First Move Mondays
“First Move Mondays” is a weekly series of articles that will help you establish or strengthen a leadership development program in your youth group. These articles are aimed at youth leaders who are either contemplating a youth leadership team, those who have just started them, or youth leaders that want to strengthen the foundation of their existing program.
How Often Should My Youth Leadership Team Meet?
When talking to someone about starting a Youth Leadership Development Team, I’m often asked “How often should we meet?” That’s a tough question. Everyone does leadership development differently, based on their resources, their priorities, and time. The following are just a few of the most popular models that churches and non profit organizations use to develop leadership. One of these models might fit you and your ministry better than the others; the most important thing is to be intentional with whatever method you choose and carry it through.
Book and Conference
If we’re honest, this is how most most of us get our leadership development: We read books and maybe once a year attend a leadership conference. Even though books and conferences are wonderful resources for leadership development, this is by far the worst model if it’s your only resource.
The reason this is the only choice for so many ministers and young people is because of low support, time, and/or resources for leadership development. This is by far the most hands-off approach, and usually the most costly (have you seen the prices of some of those conferences?). Usually the Book and Conference model is self-initiated, though in some churches conference attendance can become a yearly ritual.
The reason I think that this model is the worst for sustained missional leadership development is very simple: leadership development doesn’t happen in one big spurt on one weekend. We are constantly growing in Christ, learning new things, and being exposed to new circumstances. True missional leadership development happens during the ins and outs of everyday living and discipleship; something that can’t be reproduced at a conference. We also know the high that accompanies conferences and the slow but steady deflation that happens the rest of the year as reality begins to overtake the vision the conference laid out. Without a constant support and reiteration of that vision, it dies.
The Workshop model differs slightly from that of the Conference model because usually the workshops are laid out by the church and include part of the church’s vision already built into the workshop. These can be leadership retreats, morning or evening meetings, or any other longer period of instruction where missional leadership is covered, taught, and encouraged.
This model is more intentional than the Book and Conference model, where you merely show up for a conference or see what’s on the bookshelf. Churches who will hold leadership workshops a few times a year are very intentional about what is taught at each one, and can individualize the teaching into the context and mission of the local church. Workshops are helpful because they can target specific leaders within your church, such as Sunday School Teachers, small group leaders, or staff pastors. The Workshop model also tends to be more missional because of it’s local nature and the obvious participation and planning of church or organizational staff and leadership. This makes the Workshop model ideal for organizations who don’t have the resources or time to implement a more sustained leadership development program, or who want to add a very intensive, targeted element to their leadership development program.
Workshops are easily planned and executed by existing staff without a heavy time or work commitment, and can even be taught by an outside resource instead of a staff member if the money is available.
The downside of the workshop model is that, like the Book and Conference Model, there isn’t a lot of time devoted to learning, only a few times a year, and with that comes a start-and-stop mentality to leadership development; it isn’t sustained.
A monthly model of leadership development is a more common leadership development model seen in churches of all sizes, budgets, and resources. A monthly model usually consists of designated, chosen individuals meeting on a monthly basis with an intentional agenda or curriculum. These monthly meetings give leadership teams time to teach, serve, and plan without overloading either the teachers’ or students’ busy schedules.
Monthly leadership models produce a more sustained leadership development, as students meet more often with a consistent agenda and curriculum. These models are highly intentional, as the leader must be organized not only for individual meetings but the program as a whole.
Monthly models are more common in medium and large churches where the program doesn’t require a dedicated staff member, or large amounts of time and money.
Weekly or Bi-Weekly
Weekly and bi-weekly models are found in churches where a dedicated staff member can be assigned or hired to run the leadership development program or in a church where there is a member who volunteers to run the program; perhaps they have experience with leadership development or a passion for it. As a result, most of the churches who have a weekly model tend to be larger in size and staff.
Weekly models take the most dedication and organization to run, and have to be very intentional to not lose momentum and organization. An extreme amount of dedication must also be shown by the students to bear with such a time-intensive demand on their schedules.
These models will be the most in-depth and extensive leadership training of all the models. Weekly or bi-weekly meetings ensure that a range of character and competency topics can be covered, making students who emerge from these program models more knowledgable and trained in Christian leadership.
The down side of this model is a direct result of it’s strengths. It takes a great deal of time and resources to plan and run a leadership development program with this model. Very few churches have the resources to devote to this model and even fewer churches have such leadership development in youth as a priority.
The last two models are different from the first four models; they are concerned less with time and more with the culture of the organization and the method chosen to transmit information.
Mentoring is a wide, varied, and much written about topic in today’s leadership circles. For our purposes, a mentoring program is one that gives one-on-one attention to leadership students. This can be done by any leader or designated mentor in your organization, and students are usually paired up with leaders who share the same interests or visions for life and ministry.
Mentoring is very effective because of the one-on-one relationship that develops between mentor and mentee, and because of the individualized nature of the content that can be disseminated.
Some Churches will use mentoring exclusively as a vessel for leadership development, others will include a mentoring component to a larger program, or as the next-step in a program.
The strength in a mentoring component lies in it’s ability to be used in so many ways. It’s down side is the time it takes to run a mentoring program, and the number of people that must be found to mentor a group of students; in smaller churches it is difficult to find the appropriate number of qualified mentors.
The cultural model of leadership development is more of a mindset by a church or organization; it is an attitude that permeates every pore of the organization. Churches who use this model spend large amounts of time and resources developing leaders within their organization, and in fact have made it a major focus of their organization. They are set up to develop leadership daily in every meeting, activity, and conversation.
By far, this is the most intensive leadership model, and is beyond the scope of most churches and NPOs. It requires a great deal of organization, dedication, and energy by a staff to plan and run, and must be meticulously monitored and assessed to make sure that the time and energy is being well spent.
All that being said, the Cultural model is by far the best to raise young leaders up in, as we all learn better through seeing things modeled and experiencing it. For that reason, the Cultural model, if you have a devoted and energetic staff, is worth every bit of time and energy you put into it.
Whatever method you choose, remember that it must match your organization’s priorities, time commitments, and culture. Trying to be something you’re not is a recipe for disaster. Know what you want from a Youth Leadership Team, know your organization, and proceed accordingly. Don’t set up a weekly model just because the guy at the church down the street did. Remember your students. Each and every group of students that you lead will be different; different schedules, different lifestyles, and different goals. Plan and react accordingly, this is for them. Setting up a weekly program when your students can only all come together once a month won’t do you any good.
Be prayerful, be intentional, and be committed. God will lead you to the right model.