Mentoring young leaders

Regional pastor Michael Rasmussen draws from his personal experience to share an effective approach for developing young leaders.

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Mike and Juli Rasmussen

I remember when I first started pastoring. I had a deep desire to help mentor the next generation of young leaders. Many people had invested in my life when I was young, and I wanted to do the same for other young people coming up.

So I sat down with the leaders of my congregation to discuss a plan. After laying out (from my perspective) a vision and strategy for mentoring, training and releasing young people into ministry within our congregation, I was shocked by some of the responses. Almost half of my leaders stated clearly and dogmatically that a young person could not serve in any kind of ministry unless they first had graduated from college.

I thought maybe we weren’t thinking of “ministry” in the same way, so I presented my proposal in finer detail. Once again, I received “thumbs down” from several in the group (though, to be fair, the rest of the leaders were on board and excited about the vision for our youth). It was at that time I realized I had my work cut out for me (in more ways than one!).

The plan was to give small ministry opportunities to young people (age 12 and up). They could help with set-up, ushering, receiving the offering, helping babysit during services (with adult supervision). We soon asked some young leaders if they would like to start a praise team and a drama team. They were excited!

Our plan was to have each young person shadow an adult to learn the ropes, then they would be given more and more responsibility as they showed they were ready. In time, our goal was to release them into ministry on their own.

Group photo at CrossWalk Camp in Oklahoma
Group photo at CrossWalk Camp in Oklahoma

As a venue for developing young emerging leaders we started CrossWalk Camp where young people are surrounded by loving parents and grandparents who help mentor them. In that environment, young people can make mistakes and learn from them. To this day, the camp is largely run by young adults with guidance and help from caring older adults.

It’s my strong belief that if you wait until young people are out of college or otherwise “old enough” you will lose them and you will miss some of the greatest opportunities to develop new ministers.

Note this passage of Scripture:

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone. Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. (Psalms 71:16-18 KJV)

As pastors, ministry leaders and other adults, our job is to share the word and love of God with the next generation—showing them how to live that word and love through good deeds and ministry service. Part of our responsibility is to give them opportunity to minister. It’s better to take a chance with a young person than to let them die on the vine.

I have to admit that following through on my commitment was hard at first. Some of the young people wanted to do things differently than I would have. Sometimes they fell on their faces and would sit and talk about why and how we could do it better next time. Other times they did things differently and far better than I ever could.

Our motto at our camp and at the church I pastor is this: Always be mentoring someone to do your job better than you do! We’re always looking for young people to come alongside to train and then release. We don’t do this perfectly by any means, but by the grace of God, we’ve come a long way.

2 thoughts on “Mentoring young leaders”

  1. Brother Mike, you have certainly done a super job at sharing/teaching/inspiring/mentoring/coaching/ releasing young leaders around you. I’ve always admired your vision and dedication to create this freedom for today’s youth who will be tomorrow’s leaders. And I appreciate your point about starting young. 12 years old is great, and some are ready to assist in meaningful ways at even younger ages, on a case-by case basis. If a young person expresses or demonstrates willingness to help out, I bet you’ve found a place for them and hooked them up with a “Barnabas”.

  2. Pastor Mike, I found what you wrote very helpful, you have a very special gift .
    I especially like your motto “Always be mentoring someone to do your job better than you do. ”
    Thank you.

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