One of the most important things we are called to do is pull others into ministry, equip them, and empower them to be used by God. The truth, though, is that we have limited bandwidth. So we need to rethink our organizational structure to add more voices and high capacity people. Then we need to equip and empower them, so it is not all falling on our shoulders.

How do we do this? Here are 3 ideas that have worked for me…

Build an organizational leadership chart.

What does your current ministry look like? What do you want it to look like? One of the things that helped me was to draw out an organizational leadership chart. You can do this in a number of ways, but the important thing is to do it. And honestly, it could help by drawing out several different charts.

I can sometimes get stuck on how things currently look, so I initially started with a couple “goal charts.” This allowed me to think about what could be. Then I filled in what our current ministry looks like and compared. This process helped me not only dream, but it also helped me realize where my potential holes or shortcomings were in achieving my goals.

There are lots of ways organizations and teams can be structured. You may want to start with a more simple chart based on a triangle with you, the primary leader, at the top. Then build down, adding in layers of leadership as you go.

You could also get a bit more intricate (or complicated) by basing your structure on key areas of ministry. Then build teams under each of those specific areas. If you would like to learn more about this style of organization strategy, check out my notes on Crystal Chiang’s workshop at the Orange Conference 2018. (She also went over several other ideas to help you create a strong volunteer strategy, so be sure to read it all.)

I don’t believe there is an ideal chart that works for every youth ministry, but I do believe every youth ministry needs a chart. This helps you and your team understand the goals and visualize what it will look like when the team is filled and functioning properly. Then we need to begin filling that chart with high capacity leaders.

Regularly train your leaders.

How are you equipping your team? Most of us who are leading youth ministries are excited to read the latest book, attend conferences, listen to podcasts, etc. in order to grow as leaders. Our volunteers are not paid to do that, though. On top of that, they have their own jobs, families, and other responsibilities that keep them from reading a book about youth culture once a month, listening to other youth pastors on a weekly podcast, and attending a youth ministry conference seven states away. So how are making sure they are trained?

We host an annual half-day training, where our team and teams from other area churches come together for a video-based mini-conference. On top of this, we have a monthly meeting, where we share stories, discuss a training, and pray together. This is a great time to cast vision and talk about goals, too. Then we also meet for a quick huddle before youth group each week to talk through the night and pray together. Not only do all of these help with training, but it also helps us to feel more like a team.

In addition to all of this, I am regularly thinking through all of the stuff I read, listen to, and attend. I try to keep these questions in the back of my mind: What can our team gain from this, and how can I get it to them? Usually this involves me taking notes, condensing them down so I don’t overwhelm them, and passing it on through an email. While most people on your team don’t have time to read a 300-page book, maybe they can read a 3-page summary from you.

While it does take more planning, time, and money, I would also encourage you to think about putting on a retreat for your team or attending a nearby conference or training. Again, it might not work for everyone, but if you can make it happen, your leaders will grow so much, just like your students when they go away for a camp or retreat. Don’t you want the same for your leaders?

Hand off more ministry to your team.

How much of your ministry can only happen if you lead it? How much of your ministry could be done by someone else? Once I start to think through my organizational chart, I soon realize that there is a lot I could pass off to other leaders.

In order to help you begin, think about the key aspects of your regular program. Do you have be the one teaching every week? Do you have to be the one leading worship? Do you have to be the one setting up and tearing down? Greeting at the doors? Processing new students’ info cards? Watching check-in? Running the sound board, slides, lights? Leading small group discussion? Scheduling volunteers in key areas? Planning out the weekly program? Training student leaders? Coaching small group leaders? Meeting with parents? Recruiting new leaders? On-boarding those new leaders?

There will be some key areas that make sense for you to lead—areas that fit your gifting and your vision for your ministry. One thing I heard Doug Fields say was that our goal should be to work ourselves into our sweet spots. We don’t need to completely replace ourselves; although, that could also be a good way of thinking. We need to put others in their sweet spots and also make sure we are in ours. Maybe you love leading your student leaders. Great! Do that. But have someone else help with setup and teardown who would be terrified to lead a group of student leaders but loves helping behind the scenes.

Our ministry reach will only be as big as our team’s capacity. If you are just a team of one, your capacity will be fairly small. But if we recruit a strong team and maximize their collective capacity, we can reach so many more teenagers for Jesus.

Here’s one last bonus tip: Consider what you can do individually for your leaders, too. Take them out for coffee and get to know them better. Then you can equip and empower them based on their individual needs in addition to the collective needs of the team.

Hopefully these ideas help you take some steps forward in equipping and empowering your team of leaders. And if you have other ideas that have worked for you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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