Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior... (1 Timothy 2:2,3)
What do you think is one of the first things I look for when giving young people leadership responsibilities? Most will assume it concerns the quality of their walk with God, and they'd be right to a point, but the question I use to determine this is not about how often they pray or read their Bible.
I simply ask them to describe their relationship with their parents.
Parents know us better than anyone else and they see us at our best and worst. They are with us as we transition from children to young adults and, in the process, push against boundaries and rules while learning obedience. As such, a young person's relationship with their parents gives us the best indication of their readiness to lead others.
Of course, no parent is perfect and any tension that exists in a parent-teen relationship is not always the fault of the teenager. If things are not good I'll ask further questions to determine what's going on, but in almost all cases I've found that the young person needs to accept at least some responsibility for any unresolved tension that exists.
The qualities developed in the life of a young person who has worked to maintain a good relationship with their parents, and anyone else on authority over them, are indispensable in leadership.
The first of these is a commitment to prayer. Paul commands Timothy to pray for those in authority because they are in authority. He does not say, pray for them if they are kind and just. If a young person complains about their parents I ask, "How often do you pray for them and what do you pray?" Their answer reveals a great deal.
The second quality a young leader needs is respect. I want to know that they respect their parents, even if they don't always agree. This respect is not something they feel their parents have to somehow "earn"; it's not something they withdraw or withhold because, in their opinion, their parents have somehow failed them.
It's a respect that acknowledges a God-ordained order; it's a respect that's given because of the place that God has given that person in our lives and not necessarily because we always agree with them.
A third quality is teachability. Teachability does not mean blindly accepting everything they're told. It's more about being willing to listen and to seriously consider the opinions and convictions of those with more experience before arriving at one's own convictions.
The most difficult youth leaders I've had to work with have been unteachable. They think they know all the answers and are unwilling to listen and accept correction.
The final quality a young leader needs is the ability to resolve conflict. To do this they need to learn important lessons of humility and a willingness to admit when they're wrong and to forgive others when they are wrong.
Youth ministry is people-intensive and as such, disappointment, frustration and disagreement are never far away. An effective leader will be a good team person who maintains good relationships with everyone, even when there is disagreement or they feel let down.
Think about your own relationship with your parents. Are there things God is calling you to do to improve it? Don't wait for them to make the first move, even if you're convinced they're in the wrong.
Which of the four qualities of a prospective leader do you feel you most need to work on? What might that mean in practice?