It starts innocently enough. She brings sandwiches for a Sunday-night event. She hangs out in the kitchen area, coyly watching all the fun and dreaming of what could be.
Over the next few weeks, she strategically positions herself so she’s near the student room. And you smile and assure her it’s fine to hang out—because you’ve definitely noticed her. Conversations ensue. Coffee happens. She’s now working check-in. Smiles exchange. More conversations ensue. It’s becoming more serious.
She’s exclusive now. She dates no other ministries. She’s committed. She’s leading a small group, spending her own money on kids, taking vacation time to go to summer camp. The relationship is beyond Facebook-official.
But the deeper she dives into your youth ministry, the more she inches away from other connections at church. She doesn’t volunteer as much with the worship team. And she’s willingly stepped away from her small group because it met during the same time as the girls’ group she’s leading.
When volunteer leaders fall in love with teenagers, they often sacrifice their own community in order to serve.Click to tweet
When volunteer leaders fall in love with teenagers, they often sacrifice their own community in order to serve. WE are their small-group leaders, even if we aren’t leading them in a Bible study. It’s one need/opportunity that we unintentionally overlook. So, what can we do to boost community among our ministry leaders?
1. Make every huddle, leader meeting, or team gathering a “get-to know-each-other” time.
Use some of the same ice-breakers you love doing with your students. In fact, kill a few birds with one stone by previewing and beta-testing those ideas using leaders first.
2. Always, every time, without fail, pray together as leaders.
And not just the standard “dismissal” prayer that signals the end of the meeting. Share prayer requests together and assign partners to pray for each other. Encourage them to ask Jesus first how to pray, then wait, then pray. Or circle up and have each person pray for the person on their right. If there’s only time for one leader to pray, then be sure to call out requests specifically.
3. Celebrate milestones and grieve losses together.
Organize meal trains, showers, and childcare on behalf of leaders who are experiencing births, deaths, weddings, and funerals. Mobilizing the entire team to help in a time of need builds community AND individual connections.
4. Never underestimate the power of a good small-group study.
It might not always work in the “flow” of training and programming, but make some intentional time to lead the group through a good discussion-centric study on something that will deepen their relationship with Jesus. Read a book together—one that includes small-group questions at the end of each chapter (consider Center Your Life on Jesus or Spiritual Grit, for example). Build spiritual depth and development as you explore spiritual disciplines together.
Beyond offering ministry leadership and shepherding to your team, this approach builds retention and continued commitment to the cause and mission of youth ministry in your church!