Youth Leadership Development Strategies for Churches
At-Risk Youth are in Need of Help and Support
In 450 B.C., the Greek philosopher Socrates wrote: "Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers." Accept it or not, the perception of youth, adolescence or young people has varied in terminology throughout the ages. However, we do come to accept that adult perceptions have shaped the programs and resources directed at assisting young people grow to adulthood.
The church is no different. Biblical verses from the Old Testament are used to talk of training children and not sparing the rod, while New Testament verses are used to speak of children obeying their parents. While the Bible may have more commandments, directives and proverbs on youth and children, the church also develops programs and ministries to develop children in Christian maturity.
The fact remains that at-risk youth are in need of both help and support. Just like community-based programs and school-based programs are developed to assist such youth, the church and faith-based agencies should also develop programs and ministries that help youth transition from childhood to adulthood in a Christian manner. By taking on at-risk youth, the church can engage in mentoring and developing young people to serve as Christian leaders in the future.
What the Church Can Do for Youth
The church can develop youth programs and ministries. These can be both on site and off the church campus in the community. These serve as vehicles by which youth can have positive experiences working with adults and each other in supportive environments.
Activities may include:
- Sports groups
- Trainings/ workshops
- Service projects
- Prevention programs
Consider partnering with other groups within the community. Make an effort to get in touch with school principals and counselors as well as teachers. Talk to community leaders. See what other youth programs exist in your area.
Other Youth Leadership Development Ideas
Assemble an advisory group to help identify what your church can do. Definitely get the buy-in of the pastor. Be sure to include parents, foster parents, educators, youth workers, social workers, and some youth. You want a good representation of stakeholders involved with planning your activities.
Think about youth leadership opportunities that already exist within your region or denomination:
- Annual conferences
- Oratory contests
- Essay contests
- Special projects
- Annual campaigns/ initiatives
Develop some ideas of your own. Brainstorm with the group. Think of ways to involve youth.
- Leadership training
- Ministry mentors
- Leader shadow
- Add youth speakers to ministry programs for special events/ monthly programs
- Create a youth speakers bureau with training and coaching
- Work with your local United Way on service projects