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youth worker, youth ministry, leadership, adult volunteers, volunteers

Youth Workers: Be Leaders

By Doug Franklin February 16, 2011

Being a youth worker all boils down to leadership. You can’t get away from it. If you are going to reach your maximum potential you are going to have to focus on leadership. When I think about the different aspects of youth ministry I naturally think about four groups of people who need a leader. Youth workers need to lead themselves, students, adults (volunteers & parents) and church leaders. These groups all require different leadership styles in order to be impacted. A youth worker who uses his student leadership style on his sr. pastor is going to get a confused look and a invitation for consulting. Be a know-it-all in front of Jr. Higher and they will listen to everything you say. Be a know-it-all in front of parents and you should find a new job. Most  youth workers don’t change their leadership style for the group they are attempting to influence. Sometimes youth workers don’t see themselves as leaders in these relationships. Most often they know they need to lead the students but often they don’t know what it means to lead themselves or adults. The following is what I think is important to impact these four people groups.

Lead Yourself

I think most youth workers try and mimic someone they look up to. Doug Fields comes to mind. A lot of youth workers would like to teach like him and lead like him but the truth is they are not him. All the time spent on trying to be like Doug is a total waste. In fact trying to mimic any church leader is a waste of time because you wont’ be successful until you work on being you. God has given you leadership ability and he has wired you to do the job he called you to. So STOP trying to be someone else and work at getting to know your skills and strengths. That way your leadership will be strong and you will be successful.

Leading Students

Leading students often means getting out of their way, allowing them to make decisions. Leading students is an art because one minute you need to be super leaders and the next you need to be invisible.

Leading Adults

Leading adults is tricky, because you are the leader but you are not in charge. You have to be able to navigate dangerous water, because one mis-step and you will drown. Believe me, not everyone’s cheering for your success. When Jesus talked about being wise like a snake and innocent as doves, I think he may have been talking about leading a parent meeting. You have to be humble yet informed, a visionary yet a servant and you have to be willing to say I am sorry, I will learn from this. If you are not ready to do this you will drown.

Leading Up

Most youth workers never learn the art of leading the leaders over you. You must study the needs of your leaders. You need to understand their values and you must become a student of their goals. You do all this while you’re putting away your own ideas. This is very hard because most young youth workers don’t think their leaders are doing anything right. It almost seems like a sellout to consider helping your leaders reach their goals. The truth is it’s actually the fastest way to get your ideas heard. Bucking the systems leads to mistrust, serving your leaders leads to influence.

I lead an awesome 3 day coaching event on these topics at Refuel in the Rockies – check it out.

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