Youth ministry would be so much easier if we had perfect leadership teams. You know, the kind of team where everyone is motivated, skilled and able to do the work. Where you can delegate responsibility and everyone will do their job with skill, enthusiasm and passion. That kind of team.

Reality is often somewhat different. There may be people in your team who are going through a rough patch right now personally and it’s affecting their role in youth work. There may be people who are very nice, but clearly have no leadership skills whatsoever. Or maybe you have people who are generally willing and enthusiastic, but very inexperienced so you have to do a lot yourself anyway. And you’d love to ask them leave, but can’t for some reason. That kind of team.

In my experience, the latter happens more often that the first in youth work, which means it’s a reality you’ll have to accept. Leading a dysfunctional team is not only a test of your leadership, it’s also a test of your character. And it’s a change to grow both. Here’s my advice on leading a dysfunctional team.


Love fiercely

Some people are easier to love than others. But God wants you to love everyone. That means you’ll have to work hard at loving your dysfunctional leaders. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that love is just a feeling, it’s as much of a choice as it is a feeling. So choose to love everyone in your team and work hard to show it to them. Be unfailingly kind to hem, show grace, grab every opportunity to shower them with love. Love fiercely, and don’t ever let up.

Pray without ending

You can’t love them like you should if your life depended on it and you know it. You need God to change your heart so you can love them, forgive them, show grace to them. So pray fiercely for your team, every day or even more if you need to. Pray until you see a difference (in you, not in them that is!) and even then, keep on praying.

Lead with determination

Leading a dysfunctional team is a challenge to your leadership. It means that you probably won’t be able to lead your youth work the way you’d like to. That’s where situational leadership comes into play, so check out our series on this topic! Delegating may for instance not be possible because the people are either able but unwilling, willing but unable, or both unable and unwilling. Take some time to analyze everyone on your team and what the best approach for each person may be. Then invest in them to try and get them to grow, using situational leadership. I realize this may seem like a thankless and impossible task, but you owe it to them and to God to try. They are in your team now and you’ll have to make do. And don’t ever forget that God still performs miracles on a daily basis, He may just surprise you yet.

Set a good example

Sometimes what people need to get motivated again in youth work, is a good example. So lead with enthusiasm, serve with passion and show a good example in everything you do. It’s not easy, especially when you feel like you’re the only one who’s on fire for what you do, but it’s important. Ask God to keep you fired up, to renew your passion for youth work daily so you are able to be a good example. It may be just what your dysfunctional leaders need to be able to make the change.

Serve with humility

When leading a dysfunctional team, pride comes easily. You see the faults of your team members, you see their shortcomings, problems, and issues. It’s a short road from that observation and the accompanying irritation to getting prideful. It’s easy to feel better equipped than them, more motivated, more worthy of serving in youth work…but that’s pride. Sure, you may have a few things working to your advantage compared to some people in your team, but you are just as dependent on God’s grace and blessing on your work as they are. You can accomplish nothing by yourself, so what do you have to be proud about? God made you, He gave you your gifts and talents, He gave you the opportunity to serve in youth work…so serve with humility.

Have you ever served in youth work with a dysfunctional team? How did you handle it?