youth ministry, youth worker

Teaching Establishes Leadership

By Doug Franklin April 26, 2011

Teaching is an art. For some youth leaders, teaching comes naturally, and they feel comfortable in front of students. For others, teaching is a chore that they must endure on a weekly basis. Some even run from the responsibility or look for guest speakers to fill their normal teaching time. The truth is a weekly teaching time establishes you as a leader. When you teach biblical truth, students see you as an authority. As an authority, you then have the right to speak truth concerning relationships, obedience, parents, and their walk with God. When youth leaders abdicate the teaching position, they risk losing the moral authority to lead the youth group. I have seen many youth groups without a moral compass, and it most often leads back to a youth leader who has grown negligent in teaching God’s word. There is incredible power in opening God’s word on a weekly basis and teaching it in a relevant manner. Teaching with significance doesn’t always refer to what you say; I believe relevant teaching is more about who you are. These are the three characteristics of a relevant leader:

Relevant teachers allow you to see who they are. They open God’s word knowing it has more to say to them than to their audience. Vulnerable teachers allow God’s word to speak to their hearts through preparation, and their response to God’s leading creates the lessons for their talks. Vulnerability is key to reaching today’s youth. Students will know what you say is true if they see it lived out in your life. If you are saying one thing and living another, they will never buy into what you are teaching. Students today are looking first for phonies; being a youth pastor doesn’t mean anything any more. You have to prove you are real by living out what you teach. It’s the reality of today’s youth culture. By being vulnerable and allowing students to share your struggles, you will be reaching them in the most powerful way.

Ability to Teach through Relationships
I notice that youth pastors who have in-depth relationships with students are much more effective teachers. Many youth groups today are large, and it’s hard for youth pastors to have a relationship with all the students. Consequently, they have small groups in which lay staff members do a large amount of the teaching. The problem is that many of these lay leaders don’t know how to develop strong relationships with students. The overall teaching effectiveness of the youth ministry thus declines, and students graduate without a clear understanding of God’s word. When running a program that uses lay staff to teach in a small group setting, make sure you give the lay staff the tools and time to build strong relationships with their students. This will increase effectiveness and allow students to gain a stronghold on God’s word.

Ability to Apply God’s Word
Relevant teachers apply God’s word to their lives and the lives of those they are teaching. If students hear God’s word and don’t apply it, things in this world will not change. When they apply God’s word, things will change. Isn’t it the application of God’s word that leads to exciting youth ministry? Hasn’t it always been that way? Isn’t it exciting when your students begin to make changes in their lives or speak up for a biblical truth? Well then, you must model it in your own life. Apply God’s word, and let them see the changes. They will want the same for their lives. As you think about your teaching ministry, consider who you are in your students’ lives. I know you are teaching truth, but, to be honest with you, that is not enough in today’s culture. You have to live out truth in an open and honest way so students will know that what you teach is truth. My encouragement for you is to look at teaching as a lifestyle you teach in every encounter with students, not just when you stand in front of them on Sundays.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More