No Superstars Allowed!
What makes someone a great youth leader? How you answer that question will make a great deal of difference in determining how healthy a youth ministry is. One of the most common perceptions of a great youth worker is what I would call the “superstar” mentality. A superstar youth worker is one who has a larger than life personality. Students can’t help but flock to them. A superstar often has a great sense of humour. They are up on the latest in youth culture. They know how to “speak teen”. If a superstar youth worker promotes an event or activity, everyone joins in. The superstar can often cause explosive growth in a youth ministry. They are young, hip, and cool. Most churches are looking for superstars. “If we could just get some dynamic youth leaders” a church might say, “then we could get over the hump.”
But the superstar mentality has some serious flaws. First off, the superstar youth worker usually has huge disadvantages. Superstars tend to be disorganized. Their personality lends to it, as those who thrive on excitement and spontaneity. As a result, they aren’t the best at returning phone calls or planning ahead. They operate where the wind blows, and wherever their current whims take them.
Superstars also tend to be “do-it-yourselfers”. Because they are so naturally gifted, they operate like a one man band. Volunteers aren’t needed for much other than to chaperone. Tasks are rarely delegated and other leaders aren’t trained or raised up as hands-on helpers in the youth ministry.
Because of all this, when a superstar fails or leaves a ministry, a gigantic, gaping hole is left that no one can fill. Kids lose the only adult they really connected with. Churches scramble to find a clone-like replacement. All of the remaining “ordinary” youth workers seem so much older and boring. In short, nothing but a train wrecked youth ministry is left in the wake. Imagine the superstar youth worker like the centre hub of a wheel. When you pull it out, the wheel stops moving and falls apart, because too much was resting on one person.
Don’t get me wrong – some people have natural superstar talents. God has gifted some people with the ability connect with teens easily, communicate God’s Word in amazing ways, and handle a work load that would bury most people. There’s nothing wrong with superstar talents, but what is a killer is a superstar mentality. That is, the mentality that only superstars are useful, or that a thriving youth ministry must have a superstar at the middle of it, or that only a superstar can turn around a floundering youth group.
The superstar mentality is a short-term way of thinking that is shallow and doesn’t give enough credit to the various gifts that God gives his people. Truth is, most effective youth workers are not extraordinarily gifted. They are simply people who love God, love kids, and are teachable and humble. They know their gifts and limitations and make the most of what they have. They are part of a team that compliments each other and works in a unified way. A youth ministry that is built in this way has a healthy, balanced foundation. It can survive the loss of a youth worker because the load is shared by a team. It puts a system, rather than a person, at the centre of the wheel.
Youth ministry friends, no matter if you are a superstar who can get results effortlessly or an “average” person just trying to do your best, please avoid the superstar mentality! Remember that the only superstar that a ministry rests on is Jesus. You are there to be faithful with what God has given you. Remember, God can do amazing things through anyone he wants!