Youth leaders provide energy, insight, and wisdom to their faith communities. Their deep love, their new ideas, and their skills are needed. And as many adults know, being a leader in one’s spiritual community is often a life altering experience.
Youth leaders, whether formal or informal, gain skills, experience, and wisdom they may not find anywhere else in their teen years. Many of their other activities are highly structured and do not give them a chance to try out their own ideas. Or a chance to fail. Failure is critical to learning and young adults who have not had been permitted to experience failure have a very hard launch to adulthood including mental health difficulties.
Youth leaders need mentoring and care from adults. They need coaching on the skills they’re learning. They need help understanding congregational processes and real world things like liability and insurance. Often the best way to mentor is through quiet conversations on the side where an adult can ask the youth questions and point out things the youth may not have seen. Youth have a lot of questions that deserve answers: “why do we do things this way?” And youth leaders need special pastoral care. Sometimes our faith communities disappoint us, sometimes deeply. Youth leaders especially need adult care and presence during these times.
Remember leadership is not just “being in front” or telling others what to do. Help youth see that anything that makes the ministry happen is leadership.
Provide workshops and training for all of your youth such as Bringing the Web to Life. These leadership skills such as active listening are helpful to all areas of their lives.
Make your youth aware of training opportunities in Central East and nationally.
Take the time to discover the passions and skills of each youth and invite them to opportunities that match throughout the congregation.
Pair youth with adult mentors who share their passions.
Remember not all youth want to be leaders in your congregation. Some are coming to be nurtured. And some are not ready or interested in leadership. And remember this can change at any time!
When you send youth leaders into congregational ministries, coach your adult leaders in how to work with youth so the youth voices are heard and included.
Support your youth who seek regional or national leadership. Find a local mentor to support them in this ministry. Expect them to remain engaged in the congregation and if they do not, ask them why.
Include aspects of youth ministry that are youth lead, aspects that are youth initiated, and aspects that meet youth needs, but youth do not need to run.
Central East’s Fundamentals of Healthy Youth Ministry provides leadership training for both youth and adults together
UUA’s Summer Seminary for youth who aspire to be religious professionals