Last week, I reconnected with Joy Bowen. Joy was one of the keynote speakers at the 2011 ICM. She really challenged us all to take our leadership to another level. She taught us: How to Launch a Jr. Praise and Worship Team, How to Structure Your Preschool and Children’s Ministry, Leading Families, Organizing Intentional Small Groups, and Mobilizing Kids and Youth to Lead.
This week, I would like to share some of Joy’s thoughts about building tomorrow’s leaders today. Pastors, we really need to be intentional about developing leaders. We have to provide them with opportunities to lead.
What’s the difference between a youth “helper” and a youth “leader?” Have you ever sat down to think about it? When my oldest son became a Jr. Black Belt, he also earned the privilege of stepping into a Jr. Leadership role at the studio. His rank opened up the opportunity for him to help instruct various classes. Our Karate Studio does an excellent job developing Jr. Leaders. In fact, college recruiters commend them — not just for the athletic skill of college recruits — but, for the type of leaders that come from their program. Having worked with youth leaders in ministry, I am very observant of the way this studio is developing students to lead. I think their influence is far more effective at developing students than most for one key reason: It is an “all staff” initiative. Certain instructors may have age groups or disciplines that they specialize in, but when it comes to developing the young black belts to lead, it’s definitely everyone’s responsibility. They all come together for the sake of developing the next generation of leaders.
Trends in Ministry
Inviting kids and youth to serve in the context of our ministries has become a very popular topic in the past few years. It’s a good thing too….with all the statistics showing that as many as 70% of kids will walk away from the church once they graduate High School, those of us in the church have to do something different. That’s a big number. We know that for too long, students have been invited to simply show up. Our measure of success is the number of students who sit in the seats of our youth ministries and listen to our sermons. We unintentionally create “spectator faith”…which has a high probability of leading to spiritually uninvolved adults. The good news? We can reverse the trend. Research is showing that students who invest in younger students or kid’s ministries tend to have a stickier faith across that transition from High School to College.
So let’s fling wide the opportunities for students, right?
Listen, if all you want to do is teach kids how to operate a sound board….jump in without thinking through the details. You’ll find yourself investing a lot of time in herding youth helpers. However, you will have missed out on a huge opportunity to help align passion with purpose and develop leadership skills that will raise a generation to inherit the church. Even more alarming, you will usher the next generation into culture without helping them to really own and be able to articulate their faith.
A Better R.O.I.
My hope is that you would want a greater return on your investment. To move beyond helpers and toward developing youth leaders, it will take a shift in our thinking and an investment of our time. It will require us to knock down silos, build bridges, and think through what we want the end result to look like. This should be an “all staff” initiative. Otherwise, there is a great risk that our tendency to drift toward complexity and competing systems will limit our effectiveness. (How can students serve if your expectations are for them to attend programming that happens at the same time as the children’s program?) We have to align our calendar, programs and intentions if we are going to be effective.