I just had the privilege of spending a week with 50 amazing youth leaders from across the nation and their top student ministry leaders. Lead THE Cause University is a week-long intensive that equips good leaders to become great leaders who make and multiply disciples.
Over this week of intensive training and interaction I witnessed 5 marks that identified these youth leaders as outstanding. These are what makes a youth leader super effective when it comes to advancing God’s kingdom in and through their sphere of influence.
1. Super effective youth leaders lead with prayer.
I’ve seen it again and again and again. The youth leaders who make the biggest impact on earth relentlessly aim their prayers toward heaven. As a result God gives them the wisdom they need to keep moving forward step by step with the Spirit toward building a truly effective youth ministry.
This was obvious last week at LTCU. The youth leaders who are seeing the most progress, both in discipleship and evangelism are the most persistent in prayer. Maybe that’s why Paul told Timothy, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people….” (1 Timothy 2:1.) When we pray first and program second what we program is the right stuff, delivered in the right way resulting in the right impact.
2. Super effective youth leaders set goals.
Before a youth leader and their students can graduate from Lead THE Cause University they have to set and write a GREAT goal and a strategic plan to accomplish it. One of the highlights for me this last week was watching youth leaders labor over these goals that centered around their students advancing the Gospel in their circles of influence. Again and again I witnessed that the top youth leaders have very audacious, very specific and very inspiring goals that fit their youth ministry context and drive their youth ministry efforts.
3. Super effective youth leaders are super relational.
Ain’t no doubt about it, the best youth leaders are really good at relationships both with their adult volunteers and their teenagers. At the core of it these youth leaders really like being around teenagers. Instead of draining them it energizes them. Now don’t misunderstand. This brand of relational youth leader is more of a great coach than just a great friend to the teenagers under their care. But this kind of coaching relationship runs deep and strong between student and leader because the youth leader is willing to do what it takes to help these students win in life. As a result these teenagers play hard for their coaches and are willing to do amazing things because of their investment in them.
4. Super effective youth leaders merge evangelism and discipleship.
Vibrant, healthy youth groups are led by leaders who refuse to segregate evangelism and discipleship. Instead they look at getting teenagers to share their faith as a kickstarter to discipleship and evangelism as a natural outflow of discipleship. They put teenagers in the “spin cycle” between D and E and are talking about both all the time. The result is that these teenagers are living out their faith publicly and passionately. These teenagers become much hungrier to pray, worship, dive into the Word and listen closely when the youth leader teaches because of the risks and rewards of engaging their circles of influence with the good news of Jesus.
5. Super effective youth leaders lead from the front.
Part of the week-long experience at LTCU was taking teenagers out to the streets to put into practice what they’ve learned in evangelism. This can be an intimidating time but we’ve witnessed firsthand that the youth leaders who lead best set the pace when it comes to evangelism. They lead the way by example. Sometimes these youth leaders do not consider themselves to have the “gift of evangelism” but they all know they have the mandate to evangelize (Matthew 28:18-20) and they take it seriously.
But it’s not just in evangelism. They lead from the front in prayer, worship, studying the Scripture, feeding the poor and helping the helpless. They set the pace for their teens and the teenagers follow their youth leaders as they follow Jesus. As the ultimate “youth leader” said himself, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”
There are other identifying marks that great youth leaders exemplify (adaptability, faithfulness, humility, etc) but this last week these five markers stood out the most to me.
From your experience what are some other marks of super effective youth leaders?