Give Every Teen a Voice

Chris Wesley —  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)

Been thinking the last couple of weeks about the leading voices of youth ministry. A post on Terrace’s blog and the ensuing comments (thanks for the kind words) finally triggered me to write up those thoughts:

THEN
In the past, youth workers were limited in really having a chance to lead other youth ministries – technology and geography among other things limited the sphere of influence a youth worker could have in shaping youth ministry as a whole. A few distinct and highly influential voices rang out, predominantly the youth pastors at large churches [Willow Creek, Saddleback] or point leaders of influential youth ministry organizations [YS, Group]. This has remained the case to this day [NewSpring, Northpoint], and to some degree it should be that way. These key leaders have perspectives on youth ministry from an accelerated vantage point from the crowd of youth workers, they tend to see things before they happen (kind of like a Jedi) and have the potential to gain experience more quickly with multiple services, geography and reach.

NOW
The voices of youth ministry today are potentially limitless. Everyone and their mother can have a blog in about 3 seconds and for free. Technology has leveled the playing field to everyone, though the good stuff still rises to the top. Regardless of the source, the best ideas win. In the past, you just didn’t hear what was out there aside from published works or the leaders in your local network. A conference here or there opened up the circle a bit, but even then it was severely limiting. The internet has changed the game. Micro-publishing changed the game. Every youth worker now has the potential to share their voice with youth ministry as a whole. There will always be authors, leaders of leaders, voices that speak for the next generation of youth workers – but the game-changing shift has already happened – the new voice of youth ministry is everyone.

What’s missing is you.

Your voice is the most important voice in youth ministry. You might not have the largest youth ministry or connections to get your stuff published somewhere in print or even get a link from a prominent blog. Who cares? Your voice, your experiences, your challenges, your inspration – it will inspire others and probably inspire you, too. It will encourage someone who is about to quit. It will meet the need of a youth worker who Googled their pain and found your help. It will remind you day after day why you got into this in the first place and to hang in there when things get ugly.

I have enormous respect for the youth ministry-shapers of the past. I am in youth ministry today because of the writings of Doug Fields, Tic Long, Duffy Robbins, Mike Yaconelli and others. But not everyone has to become an author. Not everyone has to be a conference speaker. Not everyone has to be the next big thing. But … we all need to have a voice. We all need to share our experience and calling. Hey, I want to steal your ideas. I want to find comradery in my calling when I read about the goof YOU made in front of your students. I want to learn from you, too.

So what are you waiting for? If you don’t want to start a blog, write a guest post for this coming weekend. If you don’t think you have it in you to actually write a book, do it a page at a time on a blog. You might be surprised how quickly … and I would say how critically important … you find your voice in youth ministry.

Who is the new voice of youth ministry? You.

JG