In preteen ministry, like everything else, you live or die by the effectiveness of your leaders. You can be a dynamic communicator, effective small group leader and awesome event planner, but not leading well will result in your team never reaching its full impact. Tweens are a unique age group, so the way you develop a team should be unique as well. Here are a few tips on how to build a dream team of tween leaders.
Tween leaders might join a team for many reasons, but will stay long-term only if they find community within the team. I once heard someone say, “Those who play together, stay together.” When choosing what to do with team members, think of activities they would enjoy but that are also tween friendly. Why not take the opportunity for leaders to enter into the world of a tween? Some great ideas are: laser tag, paintball, tubing, canoeing and go-cart racing. The more events you have, the more leaders will connect with one another. As community increases, effectiveness and longevity increase.
Also, consider replacing training events with these community-building events. Many leaders host a few training events throughout the year in an attempt to empower their team. Oftentimes, though, they are poorly attended. If you’ve got an exceptional team that has been together a long time, you might get a high attendance. But I think in today’s digital world, there is a better, more efficient method of training leaders. Instead, do a few fun events for your leaders a couple of times a year. They’re more likely to anticipate and attend something fun on the calendar, rather than viewing it as just another thing on their to-do list.
Connecting leaders isn’t enough, it is important to also empower them.
Empowering leaders is critical, but you probably already know that. Today’s leaders have a lot on their plates and are busy with school/work, friends, family, etc. Adding training events to their already jam-packed schedule is unrealistic.
Podcasts and Facebook are effective tools that can be used to empower leaders. Consider creating a podcast every couple of months addressing a topic that would be helpful to leaders. Topics could include casting vision, how to lead a small group, discipline guidelines. Leaders need tailor-made training from you and not general podcasts that others create. Making your own audio podcast is pretty easy to do. A computer and internet is about all you need. For those who can’t play a podcast, burn it on a CD and mail it to them. Next, create a group on Facebook and encourage everyone to give feedback on the podcast.
Using this approach maximizes the leader’s time and also has other advantages. More training material is covered than in a few training events. Leaders can listen to and give feedback on their terms. Everyone is given a chance to listen to the training material.
Connecting and empowering leaders is critical, but there is one more key ingredient.
Focus on mentoring a few key leaders. Take some time to think/brainstorm who they are and then create a plan to mentor each of them one on one. Spend time praying and thinking of specific areas of growth that each of these young leaders need. Look at areas of growth through the lens of tween ministry. For example, let’s say that a key leader has a passion for large group teaching and is gifted in that area. He/she could benefit by some one-on-one training from you, the experienced leader. When thinking of ways to train this leader, go a step further than giving general communication tips by being tween specific. Ask yourself what elements of a large group teaching need to be present to effectively bring home the point to tweens? Focus on training in preteen specific ways.
Effective mentoring flows from a strong relationship between a leader and his apprentice. Take key leaders out for lunch or coffee. Go see a football game or movie together. Mentoring is best done one on one unless members of the opposite sex are involved. In that case, mentor leaders in small groups or include your spouse. Either way, be proactive about building strong relationships with key leaders. Hang out and play together. As you do, tell them what they’re doing good and how to be a better leader. Give them articles, books or CDs that would be helpful. Pour into their lives and teach them all you know about tween ministry. Encourage, empower and mentor them.
Want a dream team of tween leaders? A strong team is needed. Connecting, empowering and mentoring leaders will help you build a dream team that can change the world by pointing tweens to Jesus!