Building a teaching team will make you a better student ministry leader.
Now, I know. You might be thinking something like:
“I don’t have time to build a teaching team! I barely have time to recruit new small group leaders. How in the world can I take the time to find other people to speak to our students?”
I’d say you can’t afford not to take the time to build an all-star youth ministry teaching team. That’s because in the long run, finding other communicators will:
- Give you more time to focus on recruiting and retaining great volunteers.
- Allow you more space to work on the ministry and not just in it.
- Offer you back some of those stressful Saturday evenings so you can be more present with your family and friends.
- Give you back hours you can use to build relationships with your students.
Balancing Your Youth Ministry Roles
Truthfully, one person should not bear the weight of communicating to teenagers weekly. It’s just too important. When you add to that the weight of responsibility to run a student ministry, program events, partner with parents, and train volunteers . . . well, eventually something will give.
I’m not proud to say this, but from time to time, for me, the thing that “gave” was that week’s talk. Now, thankfully I was an XP3 curriculum user. This meant that I had a huge advantage in creating and delivering a great talk consistently. It also meant that I had access to resources like the XP3 teaching videos. Included in the Media Package, these can be intentionally used to provide talented, diverse, and creative communicators to students while keeping honorarium costs to a minimum. Or, these could be used if we ever got into an unexpected pinch. But even with those great resources, I’d occasionally get to Saturday night and have that sinking feeling that I should have spent more time preparing a great talk. The week was just so full of urgent ministry needs. And before I knew it, my message prep went out the window.
Teaching Strategies to Help Balance Your Responsibilities
Thankfully, one day I heard something that altered my perspective completely. I remember I was sitting in a conference breakout session. That’s when I heard one of the panelists say something that changed everything for me. He said something like:
“Speaking is like exercise. The only way to become stronger is by taking the time to recover and grow.”
It all clicked. By wearing myself thin speaking every week—sometimes multiple times a week— there was no way for me to consistently give my best. This meant that the students I had the responsibility to steward well weren’t getting what they deserved.
That’s when I knew that building a team of communicators to invest in our students by creating and delivering great talks was going to be better for everyone!
Hopefully by now I’ve convinced you that your students, schedule, and personal health will all benefit from building an all-star teaching team.
Now, let me give you three teaching strategies to get you started:
1. Find the “right” in your youth ministry.
It’s not just about finding great communicators who are willing to get on stage in front of students. Finding the right people is about building a teaching team with a diversity of voices. I’d encourage you to find three types of communicators to make up your all-star youth ministry teaching team:
Someone further along than you
Every great youth ministry teaching team has someone older, wiser, and more experienced as a communicator than the student ministry leader. Now, this is going to take some major humility, but it will be better for you and healthier for the students. When we find someone for the teaching team who is a stronger communicator with more wisdom than we have, we’re reminded that the platform doesn’t belong to us. The role that we’re in is a gift.
Someone you’re growing alongside
In addition to someone further along than you, it’s also important to have a peer on your youth ministry teaching team. This helps build your credibility as a youth pastor because your students see that your leadership and their student ministry experience is not an isolated occurrence. They begin to discover that there are entire networks of student ministry leaders who are growing together and aiming at serving students well. Plus, they get to hear some of the same things you’re saying from a different voice who also understands and loves students.
Someone who is learning from you
It’s also important that you have someone who you’re helping develop as a communicator on your youth ministry teaching team. It might be that this is a student who has expressed interest in being more involved. Maybe this is a volunteer who is comfortable with public speaking. Or perhaps this is an intern who is trying their best to learn as much as possible during their college years. Whatever it is, create opportunities for people who are learning to be a part of your teaching team. They may not always crush it, and they may even say something you need to clarify later. But, they’ll also show your students that our faith doesn’t prioritize polish over authenticity. Not only will you be giving students a chance to learn from someone else, you’ll also be developing someone the way that (hopefully) someone helped to develop yo
When you find people who fit these three roles, you’ll have formed the framework for an all-star youth ministry teaching team.
2. Make diversity a priority in your youth ministry.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. So, if you want real influence with a diverse generation, you have to really prioritize diversity on your teaching team.
After step one, you may have found the right people . . . but if they all look just like you, they aren’t really the right people.
Your all-star teaching team should consist of people who look differently, think differently, and teach differently than you. When you prioritize this kind of diversity, you’ll connect to a broader audience of students. You will show the next generation that they’re represented in the student ministry they’re a part of.
If you’re thinking: Well, diversity isn’t exactly a hallmark of my community . . .
My challenge to you is to go outside of the familiar and find a new friend of your ministry. Maybe there’s another church in the area with someone you’d love to invite (and who would love to be invited) into your context. If you need time to invite someone, consider using our teaching videos or lean into a resource like Orange Speakers a few times throughout the year to make sure your platform prioritizes diverse voices. Do whatever it takes to make sure that your students get to learn from and be taught by a diverse group of people.
3. Make growth a non-negotiable in your youth ministry.
An intentional development system is the cornerstone of building an all-star youth ministry teaching team.
Here are two critical pieces to a great system for developing communicators:
Create opportunities for teaching team members to craft content alongside of you. Or, coach them on how to utilize all the resources available from XP3 curriculum. This could be as formal as a weekly meeting where the upcoming message is presented and developed by a team of people. On the other hand, it could be as simple as an email thread where comments, thoughts, and suggestions are given, weighed, and implemented.
You can also take full advantage of all the resources provided by XP3 curriculum. The Communicator Guide is a tool that helps new and experienced communicators narrow their focus, prepare intentionally, and build skills like illustrative teaching. In the past, I used to send the script audio files to teaching team members in order for them to listen to another communicator delivering the talk in which they were preparing. This could help with skills like vocal inflection and tone. However you help your teaching team develop, just make sure to be intentional.
This may be the most important part of building a great youth ministry teaching team. The truth is that great feedback leads to exponential growth. A weekly meeting we called “Content Development” was single-handedly the most influential development tool that I’ve ever experienced.
Each week, the first portion of our meeting was spent providing feedback to the communicator who had spoken the weekend before. We would share wins from the message, areas where we noticed growth, and specific ways the communicator could improve the next time. These conversations can be so helpful when they’re happening between a team of trusted communicators and key volunteers. As long as everyone knows the job is to help teaching team members get better, this kind of feedback mechanism can help every member of your team develop into communicators who are equipped to best serve students.
Take the step of intention in your teaching strategies
Building an all-star youth ministry teaching team takes some work. But the amount of time, freedom, and focus you’ll yield in return will not only make you a better communicator, it will make you a better ministry leader, friend, and family member.
So, what if you decided to take the next month to be intentional about taking these three steps? Maybe you don’t find three teaching team members, but maybe you can start with one. Perhaps you won’t take 15 weekends off of your speaking plate this year. But maybe you’ll be able to give your students four weekends of unique voices. Maybe now is the time to explore using a curriculum like XP3, so you can get some hours back in your week to begin to build an all-star youth ministry teaching team.
No matter what, for the sake of your students and your personal health, I believe one of the best things you can do is work toward building a teaching team. You may discover that it becomes one of the most fruitful and fulfilling steps you take as a student ministry leader.