As the school year ramps up and our team begin to get back into the groove of things, it is important to give volunteer leaders a refresher on what being a leader is all about. In the midst of communicating a lot of information to our team, that these were the four things that each of them had to know:
1. They are frontline workers: As youth pastors, I am convinced we get way too much credit for the work that happens in our ministries. Our leaders need to know that they are the ones on the front lines. They know the pulse of the group, they know what students are struggling with, where they are growing and where they aren’t. Because they are so in tune with the lives of students, it is imperative that they keep us informed on the ebbs and flows of their group so we can know how to support, pray for and shepherd our students. When our leaders know they are responsible to keep their finger on the pulse of students, it builds the connection between pastor and leader.
2. They ARE pastors: We may carry the titles, but the role of pastor in the context of a youth ministry really does end up on small group leaders and mentors. Odds are for many students in your ministry, their small group leader probably spends more time in a week talking to them and teaching them about Jesus than any other adult, including their parents. As the pastor to their small group, leaders must understand their job is to encourage, challenge, sometimes rebuke and help cultivate young people who are pursuing Christ. We are there to support and equip them, and when the challenges exceed their ability or pay grade, to step in and walk beside them.
3. Students are watching: Like it or not, your life is on display online. Through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and any number of more obscure social media platforms, students have unprecedented access to the lives of your leaders. Volunteer leaders need to know that we are called to be set apart, and not just at church and youth group. Our volunteers need to know that few things will be more destructive to the effectiveness of their leadership than living a double life and being seen as just another “hypocritical” Christian.
4. Their voice is unique (and powerful): There are a lot of voices speaking into the lives of students (friends, family, teachers, etc.), but the voice of the small group leader is unlike any other. Students have to listen to authority figures in their lives like teachers and parents, but there is something amazing about youth ministry leaders. They have authority, but students choose to come under it, students choose to listen. They have to listen to their parents, they have to listen to their teachers, but them choosing us to mentor and lead them gives us a powerful influence that we of course need to be careful to not abuse. Recognizing the uniqueness of the leader/student relationship allows leaders to encourage and challenge students in ways that others simply can’t.
Being a volunteer leader is no easy task, but keeping them focused on what they’re doing and why will set your team up to have an incredible year.