Youth leaders column from Dave Fenton: What is a youth leader?

Youth Leaders Column

A seemingly simple question. It’s the person who looks after the young people. 

But what are they supposed to do? Whether they are salaried or volunteers, youth leaders need to have some idea of the expectations of the church they serve. If they are told to simply ‘look after’ the young people, the church’s expectation is probably close to babysitting. Keep them amused while the adults have a proper service.

Teach, disciple, care

Whatever the level of the appointment, your youth leader (or even better ‘youth minister’) is one who is set apart to teach, disciple and care for the young people of the church. That may sound obvious but, increasingly, in my conversations with youth ministers, I find that they are not clear about their role. They feel they have been given a role and left to get on with it. What can be done to counter this feeling of isolation?

A church is a complex place, with many activities and pressures on the leadership of the church. But, if they have been appointed by the church, they must be aware of what the church is thinking and planning. Whatever the plan, have the needs of the young people been considered if it affects what they do? When new initiatives are discussed (e.g. a new set up for small groups) are the youth minister and her/his team included in that conversation. If a youth minister is not included in such a conversation they will increasingly feel like a sideshow.

A youth minister is one who is serving in one facet of the church’s life. Whatever is in place to support those who are serving should be in place for the youth minister. A regular meeting with church leaders to pray and consider issues of common interest can be helpful. Most churches commission youth and children’s workers, but then can easily neglect them and assume the work is progressing. Home groups can ‘adopt’ a member of the youth team, invite them occasionally to their meetings and pray for them whenever the home group meets.

Needing support

So, in general terms, youth ministers are key members of a church community who need to feel supported and cared for in their work. I spoke to one lady recently who worked in her secular employment all week, came home on Friday night and then got herself out to meet with the young people. In eight years no one in her church had asked her how she was doing. She was about to write a letter of resignation – that can be avoided and those eight years of experience put to good use.

Dave Fenton – associate minister at Christ Church Winchester and Training Director of Root 66 which runs training courses for youth ministers across the UK. 


This article was first published in the March 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057