What students need from their youth leaders

Note: this post is inspired by item 29 on Tim Schmoyer’s “100 blog topics I hope YOU write.” If you haven’t already, make sure you check out his YM site, studentministry.org.

What do students need from their youth leaders? This is a question that is constantly on my mind, because I’m always on the lookout for people who can partner with us in youth ministry to love students well and point them towards Jesus. In the past year it’s become more important to me. I’m still relatively new to my church, and it’s a larger setting than I’m used to. In the past, I’ve been able to have a pretty good idea who will be an effective volunteer in our ministry because I was part of a small church. I could easily get to know just about everyone in the church just by being there every week. Now, I’ve found that I need to really articulate what I think the characteristics of a good youth leader are. This not only helps me identify and recruit leaders, but it also helps potential leaders know whether serving in our ministry will be a good fit for them. A large part of identifying these characteristics is simply asking the question: “What do students need from their youth leaders?”

My answer?

A passion for following Jesus. The best way to point students towards Jesus is to show them what a growing, passionate relationship with him looks like. Students need to see a relationship with Jesus lived out in the lives of their leaders. I’d take a handful of leaders who pursue Jesus as their “one thing” over a limitless budget, the coolest youth room ever, or all the youth ministry resources in the world.

Grace. Sometimes it’s easy to get very, very frustrated when we don’t think teenagers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Whether it’s loudly carrying on a conversation in worship during our pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning (which happened last week at our church) or a teenager who continues to ask for prayer and help with a life situation but refuses to accept responsibility, teenagers—just like all of us—need grace. They especially need it from their leaders. They need leaders who will forgive as they’ve been forgiven, and who recognize that we’re all in the same boat: sinners who fall short of God’s glory and who are in need of a Savior.

Love. Teenagers need to be loved. No matter what. They need youth leaders who will visibly show what God’s unconditional love is like by loving them unconditionally. This means not only being present in their lives, but also being willing to encourage, exhort, and at times, call them to account.

What did I miss?

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