This spring, as the flowers start to bloom and we put away our warm winter clothes, another transition is happening in many of our congregations: teens on youth group boards will pass the baton of leadership to their peers in youth group elections. For some of you, the youth group model may be changing, while for others, this time-honored tradition is a major pillar of leadership in your community. However your congregation has set up your teen leadership model, one thing is universal: elections can be challenging. After all, by lifting up some teens we run the risk of disenfranchising or leaving behind others.
Consider a “typical” election, in which a group of teens identifies roles they’d like to take on. A teen might run unopposed for a position on the youth group board, while others are in 3- or 4-way contests. Inevitably, someone will win and someone will be left wanting. As adult mentors, we should take a step back to look at the full pool of candidates who have expressed interest in taking on a leadership role. Let’s use their enthusiasm as a starting point for finding ways to meaningfully engage all teens who have expressed an interest in leading, in ways that will be effective and meaningful for each teen. We can help guide teens through the experience and build their resilience along the way.
Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best resources from NFTY, Kutz Camp, and our congregations to help you navigate youth group elections:
The traditional youth group board model is also changing, as leadership becomes the buzzword of college resumes and our teens immerse deeply in social, political, and global issues. A teen leadership board is just one way that we can empower teens with leadership opportunities. Here are some other ideas:
Whether your congregation has a youth group board, a leadership council, a system of committees, or something entirely your own, in this time of transition let’s match their enthusiasm and eagerly seek ways to inspire and empower our teen leaders.
“Source of all being, may these leaders of our community learn these passions from us.”