One of my favorite things in the world is surfing. I love the smell of the ocean, I love being in the water, I love riding any type of wave, and I love all of the gear that comes with surfing. Some of my most prized possessions are my surf boards. I have 5 surf boards and I often get asked (by non surfers), why do you need so many boards? Here is why, my boards are all different, they range anywhere from 5’10” to 9’2’’, some have 4 fins on the bottom, some have 3, and some only have 1. Each board is completely different and unique. They were all custom shaped for a specific purpose. The boards each perform differently and were made for different types of waves and conditions. When it comes to surfing I have so many different types of boards because they are all different and I use them in different ways. The same goes for the leaders in your youth ministry.
This may come as a shock to you, but not everyone is the same. Each one of your leaders, just like my boards, were shaped differently on purpose for a purpose. And this is wonderful! Each of your leaders has different unique talents that can be used to reach students for Christ and help them grow in Him. Not all of your leaders will perform the same in different situations, certain shapes will excel at certain things and other shapes at other things. Not all surfboards are created equal and not all youth leaders are created equal, and like I said, that is a very good thing!
Here is the problem, in most youth ministries the leaders are told to show up and do the same thing. Whether it is “just interact with students” or “just be an adult presence, or “just hangout and you will figure it out” they are all given the same tasks and used in the same exact way. I have been very guilty of this, I expect the same thing out all of my leaders and the problem is that they are not all the same and in so doing I was losing out on their unique talents. I have worked with ladies who were amazing in small groups and one who hated small groups and was uncomfortable the whole time. Early in my ministry I spent time brain storming how I could make small groups more enjoyable for her and help her become a better small group leader instead of realizing all I needed to do was hand her a microphone and have her lead the big group where she brought tons of energy, had a great time, and the students loved her. Not all of your leaders are shaped the same and you need to find where they will be most effective. I am sure you have realized this when your worship leader plays dodgeball (no offense to the super athletic worship leaders out there) we are not all gifted in the same way! I will be honest, I can’t even clap on beat, that is not how I was shaped and it is okay.
Find out how your leaders are shaped. What excites them? What are they good at? How can they best be used in your ministry? Get to know your leaders and ask them questions to find out their shape and how they can be used most effectively. Your ministry will flourish when you begin using your leaders in a way where they feel most comfortable and are doing what they are best at. Not all of your leaders can or should be doing the same thing, each of their “job” descriptions, or “duties” should look different depending on how God made them.
So, next time someone asks you “what does a youth leader do?” tell them that they are kind of like a surf board. They all have the same goal but they are shaped differently on purpose for a purpose to be used in different, amazing ways. Start using your leaders according to their unique shape and lead them into doing awesome ministry.