I love my youth ministry’s adult leaders. They’re the backbone of my youth ministry. They’re people I’ve recruited, equipped, and mentored. Some have served with me for almost a decade. I take caring for them seriously.

In my context, adult leaders commit to serving in one specific area of ministry – typically one of our two weekly programs. After that, they’re always welcome, but never obligated to attend our events. Thankfully, because adult leaders feel called to their ministry with students, most willingly commit to serve during extra events.

Because youth ministry is relational and my regular adult leaders already have relationships with our students, they’re the first people I ask to go on major events like our winter retreat and summer mission trip. It’s only when I can’t get enough of our regular adult leaders to serve during these events that we ask other congregational leaders or parents to go.

For some, this approach to leadership is controversial. It looks like favoritism. After all, they wonder, isn’t the goal of ministry to get as many people involved in it as possible?

Sure, I’d say. A congregation’s goal should be for every one of its parishioners to be involved in ministry. But not every one of your congregation’s parishioners are called to serve in youth ministry.

Having good leaders in your youth ministry doesn’t require you to have the largest number of volunteers in your church. It requires you to have the RIGHT leaders: People who love Jesus, adore teenagers, want to grow in their own faith, and are good at working with teens.

Getting the right people to serve in your ministry requires carefully recruiting leaders. It means making it hard for leaders to get in and easy for them to get out. It also means faithfully equipping them to serve in your ministry for the long-haul, not the short-term, so that they can build relationships with teens.

Ephesians 4:11-12 explains how the role of pastors and teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Equipping the saints for the work of ministry requires intentionality. It requires pouring into a select few who have committed to serve faithfully in your ministry.

So, sure, some may call that favoritism.

But I’m okay with that.

After all, what some call favoritism, Jesus calls discipleship.