How to Develop Courageous Leadership by Ron Powell


You need courage if you’re going to work with teens.

They can smell fear from 50 feet and they can determine who is in charge in the first minute that they enter your meeting place. Any hesitation on your part and you will be overrun. Sadly, this level of confidence and courage doesn’t automatically come with the title of “youth worker” –it must be developed. Here’s how…

Believe in Yourself

This isn’t some new age positivism. If you know that God has put you in charge of this group, then take charge and don’t let students take over. If God has put these students into your care, be the shepherd and keep the flock cared for and safe.

Nothing good comes from chaos. If you let your students run wild not even they will stay safe. They certainly won’t have any respect for you if you just let them do what they want. Parents will have no respect for your leadership if students go home saying that it was a crazy out of control kind of night.

Remember that Discipline is the Root of Discipleship

You have been called to make disciples not buddies. You aren’t doing any student a favor by “being nice” and having no boundaries. This isn’t being kind. Creating a safe, warm, loving environment will require setting and maintaining some basic rules.

Too often students behave much more poorly at a church than they would at their school. I know you don’t want to create a restrictive environment but if we are going to create an atmosphere where students can learn, there needs to be a strong foundation of respect for the program, the leaders, and you.

They also need to respect themselves and the other students. They need to understand that attending your program is a privilege that comes with some basic expectations. If they can’t abide by these expectations they cannot attend your group.

Enforce A Few Basic Rules

Respect for the leaders, the other students and for the property must be expected. At any point that things get out of control, shut everything down and help students understand what respect looks like.

As I wrote in a previous blog [http://youthministryunleashed.com/10-quick-tips-keeping-discipline-without-killing-fun/]  it’s possible to have lots of fun without letting things get out of hand.

One rule I strongly enforce is that no student can harm another student verbally or physically. Don’t tolerate any kind of abuse or bullying.

Also, I will not tolerate students showing defiance or disrespect to a leader. If they are unwilling to apologize and to change their behavior they will have to sit out from the program for a couple of weeks until they are ready to.

Don’t Do it Alone:

Empower Your Leaders and Your Students

When your leaders and your students feel ownership of the program then they care about it a lot more. If they are constantly looking to you to be the enforcer things are already in trouble.

When your leaders help keep things on track, making sure the program runs smoothly and students are involved the ministry operates as it should. When students take responsibility for their own actions you are miles ahead. For this to happen they need the big picture of why the ministry exists.

They need to be given so role as well like set up tear down or clean up. There’s less chance that they will trash the place if they know that they will be responsible for cleaning it up. You aren’t doing your students a favor by letting them participate in your program without having any involvement or expectations.

Part of discipling students, is preparing them to represent Christ beyond your youth program. When students take responsibility for their own behavior they are on their way to being that example of a growing Christian.

Call Them Out

This takes courage but it is the Christian thing to do. Nathan the Prophet called out King David. Jesus called out his disciples (Why do you call me Lord Lord and not do what I say?) And Paul called out Peter for his hypocritical behavior.

There’s a way to make your expectations clear to your leaders and to follow up when there’s no follow through. You don’t have to scold them or ridicule them. It should never be done publicly. Still it must be done… lovingly and firmly. Don’t hint at things. Be clear. If leaders are not living up to their commitment you need to talk with them. It they are not supporting your leadership or making you into the “bad cop,” confront them and get their help.

There may be a lack of teaching or training that is at the root of the problem. You may need to go over your expectations of your leaders. Hold them accountable. Don’t ignore lack of support. 

Your leaders will need to be courageous also. They will need to privately call out the students for unkind or unruly behavior. They need to understand that this is the loving thing to do. There’s nothing loving or kind about letting kids run wild, losing respect and responsibility.

Step Up

When students get the impressions that the leaders aren’t leading, they’ll do whatever they please. This isn’t good for them or anyone else. I know you want to come across as loving, caring and understanding but being a push-over is not the way to do this.

You want student to have a good time and you don’t want to be constantly telling them off. The way to make sure that all students have a good time is taking a stand and making sure that your leaders stand with you.

Being that courageous leader isn’t always easy but it is always necessary. Someone has to lead! God lives you by his Spirit, not just to make you feel good, but to make you brave. Be strong and courageous: this generation needs courageous leaders!

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