5 keys for training adult leaders

All around me, students are headed back to school. As school looms before us, so, too, does the start of fall programming. In my context, fall programming for students begins the day after Labor Day. Fall programming for adult leaders begins two weeks earlier.

We switched to this format several years ago. Prior to that, we claimed to value leader’s training.

After all, we wholeheartedly believe the best leaders are those who are equipped for the roles we’re asking them to fulfill.

Despite this stated value, at the time, leader’s training was happenstance. I’d occasionally throw out a date and say, “We need to do leader’s training.” If most leaders could attend, we’d move forward with it; If not, we’d continue searching for a date. Such a pattern left leaders ill-equipped for effective ministry and questioning whether or not we really valued them, their training, or even their service.

As a result, four years ago, we made significant changes to how we trained leaders.

1. We began including training as part of our recruitment spiel for new leaders. In doing so, we clearly communicated training as a non-negotiable part of serving as a leader.

2. Making training non-negotiable for leaders forced us to schedule trainings in advance. We now approach each year with six hour-and-a-half long trainings on the calendar, which leaders know from day one.

3. Out of respect for our leaders, we schedule trainings during our regular youth ministry meeting time. Rather than ask leaders to give up another day / night of the week for training, we instead hold it during the time they're used to serving anyway. To facilitate this, we replace our normal youth ministry gathering with a movie or game night, held at someone's house. Parents then serve as the “adult leaders” for that night. This communicates how much we value training to both leaders and our youth ministry families. The more aware families become of the extensive training leader's undergo in order to serve in our ministry, the more confident they become in our ministry and it's leadership.

4. We moved leader's training from the church to my house. Doing so created a much more relaxed environment for leaders. Additionally, by holding training in my house, I essentially invited leaders into my life – powerfully showing them I value them both as friends and leaders.

5. We began serving dinner at each leader's training. Throughout Scripture, fellowship happens around a table. Thus, we decided to experiment with serving a meal in order to more intentionally build community (on a more practical note, serving food also enabled people to come straight from work to training). As leaders began sharing meals together, they also began sharing stories with one another. Through this, they began forming relationships with one another, something they can then model for the students they serve. As an added bonus, when leaders experience genuine community with one another, they're much more likely to continue serving for the long-haul.

As a result of the aforementioned changes, leaders now know how much we value them. When we say they're the backbone of our ministry, they know it's true.

How do you communicate value to your leaders?

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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