Teaching Your Youth About Priorities – 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.

It seems that I’m having this conversation constantly, mostly with myself.  We have so much trouble keeping our priorities straight.  Why is that?  I think it has to do with the fact that we lose sight of who and what we are very quickly.  As Christians, we have some pretty high priorities.  Serve God and mankind.  In the world, there’s so much tearing at us for attention that we get quickly overwhelmed and start to lose focus.  Bills, jobs, spouses, children, hobbies, TV; these are just a few of the things that vie for our attention as we struggle to keep God as the first priority in our life.  We quickly forget that when anything takes the place of God in the priority chain, this is idolatry, pure and simple.  Sometimes, our ministries even become the idol, as we seek to do the work of God and forget the God of the work we are doing.

This post could probably use a whole article, and one day it will get what it deserves, but for now here are a few thoughts on teaching our students how to prioritize.

  1. Make sure your priorities are straight.  You will teach by example, whether you want to or not, and if you don’t have your priorities straight, or if you have an idol in the place of God, your students will see that and emulate it.
  2. Help your students realize where their priorities are.  Talk about what’s important in their life, and where they are spending most of their time.  They may think they have good priorities, but they may be acting differently.
  3. Make sure that you are focusing more on your student’s relationship with God than you are the tasks of leadership.  This will help your student from idolizing their ministry later in life (or now).  Leadership development takes both.  Remember, your students won’t be able to practice Godly leadership if their own relationship with God is lacking.
  4. Let your students discover their purpose.  Talk about purpose a lot, and let them get excited about their purpose.  Let them take the personality, gifts, strengths, and leadership tests.  A sense of purpose will help keep their priorities on track (although they will need a little goading).
  5. Enlist the parents of your students to help you.  Parents are a strong ally in everything that you are trying to teach your students, and can sometimes be a major hindrance as well.  Make sure that you and the student’s parents are sending the same signal when it comes to priorities.  Your young leaders will not be able to deal with competing signals from you and their parents.  Their parents will win every time, if only because students see their parents more and tend to be influenced by them heavily, even if they don’t want to be.
  6. Have retreats and meetings that serve as “wake-up calls” for your students to get themselves centered on their priorities.  Veering away from your priorities is easily done, and sometimes it takes a good proverbial kick to the head to bring you back to center.

Keep up with this.  You’re going to be tempted to let it ride, to go with the status quo, but you can’t.  Keeping priority means constant vigilance, both with yourself (especially with yourself) and with your students.

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About Matt Gooch

Christ Follower, Husband to Brandy, and Executive Director of Next in Line Ministries. My true passion is leadership development for teenagers. I love to read, write, hike, and spend time with my family.

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