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Just-Graduated Seniors Serving in Youth Group: Too Soon?

Geoff Stewart —  April 9, 2012 — 11 Comments

Its that time of year again when the search and courting process begins with potential new leaders for next fall. Its an exciting and time consuming process and depending on where things are at in your church, the pool of leaders might be vast and deep, or perhaps you are in a place where its slim pickin’s. But at some point we each have to make the decision regarding the starting age of volunteers. There are several schools of thought around this issue with some like myself, taking on leaders right out of high school and others requiring that leaders be out of the program at least two years. I became a leader when I was 18 and had been a Christian for a year, so my bias is obvious here.

I thought it would be good to hear from the MTDB community and hear what your experiences are around this issue. As someone who takes leaders right out of high school I know first hand there are pros and cons and here are the ones that I have experienced in the past few years.

Pros:

  • They are typically are people that have been consistent attenders in HS and now have little difficulty committing to being there each week.
  • They have the DNA of the group, they get the vision, know what happens and understand the culture
  • They are familiar faces and often thrive sooner in leading the younger students who have seen them around before
  • They have energy, passion and a desire to lead and be led.
  • You have time to groom them in their senior year as opposed to starting in Sept.

Cons:

  • Often have trouble shifting from student mode to leader mode or revert back without knowing it.
  • Can be very idealistic and want to change things and challenge decisions with out knowing the reason for them.
  • They have friends still in HS and can get caught up in HS life and drama easily
  • Ability to commit wanes, as they understand the commitment school or work requires.
  • Spiritually young, and lack the knowledge of how to lead / disciple another student.
  • Sometimes make poor choices due to lack of maturity with little realization of the impact it has on students.

So where do you stand on this? What is your policy and why is it that way? 

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Geoff Stewart

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11 responses to Just-Graduated Seniors Serving in Youth Group: Too Soon?

  1. worth the risk/drama.

  2. I personally think that a student should take a 1 year break from youth group so that they can experience other ministries in the church and get involved with “big church”. I feel that if we let new graduates be adult leaders than we are stunting their spiritual growth and could be hindering them from incorporating into the body.

  3. We have the policy that students can serve, but they can only serve in our Middle School Ministry for the first year, which we will probably extend to 2 years. I see the pro’s and con’s to having them serve, but I agree with TJ that it could, in the end, stunt their spiritual growth if they are always serving in the Youth, but I also think it can work as a great bridge to getting them connected as an adult elsewhere in the church.

  4. I’ve used people right out of high school as leaders in our high school ministry the following year. Worked OK but had some issues. This year we have a guy who graduated high school last June working with our middle school ministry and it has been fantastic! We plan to have a couple more current seniors working with our MS next fall as well. There’s enough age separation between those graduates and the middle school students that it really works well. Will they still make mistakes? Sure, they’re young still. But if we do our jobs as leaders, we are mentoring them and helping them develop as leaders.

  5. I like the idea of having them serve in middle school minsitry if there is a seperation in your group. However, I had a small group and a graduted senior that was sticking around (his girlfriend was younger). Because we were so small and his friends were there I let him come around but under the same rules as the students. Some people had a issue with it but he still needed and wanted a place to connect with our church and we didnt have any kind of young adult/ college group.

    • Geoff Stewart April 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      This is awesome I did the same thing with a student that joined the group with a month left in his senior year. He came back as a student with all the rules of a student and it was an incredible year. If done well I think this is a great discipleship opportunity if it goes poorly it could be a disaster.

  6. Well, I was allowed to start right out of high school and it was tough! I had been taught quite a bit while in high school, but I still didn’t know nearly what I needed to (I still don’t!). I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes, some with some big consequences. There have been times I’ve wanted to quit from frustration and from lack of understanding why things were going the way they were. There have been times I have questioned the wisdom of the crazy pastor who decided I could be a leader. And the lines were definitely blurred between students and me for the first couple of years.

    But I have seriously been extremely grateful for the experience. And I have learned how to handle the things that are tougher (like having friends who are in high school or making judgement calls on the fly). I’m almost done with my third year of ministry and I love it more than I did when I started, and continue to grow in passion towards it. I think if I had been told right out of high school that I needed to wait a few years, I may never have come back to it, and I would have missed out big time. So, although I am obviously biased also, I say definitely let people right out of high school lead with good supervision.

  7. I was hesitant at first using freshly graduated students but have only had one issue in the past 5 years. What has worked well for us is having our core grade 12′s lead our grade 7/8 small groups alongside a veteran youth worker. When they graduate they have already spent an entire year co-leading and know the ropes.

    The truth is, you have a pretty good idea which graduates will kill it (in a good way) and those that are cut out for the task. Make an informed decision off past performance. If they’ve been faithful with the small tasks, suit em’ up!

  8. At my church, we let our graduating students take 2 years off. We do this for a couple of reasons, so there is a greater separation of age, so they can mature (it is hard for kids to lead kids sometimes), and last, so they can develop a stronger, more personal relationship with Jesus.
    So far this has worked well. When the students come back they see the benefits of our small group ministry in a different light and have a stronger passion for the ministry.

  9. We have some great roles for just-graduated students, but we do require full-fledged volunteers to be 21 – so several years out of high school. Part of this was birthed out of some significant problems a few years ago. I haven’t regretted the decision, though it was really tough the first year for sure! GREAT comments/thoughts!

    JG

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