Training Youth for Leadership

By: Jim Klubnik

One of the secrets of success in working with young people is the training and development of youth leadership within the local church. Perhaps one reason for the increase in church youth dropouts is the
failure to involve young people effectively, in the business of determining their own needs, goals, and programs. It is so often easier for an adult youth leader to have his eyes on the quality of an activity to the extent that he fails in his role of developing youth leadership. Often the pressure of numbers and the competition for glamorous or spectacular activities cloud his vision.

Young people are often conditioned to expect production-type programming which is beyond their abilities. This frequently escalates the adults youth leader to the role of quarterback rather than coach.

It would be well to limit our thoughts to the confines of the local church thereby excluding non-church related Christian leadership activities. A second limitation should probably confine our study to the goal of a sponsor in leadership training rather than that of a pastor or parent.

Perhaps the key to the value of any youth sponsor is not technique, but attitude– not know-how, but motivation. Leadership development and the rules for training young people may be varied, but the one constant is the youth sponsor himself. Thought and time should be spent in training the sponsor for youth leadership because he is the person closest to the young people in the church.

A valuable resource for motivation of the sponsor or youth director is Philippians 4:8, 9. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

It is also important to recognize that each young person is a potential leader with his own unique talent and means of expression and identify within the group. “For the body is not one member, but many” (I
Corinthians 12:14).

A second area of motivation lies in the field of learning by doing. The sponsor must not only work with the exceptionally talented, but must motivate and develop those who could be called “fringe” group members.

Locating and developing youth leadership begins by looking for areas of dedication in the young person. What is he interested in doing? One effective tool for determining this is an interest questionnaire which
can be drawn up at the beginning of each new year. The questionnaire can list general background material such as age, school, family, hobbies, and sports activities. In addition, you might include such thought provokers as:

I would like to see this youth group involved socially in_____________________________________________________________________

My ideas for a good youth program on Sunday night

The best way to involve new members in our youth group

An interest questionnaire of this type can be helpful in involving young people in the leadership needs of your youth group. For example, if a young person is interested in more sports-type socials, perhaps he
would be interested in working on the social committee.

Another way of developing leadership is to divide the several responsibilities of the youth group among committees. Since these are to be working committees, it might be best to have the elected officers
(president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) along with the youth sponsor appoint each committee chairman and co-chairman. The committees for a youth group may be as follows: program, social,
lookout or welcoming, outreach or visitation, and missions. Each committee chairman is responsible for a team who will work with him in administering the particular committee. The idea of a “team” within the
committee is important for the pooling of ideas and common interests. Learning to plan in a committee and to evaluate past programs is a valuable tool in developing future leadership.

The team concept of a youth executive is important because there will always be a small minority working together to administer the program for the majority. It’s better to work with a small committed group of
youth group for both evaluation and planning. One suggestion for developing this team concept is to
schedule regular training retreats, to develop a willingness to sacrifice for the success of the youth group and clearly to outline duties and activities. A sharp, well-planned and organized officer group who work together as a team is the best attraction your youth group possesses.

One suggestion for developing this team concept is to schedule regular training retreats, to develop a willingness to sacrifice for the success of the youth group and clearly to outline duties and activities. A sharp, well-planned and organized officer group who work together as a team is the best attraction your youth group possesses.


Friday night: shared Bible study followed by general discussion on the aims and objectives of this executive group for its term of office.

Saturday morning: individual quiet time in which each officer writes out a one-sentence commentary on each verse of a key chapter or passage of Scripture. Following breakfast, hold a shared Bible study based upon what the young people have written. Encourage them to make application in terms of their part as team members and officers.

This may be followed by dividing into groups. The president may preside over one group consisting of program and social committee chairman along with a sponsor or adult leader. The vice president might lead a group discussion with the outreach or lookout chairman and another adult leader. It is the object of these meetings first to go over the specific responsibilities of each office. In addition, suggestions might be made for programs, socials, outreach activities, etc.

Saturday afternoon and evening: After lunch, the time may be devoted to some recreational activity. Before dinner, each of the four committees should meet to schedule specific programs, socials, outreach and
lookout activities for the semester. After dinner, each of the four committees may report to the group as a whole and invite suggestions. The evening may be closed with another shared Bible study and group
prayer time. The Sunday schedule should be aimed at developing the team into a consecrated and committed officer board. Perhaps the morning devotion might be patterned after the Saturday Bible study with the emphasis on individual involvement.

An enthusiastic team will attract an enthusiastic following. Responsibility combined with an understanding of the job plus youthful enthusiasm can result in a youth group capable of having a strong following. Many people are unaware of their own talents and abilities.

To be a good youth leader does not require a charming personality, a good appearance, sophistication or an ability to speak eloquently in front of a group. More importantly, it does require a willingness to be
committed to a purpose. The youth director or sponsor should not expect the outcome of his training program to be an instant success. A wise youth leader recognizes the importance of growth into leadership. He is consistent and faithful as well as sensitive to the needs of his young people. Each youth sponsor or director must learn to pray regularly for each individual in his youth group. He must look beyond first
appearances and see the potential of each young person.

(The above material was published by the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, CA.)

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