People want to feel like they belong. Leaders in your youth ministry will stick around, and even bring their friends along on the journey, when you can create a culture that demonstrates your student leaders are valued. Love your leaders as Jesus loves you. Invest in them, encourage them, challenge them, rebuke them, guide them, and extend grace. Your leaders will invest in your students the same way you invest in them.
I recently went to an Orange conference tour stop and one of the things I was able to take away was looking for ways not to simply deploy leaders in your group but to develop their unique strengths and passions. Your student leaders have different strengths, passions and are motivated by different things. Find out how to leverage their strengths and encourage them to fit their passions within your student ministry. It may mean they start and lead a new program or take the lead in a particular area. Empowering your leaders and allowing them to take ownership of the student ministry will allow a new energy to come into your ministry.
Value your leaders by valuing their time and money. Don’t ask them to give up their time with students and make them pay for themselves. Work it in the budget or in the price for students when you need to bring leaders somewhere with you. There may be times when you need to ask for a little, resources can be tight. Yet, find ways to give them a discount and make it fiscally possible for them to help you. When it comes to time we are all under a crunch. Remember, they are volunteers and have families and other priorities. There is a balance to be found. Ask them to commit to time and honor their commitment.
When hardship falls on your leaders, strengthen them. Reach out and help them. They are first committed to God, then their families, to work, then to your ministry. Knowing where you fit into the scheme of things allows you to help invest in your leaders. Demonstrate the qualities of the type of leader that you are looking for. Read your bible, challenge your leaders to do so as well. Pray hard, take care of your family, work hard. Invest in the lives of students. Your leaders will see it and will be moved to do likewise.
Walk with your leaders in life. Know their struggles and the hardships they face. Share your own with them. Encourage them. Pray together. Challenge them in their faith, to go deeper in their faith than they have ever gone before, walk with them there. Feed them; food is a powerful thing in building community. Call them up to talk, give them hand written notes of thankfulness and encouragement. Look for the little things to do that will help build community within your leaders.
When we create a culture that loves one another, appreciates one another, encourages one another, that prays together, and walks through life together, our ministry is successful. Your leaders will mimic for each other and the students what you have done for them. Build an army of people so devoted to Jesus Christ that His love just oozes out of everything they do.