The Heart of Youth Ministry: Mentoring Adult Leaders

One of the most difficult things we are asked to do as youth workers is to mentor adult leaders. It is an awkward situation many youth directors find themselves in when they are asked to mentor adult leaders who are often much older than themselves; it is an odd position to be a twenty two year old who is asked to inspire, lead and train adult leaders who are probably close to the same age as their parents. Even though it can be awkward and even though it can be difficult it is something we are called to do.

On occasion I have witnessed a mistake among youth workers; they will begin building a youth ministry but they will alienate parent volunteers and adult volunteers, seeking instead volunteers closer to their age. I firmly believe that parent and adult volunteers can be one of our greatest assets. It is the inexperienced immature youth worker who seeks out only youthful volunteers. In order to have the greatest impact, our body of youth volunteers must reflect the demographics of the church.

Considering the age difference, here are a couple things to keep in mind:

1.     While the church may have thought they hired you to work with students, what they really did was hire you to empower and inspire the adult leadership to work with students. This can be made even more difficult because some adults actually believe that the new youth director can really relate to all the students in the ministry, even when there are 100 active teens! I know a youth director that when a church hired him, 60% of his adult leadership quit, not because they were upset, but because they figured the church just hired out their job.

2.     Don’t be scared of your new role; embrace the fact that you are leading adults to deeper levels of discipleship. Remember that many of the adults are actually more scared then you are. We all know teenagers can smell blood in the water (or is that sharks? I can never remember). They need a voice to guide them through the turbulent waters of this thing called youth ministry.

3.     One of the cool things we can actually do by working with parent volunteers is to help them to win points with their own children. One neat thing youth workers can do is to help students see their parents in a new light—suddenly that parent who drove them crazy at home seems a little cooler because he or she helped a team win a game or spent a few hours building a wall with one of their friends.

4.     Learn to be a challenging and guiding voice for your adult volunteers. If you take an active role in the spiritual growth of your volunteers it will pay dividends in the long run. Be goal oriented and help your volunteers develop personal goals for themselves.

5.     Finally, when mentoring adult volunteers, find those who are willing to laugh at themselves. You will both screw up as a youth worker and it sure helps to have volunteers who can laugh at your and their mistakes.

The biggest benefit I have found over the years from actively trying to mentor adult leaders is stability. By pouring into their lives, you are able to build a good rapport and trust with them. The vast majority of my leaders have been helping in some capacity for at least five years. This stability and experience can be an invaluable long term benefit to a youth ministry.

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