer, invest in them first. Show them they are needed and that their sacrifice to give up their time to pour into students matters! Hear about their passions, where they feel called to ministry, their gifts, and their talents, and help them find a place that can translate to students. They need to be a good fit for your students, and your students need to be a good fit for them! Take time upfront to invest in the leaders when recruiting! They are as much a part of your ministry as the students are. Once they have agreed to volunteer, help them keep a long-term mindset. They might feel like they are seeing an amazing change in students’ lives one minute, and the next, they might feel like their students are flying off the rails. Encourage them to remain constant through the ups and downs. Students need leaders who will stick around. Adults who won’t flee when life gets hard. Share with your leaders “wins” as you hear about them! Whether it is a student still in your Youth Group or an alum doing well in college, share it with them and encourage them that their impact on student’s lives is more significant than they think.
Pour into them as much as you want them to pour into your ministry. Share your story with them so they understand why you do what you do. Share your goals for the Youth Group. Share your heart. If you are struggling, share it. If you are joyful, share it. Be real and authentic; these people are there to pour into your students, but they can also be your support system! Run with them in ministry. Open up with them and give them the freedom to do the same with you.