3 December 2022

Here’s how to help your youth worker grow as leaders

Youth workers need help too. Picture: iStock.

By Brian Holden 

25 June 2022

Early in my ministry formation I had my first annual review. It didn’t go well.  

It was held in the third year of my role and the person running it was disconnected from the ministry itself. I was devastated by the result. I went to my leadership team and gave a heartfelt apology for failing them. Of course, they had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, most of the key leaders hadn’t heard about the review at all, and they certainly hadn’t given input. I felt letdown by the review process and believed the church was not interested in me growing as a leader. 

Years later I know the church was interested it’s just that sometimes we as the church don’t manage process well. 

Hopefully, my experience and my 15 years of learnings since can be helpful.  

So, if your parish is lucky enough to have someone working with youth in any capacity consider these tips: 

Meet with them 

To many this will sound simple and obvious. But scheduling regular one-on-one meetings to discuss the vision of the parish and how it is playing out in the youth ministry will help bring this ministry in from the edges. I once had a leader who would stick their head into the office door once a week and say, “How are things going?”. At the time I didn’t realize this was their attempt at checking on the ministry, my life and my growth in leadership. To be done well, this check-in needs to be a regular kept time with an agenda of things to discuss and learn about as their leader. 

It shouldn’t, but youth ministry can often operate as an island within the parish that feels very isolating as a leader. So, connect them back in at every opportunity. 

Champion their development 

Most Youth Ministers are part-time, and that adds time pressure. They might not feel they have time to attend a full three-day conference. So as leaders help them to see the benefit and make it possible to take development seriously. They are often on the busy dance floor trying to avoid having their toes stood on, so they need the balcony view you can bring. 

Discuss relevant articles, books or training events regularly, they will learn from how seriously you take your own development. Let them know up front that this is an expectation for all leaders so they can build it into their schedule. 

Read more: Why professional supervision can help ministers through the burnout burden 

Connect them with others 

As I’ve already mentioned youth and children’s ministry can be isolating. When you are one to three days a week you don’t often have a large network. Help connect your leaders with others. Have a deanery day where they all come. Connect them with the diocese. Make sure they have appropriate supervision and coaching from outside of the local parish. 

Show up 

This is the easiest one. Just show up. It doesn’t have to be every week, maybe once a term organise to be at an event they run and support and encourage them. It means more to them than you may realize.  

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