Hey youth workers… do you believe?

Image by hiddedevries via Flickr (creative commons)
Image by hiddedevries via Flickr (creative commons)

Here’s the deal.

Dirty little secret time.

I think a lot of youth pastors, youth ministers, youth directors don’t believe in the power of adolescents to flip their world on its head.

Adults think they can do it all. And they backfill that belief with anecdotal information to make themselves feel better.

They think kids are too busy. They think kids are distracted by education. They think kids care more about sports. They think that you have to be spiritually mature to reach your friends for Christ. They think parents just get in the way. They think lack of resources get in the way. They think ordinary kids can’t do extraordinary stuff.

When they see inspirational stories of teenagers who have made a huge difference, they don’t think their kids could do that. And they wonder why the adults who “really lead that” aren’t in the spotlight. The aspire to see stuff like that happen in their midst but refuse to believe the style of leadership that leads up to it.

A lot of youth leaders think its their job to do those things themselves. They think that because they are “the leader” they should be the ones leading the charge. Kids are just the pawns who attract the cameras, so they think. Ultimately, they think they are the ones who are responsible for making something big happen.

They have it upside down.

Adults just get in the way with their ego, agendas, and desires to be famous. “Maybe Disney will make a movie of my awesome leadership?

Reality check– Adults who “lead” big movements of God are typically on the sidelines. They coach. They inspire quietly. They parent. They mentor. They encourage. Most importantly, they know that the best thing they can do is equip them to lead and get the heck out of the way. And then they stand by and watch. (And then coach some more, mentor some more, parent some more, encourage some more, develop some more.)

If there is a microphone, they are reluctant to step up to it. But they are quick to put a student in front of it.

The big fancy adult leadership Christians are infatuated with rarely, if ever, results in movements of teens. (Whether as movements of religion or otherwise.) We chase after it but it’s a myth. You get there only to discover you’ve wasted a lot of time, energy, and investment in the wrong stuff.

The style of leadership that seems to result in the most world change involves handing the reigns over to kids and believing in them. It’s the most organic, natural, and effective style of leadership. It’s so easy a football coach can do it. Or a high school basketball coach. Or a Little League coach.

Those leaders do their leading on practice days and give the kids the spotlight on game day. Kids step up because that coach believes in them enough to put their reputation behind them.

And that’s the problem. Most adult leaders in youth ministry don’t seem to believe in kids.

What do you believe in…?

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

3 comments

  1. Our adult “leasership” (really more like coaches) DO believe in our youth.

    We’re fighting church members and even parents who don’t believe. How do we foster a “can do” attitude when our youth are normally shown a “do this” helicopter parent attitude?

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