How to Work with Teenage Youth Officers

By: William R. Goetz

The key to working effectively with youth officers lies in a clear understanding by the youth leader of his responsibility to these leaders.

He must realize that his purpose is to help his youth officers in their development as individuals and as leaders.

Dr. FIenry Brandt in Youth and the Church quotes Robert J. Havighurst on what he calls “developmental tasks” in the growing up process. “A developmental task is a task that arises at or about a certain period
in the life of the individual, successful achievement of which leads to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness to the individual, disapproval of society, and difficulty with later tasks.

Two of the ten tasks which Havighurst says teens should achieve are of special interest to youth sponsors in their work with teen officers.

These are: moving toward new relationships with parents and other adults and developing a wholesome attitude toward work.

In the matter of new teen relationships with adults a sponsor needs to help the officers accept new demands upon them to–

-make good use of talents
-help others to do their best
-accept the judgment of leaders and other experienced persons
-face problems with a patient spirit.

Helping youth in the development of wholesome work attitudes involves helping them learn these traits:

1. willingness to accept and discharge responsibility
2. respect for authority
3. ability to get along with people
4. desire to improve oneself.

How may a sponsor accomplish these goals?

The most important way is for him to demonstrate these qualities in his own life. By what he is he teaches and guides far more effectively than by anything he may say. And, if his example indicates otherwise,
his words will be of little value. Example is a prerequisite to earning and holding the respect and friendship of teens. Without this a sponsor will accomplish comparatively little.

But effective work with officers must go beyond just being a good example, as important as that is. A sponsor must see that opportunities to assume responsibility are given. He should observe officers carefully as they carry out these responsibilities. By commending them personally for good work, tactfully pointing out lapses, and suggesting areas where improvement could be made, the wise sponsor can have a tremendous influence upon his teens. (Obviously this type of help presupposes that the sponsor and teens are friends, and that the adult uses tact and wisdom in giving his help.)

Some sponsors have found that a job description periodically reviewed for each of the youth officers is a helpful tool in the task of working with young leaders.

Each year, after the election of officers, schedule a youth officers’ retreat.

1. Invite all officers, planning-group leaders, and committee chairmen to a campsite. Go on Friday afternoon and return on Saturday afternoon.

2. Include classes, recreation, and inspirational sessions. Have classes on subjects such as responsibilities in being a leader, how to lead a planning-group meeting, how to improve one’s personal devotions, how to lead singing, etc. Allow plenty of time when plans for the coming year can be discussed.

3. Ask young people to give short devotionals.

4. Make opportunity for sponsors and leaders to get to know each other.

5. Include a time of dedication and consecration of the leaders. This may be accomplished through a testimony service, a communion service, or both.

(The original publisher of the above material is unknown.)

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