I have had many a conversation with potential youth leaders who didn’t feel qualified to actually become a youth leader. They felt they lacked certain characteristics, skills, or knowledge. I’ve always said the same thing: nonsense. In my opinion, you only need two things to be qualified as a youth leader: a passion for Jesus and a passion for youth. It’s just that what your exact role in youth ministry will be, depends on your gifts, character, interests, spiritual maturity, etc. Let me explain.
Passion for Jesus
The first requirement for any role in youth ministry is that you’re passionate about Jesus. And with passionate I mean you have a relationship with Him that shows up in everything you do. Whenever I would interview potential youth leaders I would delve deeper into this. I’d ask questions like: who is Jesus to you? How would you describe Jesus to teens? I’d want to see evidence in their life of how they lived out their faith.
If someone is truly passionate about Jesus, it shows. It shows in how they talk about Him or faith in general. It shows in how they raise their kids. It shows in the choices they make, the friends they have, the things they want in life. That’s the kind of passionate relationship with Jesus I want for my volunteers, because that’s the passionate relationship I want my teens and students to have with Jesus.
Personally, I don’t care if someone has been a Christian for one year or for thirty years. Sure, I wouldn’t let ‘new Christians’ lead a small group, but I believe God can use every believer in His church, and therefore in youth ministry.
Passion for youth
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you have got to love teens and students if you want to be a youth leader. And that means accepting them as they come. You can’t come into youth ministry complaining about ‘today’s youth’, their music, lifestyle, values (or lack thereof), about ‘the problem with this generation’ or things like that. And anyone who loves predictability, order and strict schedules above all else, is quite simply not cut out for youth ministry, sorry.
You have got to be passionate about youth if you want to be a youth leader. Other than that, there’s no required skill set. You don’t need to be an extravert, a people-person, or to have a chaotic work style. You sure don’t need to be hip or cool to be a youth leader and you don’t need to be a great speaker. You age doesn’t matter, and neither does your sex, your Bible knowledge or your spiritual gifts. You need to love youth and that has to show in how you connect with them.
What about spiritual gifts?
You may ask: but what about spiritual gifts, don’t they come into play? Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in working according to spiritual gifts. I believe God has given every believer special gifts that they need to use for His glory and I believe everyone should do something in the church that fits his or her gifts.
But I also think that many believers don’t actually know their gifts that well, so ‘experimenting’ is a wonderful idea. If you are passionate about youth, but you’re not sure what you could do, why experiment in youth ministry to find out what it is that best fits your gifts and interests?
A note to youth pastors/ministers or those overseeing youth ministry: we should be careful not to limit our ‘recruitment’ of new leaders and volunteers to just current positions and roles. If someone has a special gift for something that you’re currently not doing in your youth ministry, they won’t apply and you will miss out on a wonderful opportunity to start a whole new program or activity.
Whenever we did a shout out for new youth leaders in my youth ministry, we only communicated those two requirements: a passion for Jesus and a passion for youth. And while we sometimes mentioned specific positions or roles (like student small group leaders), we focused on bringing people into youth ministry and then took the time to help them discover what their gifts and interests were. We found some pretty wonderful volunteers and leaders that way!
So I guess the bottom line is this:
Are you passionate about Jesus?
Are you passionate about youth?
Then you’re qualified to be a youth leader!