Youth Ministry Leadership: Your Focus Determines Your Outcomes.


A few weeks ago I read this article (and video above), about The article caught my eye for two reasons: First, I am British and of course I love soccer. Second, because this young guy had made a significant choice that led to his great success. Here’s what the article said:

“The 22-year old from England started doing freestyle tricks at the age of 15, and when it came time for Henderson to pick between university football and freestyle, he chose what he does best. Henderson now practices five hours per day, five days a week, and quite clearly all the hard work is paying off.”

And here’s the bottom line for him: This guy could have done two things with his giftedness. Rather than go the route that many others were attempting to go, he chose to do what he does best. In other words, he chose to focus on his strengths and greatest gifts. In youth ministry, there are a couple of lessons we can learn from his example…

1. Discover Your Strengths And Focus On Them. Every youth worker is different and every one of us has different gifts. We’re not all guitar playing, game leading, message giving people are we? It’s so easy to play the comparison game in ministry and feel like we don’t have all the ‘tools’ in the bag to be effective. However, the most effective leaders are the ones who have discovered their strengths, developed them further, and allowed them to determine their outcomes. For more on this you should read a great book by

2. Manage Around Your Weaknesses. Another principle from Buckingham’s book is the idea of managing around our weaknesses. Rather than exerting all of our time to improve in areas of weakness, Buckingham asserts that we should find resources and people that can allow us to improve and manage around areas of weakness.

  • If you are not good at administration, (I know many of us are not), recruit a parent volunteer who can help, or buy useful applications to help you. 
  • If you are not good at leading worship, recruit a volunteer to lead and build a worship team. 
  • If you are not strong at giving messages (you’ll be surprised how many great youth workers are not), recruit and train volunteers to help.

There are many more, but you get the idea. Recruiting people and gaining resources is key. Rather than expending lots of time, energy and anxiety on our weaknesses, we can be more effective by managing around them.

3. Choose Between Good and Great. Over time, if we practice discovering our strengths and managing around our weaknesses, we will find ourselves finding success and bearing ministry fruit. Therefore, it’s imperative we naturally and normally allow our strengths to rise to the surface. In fact, like Andrew Henderson, we have a choice… We might have to choose between focusing on our greatest strengths and our good strengths…

Let me be clear here. It does not mean than we do not say ‘yes’ to certain obligations, commitments, or needs in our ministries. It is more about how we will choose between what strengths we DEVELOP and WORK AT.

For example, if you are good at speaking but you are weak at leading games, it’s imperative that you continue to put time and resources into your speaking. It doesn’t mean you neglect your obligation to lead games, it simply means you might recruit someone to help you in that area, or get yourself to an acceptable level.

You might disagree with me on this and that is fine. I just know it is hard to be a jack of all trades and a master of none in youth ministry… 

What are your thoughts? 

Phil <><


  • Aaron Buer

    Great post. I would add that for those of us who were traditionally trained in student ministry, sometimes it is difficult to know what some of our gifted areas are. Bible school training tends to be pretty narrow.

    A few years ago I took a job as a small group coordinator in a high school ministry knowing that I wasn’t very good at most of what was required for the position. However, over the next 5 years I learned a ton and discovered some new strengths. All this was from proximity with great youth workers who really knew what they were doing.

    Sometimes the best thing you can do is watch a learn from some veterans. You might learn some new tricks.

    Thanks for sharing Phil.

  • philbell

    Aaron, you make an excellent point. It does take time to realize our strengths and sometimes we need to attempt things first and not dismiss them. Some of our best strengths will be discovered when we accept a God given opportunity. Thanks for this insight! Great stuff!
    Phil <