Adult leaders are the backbone of a healthy youth ministry. In order to effectively minister to teens, your ministry needs caring adult leaders. But what, precisely, should those caring adult leaders do?

Many youth ministries use adult leaders as small group leaders, which is a good, healthy role for leaders. However, if your ministry utilizes a large group / small group framework, you also need adult leaders during your large group.

During large group, adult leaders play a vital role in welcoming people to your ministry. To be sure, student leaders play an even more critical role in establishing this culture of welcome. However, adult leaders are key here as well. When new (or more marginalized students) join your ministry, adult leaders are often the first people to welcome them. Adult leaders can sit with new students and talk to them, making them feel comfortable in your ministry’s space. What’s more, adult leaders can also connect these teens to other like-minded teens.

Adult leaders are also critical for crowd control. While you want your ministry to be a place that’s fun for teens, that doesn’t mean that you want people to be able to do whatever they want. Instead, you want teens engaged in what’s going on. Adult leaders help with this. Simply by spacing themselves out around the room, adult leaders can help curtail excess talking. If someone’s behavior threatens to disrupt what’s happening during large group, adult leaders can also deal with discipline problems with love and grace. It’s far more effective for adult leaders to deal with disruptive students individually than it is for someone to call out problematic behavior from the front of the room.

On a related note, adult leaders model what you want teens to do during large group gatherings. Regardless of how clear you think you are from the front of the room, teens don’t always know what they’re supposed to be doing. You can help clarify this simply by ensuring that adult leaders know what they’re supposed to be doing at any given point of a large group gathering. By worshiping authentically, adult leaders show teens how to do the same. Likewise, by praying earnestly, adult leaders model how to pray to teens. Similarly, if you utilize experiential activities during large group gatherings, letting adults know in advance what they are helps them to fully participate in them and then to help teens do the same.

If your large group gatherings involve discussions, adult leaders also play a key role there. While discussions are always for the teens you serve (and not for the adults), it’s helpful to utilize adult leaders at particular times, for example when the room is silent in response to one of your questions. By talking in that moment, adult leaders clarify what’s being asked while simultaneously jumpstarting a discussion. In the same way, church kids can be guilty of group think. By offering a differing opinion, adult leaders can help teens critically consider the other side of an issue.

Finally, by being present at a large group gathering, adult leaders know what and how to pray for your ministry and the teens involved in it. This, too, is a vital role they play in your ministry.

Don’t feel bad about asking adult leaders to do specific things at specific times in your ministry. Clarifying their role helps adult leaders thrive in your ministry. When adult leaders thrive in your ministry, so will the teens you seek to serve.