One of the most important elements of my entire ministry, without a doubt, is my leaders. Without them, I’d be floundering alone in a dark, dangerous, and life-sucking whirlpool. Through partnering with them, however, we’ve been able to reach incrementally more kids and parents, balance each other with our different personalities, and support and uplift each other.

Simply put, I couldn’t do my ministry without my incredible partners!

Working with students means that these adults will fulfill a heck of a lot of roles–cheerleader, listening ear, counselor, shoulder to cry on, friend, mentor, disciplinarian, voice of experience, and occasionally total goofball. Our calling in all of this, however, is to love these kids the way that Christ loves them and to help them grow in their faith in their Heavenly Father.

I think it’s helpful for every youth ministry team of leaders to have a healthy understanding of the roles that they’ll fulfill, and the expectations Scripture places upon them as ministry leaders. One of the passages that provides a great reminder of the kind of life we are all called to in our Baptism is Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

I like to boil my expectations for my middle school leaders down into a few simple points:

Christ is Number One in Everything

Our whole life as Christians, and everything we are about as youth leaders, is centered in Christ. We belong to God because He sent His only Son. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, His gift of Baptism, and the gift of faith worked by His Holy Spirit, our sins are forgiven and we have a new life. That’s what we have. That’s what has also been given to the middle schoolers we serve. Nothing is more important than continuing to share that beautiful faith in everything we are doing! The remaining expectations will help us work together as we live and serve in faith.

Be a Prayer Warrior

Every day, there’s the potential that our leaders can face incredibly complex decisions and difficult emotions from students. I encourage our leaders to observe what Abraham Lincoln once said: “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Be a Christ-Like Example

We’ve all heard the old phrase that “actions speak louder than words.” Middle schoolers watch adults closely and pick up more than they ever let on to. I encourage our middle school leaders to be immersed in regular church attendance, Bible studies, youth events, and other church and community activities. I also encourage them to show Christ in their attitudes towards church leadership and towards each other. Gossip, jealousy, and discontent, however carefully hidden, can be spotted by middle schoolers a mile away. For a team to be effective, they need to strive to show Christ’s love to each other, as well as others.

Hang Out With Your Kids

This sounds like a no-brainer, but often I spot leaders talking to each other and spending more time together than they do with students. Our ministry is not about chilling with fellow adults–it’s about the kids! This may be the only opportunity some of these kids have to spend quality time with caring, Christian adults–they need to make the most of it.

Keep Control of Your Kids

Always remember–middle schoolers will try to walk all over you, if you let them. I encourage our leaders to keep a healthy reign on their kids. I let them know that it’s ok to have students clean up their messes, throw away their trash, and respect personal property. As adults, they’re also in charge of keeping control of the topics of discussion and making sure that the discussions are appropriate.

Keep Me in the Loop

Since I manage hundreds of kids at a time, I don’t need–or even want–to know about every single situation that arises. However, if a serious problem does come up, or my adults get stuck in a situation that they don’t feel confident dealing with, I encourage them to loop me in right away. I can’t help with anything if I’m totally clueless, but I encourage our leaders to keep me updated, as needed.

Be Prepared

Good leaders are always prepared…and the best leaders are prepared for everything to go wrong. I often remind our leaders to plan out their lessons, activities, and events carefully–and to have a Plan B (and sometimes a Plan C) just in case everything does go haywire at the last minute. It’s a good idea to bring things to keep kids busy during downtime (a deck of cards, a trivia book, or a game), and it’s helpful to always have a few go-to games ready to pull out at a moment’s notice.

Through clear expectations like these, I think every team of leaders can greatly benefit from being on the same page and understanding how to work with each other and with their kids. Our jobs in youth ministry can often be completely overwhelming, but it’s helpful to cut to the heart of what we’re expected to live up to, as ministry leaders.

And when those little sheep under us are well-cared for, we can have a little peace, too.