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Leaders (Families)

This program is designed for co-leadership. In addition to sharing the work of leading, there are many benefits of co-leadership, such as providing more than one role model, setting an example of collaboration, providing more than one adult with whom youth can develop trust, and reducing the potential isolation of leading without a partner. In addition, co-leaders regularly evaluate the program and offer critical and creative course corrections. Co-leadership often leads to a deep connection and appreciation between the leaders—some of the many rewards of engagement in this program.

The most important skill for co-leadership is the ability to sensitively and authentically interact with youth. The curriculum navigates issues close to the hearts of adolescents, and careful, empathic listening and questioning are necessary. Knowing how to gently probe or facilitate youth's sharing requires patience. These skills develop in the context of care and trust. Co-leadership makes connecting to individual youth possible. Knowing more about youth who seem reluctant to participate or are quiet during discussions is important in order to sensitively cater the program to meet group needs. Co-leaders can share the responsibility of facilitating the group and reaching out to individuals effectively.

The photo-documentary project requires some basic knowledge of photography and display. Although familiarity with camera use is helpful, it is not a requisite for leadership. Enlisting the help of someone who is willing to consult as needed will provide enough support for the photo-documentary project.

Sharing Leadership with Youth

Many of the segments of the sessions can be ably led by youth. Youth leadership builds participants' ownership and investment in the processes and activities of the sessions. It also nurtures youth's developing abilities to lead and take initiatives. Simple activities that require little preparation, such as lighting the chalice, greeting participants at the start of the session, or acting as scribe during group generation of ideas, can be done easily by youth of all ages. There are many ways to involve youth in leadership, including:

  • Provide Program Input. As a group, youth can help guide their own programs. Soliciting youth input about activity choices is respectful and appropriate when leaders are ready to act on participants' ideas. Choices about snack and closing and opening rituals are easy to plan collaboratively. Like adult leaders, youth provide the best input when they are given sufficient background. For example, if youth lead chalice lighting, they may need a hymnal or other sources for meditative words. If youth are asked to choose session activities, they need enough information to make good decisions.
  • Co-Lead a Session Activity. With advance planning, youth can co-lead session activities. This challenge is often very appropriate for older adolescents, and a congregation can provide just the right environment for youth to take such leadership risks. Adolescents are seldom in communities that welcome their leadership; our faith communities can be an exception. Therefore, adults need to solicit youth interest in potential leadership roles and follow up. It is the adult leader's responsibility to support youths' leadership success. Youth, like adults, will have their own leadership style. Flexibility about style of leadership is both necessary and healthy. Encourage all interested youth to co-lead an activity. Hesitant youth may be more willing to attempt leadership after observing the success of their peers. Participating in leadership builds individual and collective identities as well as group process. Adult leaders can support youth by modeling attentiveness and cooperation during youth leadership and managing those aspects of the program that youth are not leading.
  • Co-Lead the Photo-Documentary Project. Youth leadership is an inherent part of the photo-documentary project. While adult co-leaders will recruit congregational families for the photo-documentary, youth will engage directly with families about photography, narratives, and the families' reflections on their representation in the project. Adult leaders need to back up youth by addressing connections that are not made, details that are overlooked, and other aspects of project work that need support. Often youth have wonderful ideas and plans that go unrealized. Adult leaders must skillfully walk the line between too much and too little support and guidance. A benefit of this curriculum is that adults can assure participants' success on the photo-documentary project without stifling their initiative and creativity.
  • Participate in Overall Program Leadership. Leaders may wish to have senior high youth join the leadership team. Experienced youth, already seasoned in leading sessions, may join an adult in leading the entire program. Alternatively, youth can be effective co-leaders for full individual sessions. Planning is necessary, since session leadership often requires at least a week of preparation. To prepare, the adult and youth co-leaders read the session in advance, make activity choices, determine each person's responsibilities, and prepare to lead together. In this process the adult must maintain his/her responsibility of mentoring youth co-leaders and supporting the program participants.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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