When I first started in youth ministry I had volunteered for a few years and learned so much about the ministry but I had never done many of the major tasks of being a youth pastor. For instance, preaching. Of course, I had been up front running games, hosting, doing a wrap up, and even saying a few encouraging words here and there but I had never actually delivered a full sermon. I have always loved learning about ministry, I was a total sponge soaking up everything I could. One year I even went, by myself, paying my own way, to the Youth Specialities conference in San Diego. While I was there I remember sitting in one of the breakout sessions and starting a casual conversation with one of the youth pastors next to me. He was a nice guy and we started talking about ministry and life. I explained that I was ready to start speaking and was looking for places to practice. I talked to him about what was going on in my life and ministry and for some reason this random youth pastor at a church in Newport Beach, CA decided to help develop me as a leader. He invited me to come speak at his youth group and help me learn some of the skills I needed as a youth pastor.
I was invited to speak on a Sunday morning to his high school group (about 40 students). It was an awesome experience that taught me about speaking but even more importantly it showed me that I could do it and that someone believed that I could do it. I was so nervous to get up there and it definitely wasn’t the best sermon I have ever given but it was awesome that someone would take a chance on me as a young leader and give me the opportunity to develop and sharpen my skills. That was the first sermon I ever gave. Now I have spoken at many, many chapels, schools, camps, churches, youth ministries, as well as teaching classes and doing trainings for youth workers. All because someone was willing to take a chance on me as a young leader.
Who are you taking a chance on? How are you training and equipping leaders? As leaders one of our biggest calls is to reproduce and create more leaders. There are so many leaders out there that need someone to show confidence in them and give them opportunities to sharpen their skills. It is sad to think of the leaders and the people with so much potential that were never given the opportunity to become who they could be in ministry. When that guy decided to take a chance on me he showed me two big things that we should make note of when taking a chance on a young leader.
1. He wasn’t afraid that I would be better than him
Often times we as leaders want to reproduce leaders but there is that little concern deep down inside (that we wouldn’t even admit to anyone) that says “what if he ends up being better than me?” or “What if he end up taking my job?”. Pride gets in the way of taking a chance on a young leader for fear that he might be great and people might like him more. We as leaders need to get over it and do our job in pouring into leaders and hoping that they are better than us! My hope and prayer is that every leader I pour into surpasses me in knowledge, skill, and influence. When I had someone take a chance on me he didn’t fear that his youth group would like me more, that I would take over, or that I would be better than him. He simply poured into me, selflessly wanting hoping and praying for my success. We need to search for young leaders that we can take a chance on and pour into without pride getting in the way.
2. He didn’t just throw me in
This is so important for multiple reasons. First off, you do not want to do that to the young leader. If they are given zero training before being shoved on stage they will most likely get scared off from ever wanting to do it again. Secondly, when you throw someone up front without meeting with them to help them, check their preparation, and give them advice, you run the risk of your ministry looking extremely unprofessional. Understand that they will not be as good as you or as someone who has been teaching/preaching for years but you can at least provide them with the training to help it not be so awkward. I just returned from a camp last week that tried pushing their staff by giving them the opportunity to speak each morning, and that is awesome. But it was SO apparent that they had zero coaching before they went up there and as a result it made the camp’s programing look extremely unprofessional and honestly just bad. When I was given the opportunity to deliver my first sermon I had 2 meetings with the youth pastor before I made it on stage. The first was a phone conversation, and the second was in his office as we went over my notes and discussed technique as well as content. Take a chance on a young leader, but don’t throw him/her to the wolves and risk scaring your young leader off or having your ministry suffer.
Taking a chance on a young leader does not mean just giving them the opportunity to speak. It can mean giving them the chance to lead in any aspect of the ministry. Step out and step up by taking a chance on a young leader that needs opportunities and confidence shown them.