3 Best Practices Developing Young Leaders

I just heard my friend Doug Fields share three “best practices” developing young leaders helpful not only in the context of youth ministry, but also in the context of parenting.

Doug is a big believer in developing young leaders. In all three cities of his SLC2013 Conference this year, he pulled the adult leaders aside and prepped them for what they could do to help their students glean as much as possible from this leadership event. In this little face to face meeting, Doug shared 3 “Best Practices” adult leaders could make a habit of, not only at this conference, but this entire year, developing young leaders.

Here’s just a snippet:

3 Best Practices Developing Student Leaders

1. Your kids will often only absorb what you debrief. Don’t expect everything they just heard and experienced to sink in. Stimulate them to process it by debriefing with them. This doesn’t mean preach to them—chances are they already heard plenty of preaching at a conference. Debriefing is most successful when you ask questions. Ask them:

  • What hit you the most in that talk?
  • What is a way you can apply that this week, this month, this year?
  • What did you learn from that exercise with the rest of the team?
  • How can you apply that this week, this month, this year?

Use questions to help your kids process what they just learned, and help them think about how they can specifically take it home with them and live it out.

2. Affirm them constantly and specifically. Catch them doing something right:

  • It was fun watching you work with the rest of the team on that project—you work really well with others.
  • I loved your idea about how to make others feel welcome.
  • You’re really good at…

Young people often hear more criticism than affirmation. Don’t neglect this unique opportunity to affirm them in their giftedness.

3. Get out of their way. Today’s parents and adult leaders often struggle with letting their kids solve problems on their own. We tend to swoop down and “save them.” In actuality, we’re hurting them.

One of the best ways to develop young leaders is to let them experience problem solving skills on their own. When we see them struggling… let them figure it out. It’s okay if they choke or fall. Those are often some of the greatest lessons learned. Then come alongside them afterwards and debrief:

  • What went wrong?
  • What might have been a good way to fix it?
  • What is a bad way to fix it?
  • What did you learn from this situation?

Then affirm them in what you saw them do right, and if they didn’t figure out the answer on their own, off a few humble suggestions and let them try it again. They’ll be more eager to listen to your counsel after they came up empty time and time again.

What about you?

Are you developing young leaders?

Are you asking them questions that make them process what they are learning?

Are you affirming them and catching them do something right?

Are you giving them a chance to try it themselves… and even fall flat on their face?

LEARN MORE ABOUT DEVELOPING YOUNG LEADERS IN JONATHAN’S HELPFUL BOOK “MINISTRY BY TEENAGERS”

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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