Jun 10

5 ways to effectively line manage your youth worker

Line management, for many, is an under-valued tool in the church leader’s toolkit. It is our primary means of investing in those on our team and yet many leaders don’t give any time to thinking about how to best invest. I have known fantastic line managers and I have known terrible ones.

What is perhaps surprising is that I have known very few line managers who think they are doing a terrible job and yet I know many youth workers who feel their line management is very poor, to say the least.  Like most job responsibilities, we do not have an inbuilt, automatic talent for line managing, yet it is essential that we get it right if we want those who we lead to flourish  and to see our youth ministries thrive.

line manage

I have been in the place of experiencing different kinds of line management for me, and have also experienced what it is like to line manage others as well. This is a real experience for me for right now as Thrive has just employed a children’s ministry adviser, to help churches build stronger children’s ministries. I am having to remind myself of what I consider good line management to be, how I want to invest in them and to reconsider what the purposes of line management are.

That’s a big question: what is the purpose of line management? That’s probably a blog post in itself! I want to suggest that it is to provide support, encouragement and accountability to our staff as well as to have a chance to pray God’s blessing on our colleagues.

With that aim in mind, here are 5 ways you can line manage your youth worker effectively.


1. Get them to set the goals

Don’t tell them what to do. Presumably you appointed them to the role because you recognised the gift of leadership in them and you saw a heart for young people. If that is the case, they will probably have a much better understanding of how to reach out and disciple young people so let them set the goals for the youth ministry. Your role is to encourage them to seek God, to take risks and to challenge the church on how they nurture the faith of young people. You don’t need to tell them what to do. They will already have plenty of ideas and hopes. Get them to voice their goals: for the year, for the term, for the month ahead. Then ask them how they are doing in reaching their goals. This isn’t to check up on them or to see if they are up to the job, but to give them support and resources along the way to keep them motivated and inspired.

2. Listen to stories to champion

One of the best roles we can play for those we line manage is to be their champion, speaking highly of them in whatever place we find ourselves and to be a vocal supporter for the the work they are doing with young people. As church leader, you will have the ear of the church, whether in sermons or in conversations over coffee, or wherever. As part of your line management meetings, ask for stories of what God is doing amongst the young people as well as some of the difficulties that they are facing. You need to then make sure you spread these stories and prayer requests. We need to church to be involved as much as possible and you play a vital role in enabling this to happen. By doing this, the youth worker will also know that you ‘have their back’ and that you believe in them.

3. Invest in them

Youth workers are notoriously poor at investing in themselves. They feel that they should invest in others, in young people, in their leaders, and most don’t think to invest in themselves. Ask them how they want to grow in their leadership, what new skills they might like to try out, what training they might need, what resources they need. Then try and find appropriate ways to meet these needs. If our youth workers are continuing to grow, so will the ministries they lead. Make sure they’ve got a mentor to invest in them from outside the church too.

Chances are youth workers won’t often ask for funding for training so make sure to offer it. The more you continue to invest in the development of your staff, the longer they are likely to stay in post.

4. Challenge overworking

Church culture has a habit of overworking as we have high levels of responsibility and desire to share the gospel and to do all we can to see God’s name proclaimed. However, the counter side of this is that exhaustion and burnout are sadly commonplace in the church, yet not often talked about before it is too late. Make sure that you are asking if your youth worker is regularly taking a full day off as a Sabbath. Check they are taking all their annual leave, not as a check to make sure they are not taking too much but to encourage them to rest well. Ask them how they relax and make sure they are not confusing their role with their identity in Christ.

5. Leave them encouraged

I think the most important role of a line manager is to enable those being managed to leave the meeting feeling encouraged. They need to leave feeling that they have been listened to, understood and loved. Have this in mind throughout your meeting and always be looking for points of encouragement. We need to build each other up not criticise one another. Ask yourself whether you think they are leaving the meeting feeling better than when they entered the meeting. If you have any doubts, you need to improve your encouraging!

Line management is an art and if you find it particularly hard I would encourage you to read up on it or seek out some good training. Don’t rely on your instincts but seek advice. We owe it to those we manage to do this to the best of our ability. We cannot afford to compromise. Do contact Thrive if you would like support in this vital area of leadership.