One thing I would guess most youth pastors have in common is that they don’t have enough volunteers. And when you don’t have a ton of volunteers, you can’t really be too picky about who you choose to lead your students. 

Or can you?

At a conference this past year, I was asked this question: “What are the qualities and characteristics you look for in a middle school Small Group Leader versus a high school Small Group Leader?”

Middle vs high school volunteers

It was such a good question that I had to think about my answer for a minute. What is the defining difference between the two? When I have someone in front of me who wants to serve with students, what key things do I look for to see if they would best fit with middle or high school students? How do I determine where I put them to serve?

First and foremost, I listen to what they are passionate about. If investing in teenagers doesn’t come up in the conversation, I don’t know if being a Small Group Leader is the role for them. Keep in mind, just because they talk about high school students more doesn’t mean they would be best serving with high school. That just may be the only thing they know.  

Second, I try and place them in one of two categories: a launcher or an encourager.

Here’s why:

Middle school leaders should be naturally affirming

They’re encouraging, positive, and energetic (this doesn’t mean they all have to be extroverted). And that’s huge because students in this phase need a lot of encouragement. 

As a middle school SGL, you’re having these proactive conversations. You’re walking them through the beginning of the longer faith conversation, talking to them about things they may not have experienced or been tempted by yet. 

You are often connecting the dots for your few so they understand how everything fits and works together. Your primary role is to equip and encourage them as you lead them.

High school leaders are more like mobilizers

They’re speaking to a student’s potential and launching them out into the world. As a high school SGL, you’re having more responsive conversations. You’re helping students interpret and respond to their current situations instead of envision future situations. 

That’s why it’s so important for high school leaders to be great listeners and not fixers. High schoolers don’t just want to know how everything works together, they want to know why it matters and why they should care about it. 

As a high school SGL, you are affirming their personal journey AND mobilizing them to keep going and growing.

Ask your volunteers this question

That’s why it’s important to ask your small group leaders the following question:

Which conversations do you feel more equipped to have? 

  • Proactive or responsive? 
  • Affirming or mobilizing? 
  • Cheerer or counselor? 
  • How or why?

These are important questions to ask because leading students is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all process. It’s our job as ministry leaders to place the right people in the right places so that the students in our ministries will thrive. 

download the small group leader recruiting guides 

Want to recruit great small group leaders but don’t know where to start? Learn how to identify and connect with potential volunteers with the free resource from Orange Students and Lead Small. You’ll learn who to look for, know what to say, and recruit with confidence. Download the guides for FREE today.

This post was originally published on in July 2018

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