Each fall, as we kickoff ministry, I am amazed. I’m grateful that God has supplied leaders for students for sure, but I’m continually amazed that there are people that will step up to three hours every Sunday night to love kids plus invest in their lives beyond that night. As the paid person in the room, I look at them all and know that they are my team, my community, a gift, and my responsibility. I need to care for them as I lead them. I can remember when I had to shift from the mindset of leading students to leading the leaders of students…and students.
I need to pull together homemakers and shop workers, engineers and secretaries, college students and grandparents and help them become youth leaders. As I pull them together I have to remember that they are people with their own hurts and joys, and they have chosen to serve students with their time, energy, and often, their money. They give up vacation for mission trips, weekends with their families for retreats and their Sunday nights. They deserve my attention. They deserve to be cared for.
There are many things we can do for our leaders to care for them so I narrowed it down to three that don’t require budgets or conferences.
A cared for leader is heard. As a leader of leaders, this team is your job. Yes, you are the leader of students but without these people you’d be out of luck, so they are just as much of your job as kids. Give them your ears. Listen, watch, help as they lead students. Listen for concerns, joys, and ideas. Watch for moments to give encouragement or guidance. Help with resources, fun, and training.
A cared for leader knows they matter. We serve Jesus, that matters. When we see a life come to Christ, when we see healing begin, when we hear “thank you” – we know that what we do every week matters. Leaders also need to know that they matter to you, their leader. Ask about life, praise a great moment, use their gifts, remember the names of their own kids and ask about them. These people that come each week to serve aren’t just warm bodies so that you meet the safety and procedure guidelines – they are pastors in their own way of those they lead. You can’t do ministry without them, make sure they know it.
A cared for leader is known. Leader care at its core is relationships. It’s remembering that the dad who was late to the leader meeting rearranged his travel to be there, it’s celebrating a new baby and crying with the new empty nester. It’s knowing their stories and asking about them, it’s sharing life beyond the ministry, it’s laughing, crying, and praying together.
Looking back over the past few years, I have discovered that I get a lot more than volunteer hours in return by caring for leaders. One, they care for you. They listen, notice, and invest in your story which is blessing I didn’t anticipate. The other, cared for leaders stick around and in a world where students need consistent adults in their lives, this blessing is priceless.
What can you do this month to invest in your leaders? You could send a few encouraging notes to leaders who need them. Maybe you could all go out for wings after ministry and share stories (this is our favorite). It’s not what you do so long as you do it.