Give Every Teen a Voice

 —  March 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

I have mixed feelings when it comes to student leadership groups within your student ministry.  While it’s important to create leaders, to group them risks creating a click within the ministry.  No matter what your feelings are on student leadership groups, it’s important to nurture teens to be leaders.  One of the best ways to do this by giving them a voice.

It’s with a voice teens feel empowered, encouraged and valued.  It’s with a voice that you are mobilizing the next generation.  To give teens that voice you need to:

Encourage Them To Serve: Actions speak louder than words.  Not only does service speak loud but it teaches humility and love.  Allow teenagers to serve alongside of adults in ministry and mission.  They’ll become visible to the rest of the congregation and community, and that’s huge.  If they lead with their actions, you give their actions a physical voice that’s hard to ignore.

Seek Their Feedback: If you speak to teens you need to get their thoughts and input.  To be proactive give them rough drafts of your message, ask them to comment of possible statements you might make.  I do this by going on Facebook and messaging a few teens I know.  Give them permission to share with you what they really think and they’ll support you in your leadership.

Brag About Them To Leadership: If there are teens in your ministry you want to spot light let the rest of your staff (Especially your pastor) know about their hard work.  This will encourage coworkers to recognize the student leaders in your church and they’ll feel like they’ve been noticed.  This will help them feel value beyond youth ministry.

Give Them A Platform: If teens are given the opportunity to share their faith publicly you prepare them for leadership roles in the future.

  • Playing in a worship band.
  • Giving a testimony.
  • Small group leading their younger peers. 

Are all ways of how teens can lead as adults in the future.  Not only are you giving them a platform; but, the opportunity to lead in the same way adults can lead.  This will show them how they can lead in the future.

When teens feel like they have a voice they’ll embrace your ministry more.  They’ll be taking on responsibility to grow the church and have it function at a high level.  When they feel empowered they feel motivated.  When teens have a voice you’ve done your job of mobilizing the next generation.

How do you give teen’s in your ministry a voice?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

In the past few months I have had the pleasure of visiting several different youth groups, some of them big and some of them small. As I sat and enjoyed listening to the various people who took to the platform to speak and share, I noticed two distinct value systems around pulpit ministry in youth groups.

The first was a very calculated and intentional approach to selecting those that would speak to the students, the other was a much more casual approach, allowing students to speak as well as leaders. I am not totally sure where I lean to, because I think there is tremendous value in both and perhaps the answer lies in the middle.

PROTECTED PULPIT
This idea would place high importance of having only the best, most well spoken speaker in front of your students. Choosing those who have the most thorough knowledge of the Bible to be the core speakers to your students. These people are effective and deliberate communicators.

Pros:
I love the idea of always bringing the best to students and choosing to only put the best most qualified people in front of your students means that they are going to get a solid, scripture based message every time they come to youth. Students deserve the best leaders and that includes preachers and having someone communicate a message well increases the likelihood that the students will remember what was said.

Cons:
If not balanced out, it may seem as though pulpit ministry is only for those who are well polished “professional Christians” who have a clear calling to preaching ministry. This approach can come at the detriment of students and leaders who might be called to the same, but have not place to explore those gifts and can make attaining that level seem out of reach.

OPEN PULPIT
The idea of students and leaders sharing the things that God is teaching them; to me, is inspiring. Allowing students to be a part of the preaching and exploring their gifts and potential calling, it is just so real.

Pros:
There is honesty, transparency and raw faith when students come share about what God is doing their lives. I have seen so many times where a student’s testimony has had a greater impact than the best-crafted sermon. When students share about their faith journey it comes across real and authentic and for the audience, it portrays a faith that is relatable and attainable.

Cons:
If unchecked this can be somewhat of a disaster, where students are allowed to teach, or share their testimonies it can quickly go from God entered to “me” centered. I once found out afterwards that a student told multiple lies in his testimony just to impress our group. If we are not careful, and expecting students and leaders to be prepared to share, the pulpit can become a soapbox for anyone who wants to talk, which can compromise the purpose of the teaching time.

My encouragement to you is to find ways to keep the pulpit open, open to those whose desire is not to glorify themselves, but glorify God through their speaking, those that want to bring a word, a truth. It is up to us as youth workers to make sure that when someone takes the stage, they are prepared and ready. That does not mean, perfect and professional but sharing a Christ-centered message that is from the heart.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.



It doesn’t happen all the time, but every once in a while you will get one or a few students that have a concern about some element of your youth ministry and want to talk about. These are not conversations I look forward to, but I have had enough of them that I can share the steps I use to get through it and keep the leader-student relationship intact.

Listen: The student who is coming to see you has likely thought long and hard about this conversation, so when you meet let them speak. Makes notes if you have to, the more information you get, the more you have to work with as your respond. The student might be expecting you to just dismiss them so hearing them out will be very disarming and allow a great conversation to follow.

Is it Biblical?: Now that you have heard the student’s concern about the program, are they highlighting something we are doing that is contrary to scripture? This is a great question to ask the student and chew on with them. It might put them on the spot, but it drives home the point that our goal should be to have a Youth Ministry that functions in accordance to Biblical principals. The majority of the time, student complaints are a reflection of taste and personal preference and that you are not running the youth group to their desire and if this is the case, remain calm and proceed to step 3.

Articulate the vision: Perhaps they don’t know why you don’t have the latest Skillet album playing every week when students are arriving, or that having acoustic worship as opposed to a full band means that the Worship team has less opportunities to serve. If you ask me to explain the intentional elements and reasoning behind our youth services, you better be sitting down because I could take an hour. The students don’t know all of that, and when you share why you do one thing and not another they appreciate the insider look at why things are done a certain way. While you are at it, share with that students where God is moving in the area they are concerned about, they might be surprised to hear it.

Recap and clarify: They have come to you with something they think might be wrong; make sure that you have not confused that student with Christianese Pastor Talk. This is the time to prove that you listened but reiterating their concerns and summarizing your response to it. This is really meant to make sure that they don’t leave frustrated for feeling unheard because you may not agree with them, but you cared enough to hear them out and explain why things are not changing.

Thank them: Sticking your neck out does not come easy to everyone and for a student to make time to come see you and share something they are passionate about is a big deal. Make sure you thank them, not only for their time, but for their passion for the youth ministry and willingness to talk to you and not to talk to all of their friends instead (they probably did talk to their friends about it, but verbally giving them the benefit of the doubt will go a long way). You don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the feedback/criticism, take it and be thankful.

These sort of conversations are not my favorite, but are a necessary part of being a Youth Pastor and if done well, are amazing growth opportunities for students and ourselves.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Want to get in on the fun? See how right here.