During a recent organizational assessment I did through Arbor Research Group, I asked one of the ministry’s leaders how critical it was for his staff to recruit and equip adult leaders. In response, he said, “When they get their job description, it’s not built into what success looks like.”
Inwardly I cringed. How could recruiting and equipping adult leaders NOT be built into the job descriptions of a staff who wholeheartedly depends on adult leaders to do ministry?
Yet, even as I inwardly cringed, I feared this happens more than I want to believe.
Many churches still believe that the paid youth pastor is the person responsible for discipling youth. Far too many churches are also still built on the personality of one leader.
When ministries are built on one person, you run the risk of quickly burning that person out.
When ministries are built on one person’s personality, you marginalize students who find it difficult to connect with that personality.
When ministries are built on one person, you limit the capacity of that ministry, ensuring that it will never grow in size or maturity.
When ministries are built on one person, you create dependency. So often in person-centered ministries, students’ faith becomes dependent on the leader, not Jesus. As a result, when the leader leaves, a student’s faith suffers.
Ministries built on one leader can never be healthy.
In contrast, when youth pastors prioritize recruiting and training adult leaders, their ministries can thrive. Adult leaders make it possible to minister to multiple types of students; to make large groups feel small; and to ensure that every student in your ministry is known, loved, and cared for individually. A team of adult leaders helps students connect with Jesus in different ways, which creates less dependency on any one person. A team of adult leaders also ensures continuity in your ministry. If the paid youth pastor leaves, goes on maternity leave, is injured, or transitions to a different role in your congregation, having a team of adult leaders ensures your youth ministry will continue.
That sounds great, right?
Here’s the catch. Adult leaders won’t magically appear. Unless you’re intentional about recruiting and equipping them, you won’t have effective adult leaders.
That’s why recruiting and equipping adult leaders should be a priority in every youth pastor’s work. It should be an explicit part of your job description. I might even argue that it should be a metric by which the success of your ministry is judged.
What if, rather than simply counting the number of students who attend our ministries, our effectiveness was also measured by the number of adult leaders who faithfully serve in those ministries?
What if we were judged not just on whether we could get 300 students to an event but also on whether we could build a team of 75 leaders to effectively disciple those 300 students? Or what if our effectiveness was determined by whether we had 5 adult leaders continually pouring into the 20 students who regularly attend our ministry?
If the number of adult leaders faithfully serving in our ministry was part of how our job performance was assessed, you better believe we’d take recruiting and training adult leaders more seriously.
And if we did that, our youth ministries would be healthier than most are now. How could they not be if they were filled with teens who were being discipled by caring and committed adult leaders?