The purpose of these devotions is to provide a resource of thought-provoking inspiration for youth leaders. The meditations are intended to open a group meeting for adults. Board meetings might take place online or in-person, weekly or monthly or quarterly. Regardless of specifics, an opening devotion serves to orient the group around the task at hand, emphasizing the importance of putting our minds on God first and foremost.
Encouraging and Equipping Young Leaders
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
-1 Timothy 4:12-16
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
-1 Timothy 6:11-12
Throughout his missionary journeys and church-building efforts, Paul met and influenced a lot of individuals. One we know a bit about was Timothy, a young pastor who Paul worked with and mentored in his ministry. Paul saw great potential in Timothy, and he nurtured his spiritual maturity. Timothy was a fellow worker in the faith and a great assistant to Paul. He helped Paul in writing several epistles to churches, as his name is mentioned in 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.
The two books that bear Timothy’s name were most likely written to him by Paul while Timothy served at the church in Ephesus. Paul provided encouragement, instruction, and advice, warning Timothy about false teachings and guiding him in methods to structure and support his church body. Paul gave thanks for Timothy’s sincere faith and wrote to encourage him to continue with bold endurance in ministry. He called the young pastor to endure and persevere despite suffering. He spoke with genuine care, calling Timothy “my child” and advising him with respect and from experience. Paul provided Timothy with wisdom regarding management and teaching practices as well as practical matters like stomach ailments.
What do we take from this? A significant element of our role as youth leaders is to serve as mentors to young people. This might mean keeping our eyes open for students who have potential to serve and take on leadership responsibilities. It also means caring for individuals and taking interest in their lives. Mentoring young people means ensuring they are worshiping, reading scripture, and keeping focused on Jesus as their savior. We ought to be willing to encourage and support middle and high schooler’s passion and vocation. We lead by example, too, so it’s important to make sure that our relationships and interactions with others are God-honoring.
As we recognize needs for teens to be advised or encouraged, we want to make sure we are doing so prayerfully. We might be leading large groups or dealing with conflicts among students, but we need to consider individual needs and emotions. The way we interact with young people right now might be remote rather than in person. Paul was far from Timothy when he wrote to him. We, too, can encourage from a distance as we keep up with our students and demonstrate our supportive intentions.
As we do this, we will find ourselves blessed, as well. God gives us young people not just for us to govern or monitor, but to genuinely join in our efforts and encourage us as we lead them.
Questions to Consider
- Can you think of a youth member in particular that has potential for leadership? How might you be able to encourage him or her to pursue a leader role?
- How has serving in youth ministry brought you new energy or support from participants?
- Is there an area of your personal life that you feel needs adjusted in order to provide a positive example for the youth you serve? (This answer can be more reflective rather than spoken.)
Thank you for providing opportunities for us to nurture your children and to encourage them in their faith. Please lead us to recognize potential for mentoring and serving the youth with whom we work. Help us as we raise leaders for your church. Convict us, oh Lord, of areas in our lives that we need to improve as we seek to lead by example and love those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.