The 4 R’s of Leading Leaders
My role has always been Youth Pastor and over the last year I have been doing Interim Pastor while maintaining my role as Youth Pastor. Obviously this has been a transition, and I have had to let go of certain things. I am really glad that throughout my time as Youth Pastor I have equipped my leaders to be stand alone leaders. Don’t get me wrong, we work as a team, but they are given the authority to make decisions and minister to students (even without me). This was something that I transitioned into and it took time. My filter has been the 4 R’s of Leading Leaders. I do not think I ripped this off of anyone, although I am sure none of these ideas are new. Here are the 4 R’s to help you better lead your leaders.
You need leaders, and if your leadership team is anything like mine you probably have turnover from time to time. Recruiting is the first step. Every year we have a few weeks before the school year starts where we really ramp up recruiting, but we are actively recruiting all year. We have added 3 leaders this year alone during the school year. This has been a strength for our ministry, not a weakness. When I say ‘we recruit’ I mean exactly that. I am not the only recruiter out there. Our leaders are out there encouraging people they see with the possible gift of student ministry to check out our program or attend a leaders meeting. These one on one recruitments have proven to be the most successful. We still make a public push in our Sunday morning service every year and try to find events that fit for event volunteers who cannot commit to every single week. I have found that recruiting on a Sunday morning benefits our ministry in two ways. One, we might gain some interest from potential leaders who were holding back and just needed to be encouraged to check us out. Two, it gives us an opportunity to give the whole church an update on youth ministry and share stories about how God is moving. So we need to recruit, and depending on your context I would encourage you to do it year round.
Once a leader decides they want to start helping in student ministry we must equip them. Many times they feel inadequate and under resourced. I have found that if my leaders sit in the stage where they feel like they don’t fit for too long then they will leave. And can we really blame them? They haven’t been doing this as long as you. Certain things that come natural to you, do not come natural to them. So here are some ways we resource all of our leaders. First, if you are a new leader to our ministry, it is almost guaranteed that your first year is going to be spent co-leading a small group with someone who has more experience than you. Yes I took a page out of Rex Kwon Do, “We use the buddy system, no more flying solo.” But seriously, this creates relationships with leaders and helps those new leaders feel very comfortable in a small group environment. Second, we train year round. Each youth leaders meeting starts with some training. These are sometimes just easy and basic reminders and sometimes we tackle tougher issues, but we are always growing, even if it is little by little. Third, I ask my leaders how the discussion guides are going. For example, this year we are doing a 15 part curriculum and my leaders complained last year that the packaged discussion guides were not helpful. So I wrote 15 discussion guides back in August, before we launched youth group, because I wanted to hand them something that was basic, helpful, and met their needs. I wouldn’t have known this was going to be an issue unless I was continuing to evaluate how well I was doing at resourcing my leaders. When we resource our leaders well, we place them in the best possible scenario to succeed.
And this is the hardest of them all for youth pastors. Confession, the hardest for this youth pastor. Yes, it is hard to let leaders go. So often we do the recruiting and the resources, but then we ask our leaders to be babysitters while we do everything. Just last night we went on a trip that I would’ve never planned. One of my leaders said, we should do this, and we did. It was a great trip and students are closer to God today because of that trip. When we fail to release leaders it is our pride saying, “I can do it better, so I should do it.” Well not only does that lead to burnout, because you cannot do everything, but that is also a terrible attitude to have if you are trying to create a team approach to leadership. At the start of this school year I handed off our events to one leader and said, “here is your budget, here are the dates, here are the events we have done in the past on these dates, GO FOR IT, I TRUST YOUR GONNA DO AWESOME!” And this leader has done just that, awesome. For those of us that want to micromanage this is very difficult, but the more our leaders get involved in planning and decision making the more our leaders take ownership of the ministry. When leaders become owners then we see a long lasting leadership team that can really make a difference.
Communication is very important. If I release my events leader to plan these events and never reconnect that is reckless. We need to be in communication. Here are some ways we reconnect. First, every month we have a leaders meeting. These meetings are an opportunity for all our leaders to gather and be trained as I stated before, but these are also used for planning and updating. For example, if we have an event coming up, I will ask that the events leader shares about what is coming up and any help they might need in executing that plan. This reconnecting happens all the way down to our small groups. Every small group gives a report of how the last four or five weeks have been and how their students are responding to the curriculum. This connects us all with the area they have been released to. We want to release our leaders well, and that can only be done if we are reconnecting and keeping the line of communication open. Second, I am always trying to tap leaders on the shoulder and ask them how they are doing. This is done in many different ways. I may send out an email with an update and at the end encourage them to let me know if there is anything new happening in their leadership circle. Or it may be after youth group and I walk up to a leader and ask “how was your small group?” We have created an openness between myself and the leaders that if they begin to feel disconnected for any reason they can contact me and we can discuss how we got there. Third, reconnecting is a very important step we cannot miss. Sometimes we will recruit, resource, and release someone to an area that doesn’t quite fit them. If we are not reconnecting with that leader than we may be completely unaware that they are not working in that role or that role is not working for them. If I were to at one more R to this (just to stick with the theme of course), I would add RECALIBRATE. Sometimes reconnecting is incredibly vital because we need to recalibrate a leader to something new or recalibrate the ministry to meet the leader; either way, we cannot do this without reconnecting and having knowledge of the issue. We can do great at the first three R’s and then fail at this and lose leaders because of it. When a leader feels like their voice is not being heard or that they are in a place that doesn’t fit them, they leave.
How do you recruit, resource, release, and reconnect with leaders? I would love to learn and grow from what you have seen work.