Some people believe that in order to be a youth leader you need to always be "up on what's happening" or you have to be at least young enough not to have kids their age...because who wants a youth leader that can be my mom, right?
These are all stupid misconceptions,and many people have a misconception as to what a youth leader is. As many misconceptions as one can think of for "what it takes to be a youth leader" can also be thought up of for "what the role of a youth leader is".
Some think that a youth leader is the kids best friend, someone who just chills with the teens and listens to their problems, but is to afraid to lead and guide them because they don't want to ruin the friendship...or stop being important to the teen.
Some think that a youth leader is a bouncer who stands at the door waiting for the kids they know messes up to mess up so they can chuck em out the door at first sign of mis-behavior.
Some think a youth leader is a person who shows up, comes to youth group and watches the kids have fun and they are simply a warm body who stands off to the side and watches the revelry of the kids. This also is a good way to make oneself feel good about "giving their time to the youth".
As previously stated, there are several misconceptions as to what a youth leader is and sadly we youth pastors should get the blame. If we have any of the above youth leaders within our ministry, we have failed to train them and we have failed to guide them towards what it is God has them here for. One cares for friendship over leadership, the other cares for discipline and justice over grace and mercy, and the last cares for good feelings over true depth of purpose. These choices were made and no one above them tried to steer them onto a new path...a better path.
I will be the first to admit I struggle with this as well...I need to train my leaders better and love on them more!
So, with all of that said: what the heck is a Youth Leader?
There are several things I could list but for me, this is a special person who has the ability to befriend and lead teens. Someone who engages the teens on their ground even when it's awkward. This person is someone who is sold out to Jesus Christ as well as the idea of making Jesus known.
A Youth Leader is a person who desires to see teens come to know Jesus as well as grow in their faith. This person has a desire to go deeper themselves with the Lord so they can then bring the teens deeper as well.
This person prays for the teens they work with. They play with the teens, they laugh with the teens, they worship with the teens.
A Youth Leader is not a sideliner at youth events but a playmaker. This doesn't mean I expect a leader to always play a sports game if they hate sports, nor always play an intellectual game if they prefer sports, but it means they engage. Youth Group is not meant as a social club for the adult leaders, but rather a place of ministering to the teens.
Again, these things need to be communicated from the Youth Pastor.
In one of my ministries, I didn't communicate well what I expected. I was young and all of the leaders I had were my age or younger. Week after Week, I had two of my youth leaders (one male, the other female) texting eachother during my talks. After about 4 weeks of this, I was ticked and asked them why they would think that was cool. They stated: "You never told us that we couldn't text during the talk." I promptly told them to not do it again and to their credit they didn't.
However, that experience taught me something: every expectation must be communicated.
I've decided that I'm going to start doing a "Youth Leader 101" training...which I have never done, so that the above thoughts on what I think a youth leader are can be communicated. I'm sure some will dispute my ideas of a Youth Leader and maybe they are a bit "strong" for a vounteer leader...but I feel in order to be effective in the life of a teen, these things must show up.
If we are just their friends and are afraid to lead, we don't take them anywhere. If we are a bouncer and only trying to get them to behave, we may say a lot of stuff, but it will fall on deaf ears. If we go to make ourselves feel good, the only person we help is ourselves. If we love teens but don't love Jesus, we take kids down the wrong path.
God can use ANYONE to be a Youth Leader, no matter your age, gender, ethnicity God can use you in the life of a teen. The question is: are we willing to do all that is required to be effective...this goes for youth pastors too...are we willing?