They are needed or they are gone. Youth have plenty of other groups who are anxious to use their talents. Every group from sports teams, garage bands, 4-H clubs, to the local street gangs are saying, “We have a place for you. We need you!” And here is the clincher. These groups actually do need them. They help develop talents and give them ways to use those talents immediately. There is no three year training program (often known as confirmation) that leads to… what? Lighting a candle? Going to play laser tag? Waiting until you are a real adult to sit on a committee? Okay… maybe a bit sarcastic on my part, but the point is clear. If we do not give them a purpose, we will not see them.
Leadership can be defined many ways. In the church, kids most often define it by what they observe, and that can be summed up with the images of microphones and committees. If you are a “real” leader in the church, you preach, sing, teach, get elected or asked to sit and plan and organize stuff. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are important roles, needed roles, but they only fit a very small group of kids. Most just are not interested.
What is most important to youth? Their relationships!
Peer Ministry Leadership (PML) gives kids and adults the skills that engage them in using relational skills in the congregation and in life every day, everywhere, and in every relationship. PML is the Good Samaritan Story, but instead of preaching and teaching it, skills are connected to it. It is called relational service. This type of service is face-to-face caring and welcoming every neighbor. It is called Good Samaritan Leadership, the front lines “go and do likewise” kind of leadership that fits every kid who has a relationship of any kind. It does not matter if they introverts or extroverts, if they have many relationships or just a few, or if they are male or female. I believe this style of ministry is essential for all. Simply put, you are not doing youth ministry until students are doing ministry.
Empowering youth to respond to God’s grace and love by living ministry every day, everywhere, in every relationship is the bottom line. We hope it is one your top priorities. We hope by giving youth real skills for real relationships your ministry influence will last in the lives of your participants.
My greatest joy? It happens often when I run into people who say about Peer Ministry Leadership, “I don’t even think about the skills any more. I realize that it is just who I am now.”