More often than not, my attempts to recruit adult leaders are met with the recruit saying something like, “You know I’m not a Bible scholar, right?”

So often, I just want to respond, “You know I’m not looking for a Bible scholar, right?” Usually, however, I bite my tongue and refrain from saying this, even though it’s true.

I don’t expect (or even want) my leaders to be Bible scholars.

That said, I know such a response is usually a reflection of a recruit’s deeper insecurities:

I don’t know enough. I’m not good enough. Therefore, God can’t possibly use me.

How I long in these moments to remind recruits of all the inept, seemingly inadequate people God has used throughout the history of our faith. But instead, I refrain from saying that as well, knowing that eventually, experience in (and affirmation from) serving in our youth ministry ministry will teach them that.

Instead, I shift the focus away from what these recruits think they can’t do to what I’m actually looking for in adult leaders in my youth ministry:

  • People who love God.
  • People who value the church.
  • People who are willing to listen – to God, me, our other adult leaders, and especially, our teens.
  • People who will stop trying to be cool and instead be comfortable in their own skin, trusting that God can and will use them in all their awkwardness, most likely to minister to a teen who’s even more awkward than they.
  • People who don’t know everything but who are willing to learn – about adolescent culture, youth ministry, and faith.
  • People who recognize that leadership is more about asking good questions than it is about knowing the right answers.
  • People who are willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll sure try to figure it out with you.”
  • People who are willing to enter into students’ doubts and wrestle with them rather than brush them off, give them pat answers, or ignore them.
  • People who are willing to step out of their comfort zones and try new things.
  • People who recognize that faith is a journey and who are, therefore, willing to grow in their own faith right along with students.

After I remind recruits of these things, I typically reiterate why I want them to serve in our youth ministry. I then reassure them that I’ll equip them for ministry and walk with them in that journey.

At that point, a leader will usually ask again, “You heard me say I’m not a Bible scholar, right?”

To which I’ll respond, “Yep, I heard you. And I still want you to serve.”

Jen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She’s the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She blogs at