3 Keys to Leadership in Youth Ministry


In my last post I wrote about the 5 Building Blocks of a Strong Ministry. Today, I’m focusing in on just one of the building blocks: leadership. Without good leadership your ministry is doomed to fail. Leadership can seem complicated and daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There are 3 keys to leadership in youth ministry: Lead Yourself, Build other leaders, and Follow Well.


“All leaders are learners. When a leader stops learning, the leader stops leading.” 
- Doug Fields, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry

The often over looked side of leadership is the leading of you.Your youth ministry will only go as far as you can take it. So, keep pushing yourself to grow and learn.

Get Learning.
If you’ve think you’ve got youth ministry all figured out, you’re wrong. Commit to continually learn about your craft. Read a lot and read widely. I’ve gained great ministry insights from books on everything from marketing to sociology. Go to a conference each year if you can, talk to other youth workers and ask about what they’re doing. There is always more to learn and more people to learn from.

Get Mentorship.
Mentorship has been huge in my leadership journey. At first, I was just blessed to have excellent leaders that poured into me when I first felt called to ministry. Now I’ve become intentional in seeking them out. What area do you need help growing in? Find a leader in your region (close enough to meet face to face) who’s strong in the area you’re looking to grow in and ask them to mentor you. Set a time frame on it (for instance - meet once a month for 6 months) and get to work. Nearly every significant advance I’ve made personally and as a leader has come with a mentor giving me guidance and encouragement along the way.

Great leaders will raise up leaders around them. But, it won’t happen by accident. You’ve got to recruit and develop intentionally.

Recruit Leaders.
Look for people who love God, love teens, and who will fit your team. Build your team patiently. You’re much better off running shorthanded than you are dealing with a problem team member. My biggest mistakes have come when I ignored my gut because I had a gap that needed to be filled and someone who “kinda” fit. Trust that God will bring you exactly who you need when He knows you need it.

Develop Leaders.
Once you’ve got leaders on board, invest as much as possible in their ongoing development.

“We define leadership development as the intentional process of helping established and emerging leaders at every level of ministry to assess and develop their Christian character and to acquire, reinforce, and refine their ministry knowledge and skills”
- Aubrey Malphurs and Will Mancini, Building Leaders.

I love this definition of leadership development; it gives a detailed and clear picture of what we need to do for our teams. 
First, help your team members grow in their walk with Christ. The best thing you can do for your students is to surround them with adults who love Jesus. 
Second, help your leaders discover their gifts and strengths. Get them access to good personality and gifting assessment tools so they can see how God has designed them to make an impact for him. Also, help them stay sharp by providing ongoing training and encouragement as they serve. 


To lead well in youth ministry you have to follow well. You’re roll in the church is to help carry out the vision and direction that has been set by the Sr Pastor and board. If you can’t align yourself with what’s happening with the rest of the church, leave. You’ll only become a source of conflict and division. To follow well, start with these two priorities:

Speak Well of your church and leadership
Publicly and privately. You want your Sr pastor to have your back? You better have his. If and when you have conflict with your boss, go to them first and nobody else. If you’re too cowardly to address conflict properly, you have no business in leadership.

Build a Youth Ministry that fits the vision and direction of your church.
The youth group doesn’t exist on an island. The programming we provide needs to compliment and benefit what’s happening in the rest of the church. Build a great bridge from the kids’ ministry into the youth group. Schedule your youth nights to allow for students and leaders to participate in other aspects of church life. Make the resources you have available to other groups in the church. Seek to serve the whole church, not just your little corner of it.

Get these 3 keys right and you and your ministry will be off to a great start.