When the class of 2018 heads into their future there will a be a big hole in our youth ministries. The absence of their leadership and personalities will leave big shoes to fill. If you’ve got natural leaders coming up right behind them, this transition may be something you’re ready for. But the reality is, sometimes we don’t know who will step up to lead, we don’t know if our kids will feel as connected, and we don’t know what will happen this summer, as these relationships transition.
Like the high school basketball coach who’s been starting five seniors, we have to start thinking about our team for next season. We’ve got to target students who are ready to contribute more than they have before, and are willing to lead. We have to trust new students to make up our starting lineup. The victories of the past no longer matter—our focus is on the future. Sometimes the hardest part of being a coach is letting your seniors go, then showing your new lineup that you have complete confidence in them.
Skyler was a “starter” for our youth ministry. She was such a natural leader. She brought people together—she was a connector, motivator, and encourager. She’s been away at college for less than a year now. Those first six weeks of youth ministry after Skyler left for college seemed like an eternity. Our team just didn’t look or perform the same. When youth group started each week, it was quieter than usual. Some kids didn’t know who to talk to. And some kids decided to skip youth group altogether after Skyler left because she was their main connection.
Losing seniors like Skyler can be a big blow to any youth ministry. When you have a strong graduating class it might feel like you’ll never recover. So how can we pass the baton of leadership on? And how can we make sure that losing seniors does not leave our community feeling like they’ve lost connection or purpose?
Like that basketball coach who lost five starters, we must…
KEEP THE TEAM TOGETHER.
No doubt the team will be feeling a bit of loss when their senior members move on. Plan on working in some bonding time: Beach volleyball, grill out, a hike, lock-in, bowling, whatever you think will enhance the “connective tissue” of your group.
SHOW CONFIDENCE, COACH.
You’re the coach. Pray about how you’re modeling confidence and excitement about the present and future of your team. The kids in your youth ministry are following your lead. Share the game plan with them—give them a vision for this upcoming season that they can buy into and be a part of. Let them know that you can’t win without them.
GIVE EVERYONE PLAYING TIME.
Don’t let kids in your youth ministry warm the bench. There are no spectators on your team. A coach needs to know all of his/her players—how they’re motivated, what they do best, and what important role they play. It’s up to you to help each team member reach their potential and experience the power of being a part of a TEAM. The strongest teams are teams that have a DEEP BENCH. That means that the coach is so confident in every player’s contribution to the team that he can put anyone in the game at any time and the team can win. As youth pastors we sometimes rely on the biggest personalities in our group because they are our leading “scorers.” But don’t forget, youth pastor, that you have other kids who can score if they have the chance.
I pray that your transition this summer is blessed. I pray that you will lead with excitement and intentionality. I pray that you will see Jesus expressed uniquely in every student in your ministry.