contributed by Pam Zimmer
As election day comes to a close, I am preparing for this evening’s meeting of our new youth board. In order to allow youth more say in their programming, a youth board, essentially a student council, has been created. We did it in the official manner, with nominations and ballot and such, but with much trepidation as well. Many adult advisors did not like the idea of the youth board as they found it to be only a popularity contest. Other advisors were unsure if the youth would actually take the board seriously.
Our congregation hadn’t put together a youth board in more that 10 years and for good reason, the last one was an absolute disaster. We had youth fighting constantly, other youth were trying to take control of everything, some youth left the program all together because of the fighting. If we were going to undertake such a group again, we needed to do so with much planning and care.
New rules and by-laws were created, youth were required to submit an application outlining their qualifications, why they though they were a good choice and what ideas they had. Age restrictions were placed on the presidential position to limit the popularity contest element, speeches were given, and a closed ballot system was utilized. So with much debating and planning, we moved forward and now have a board of 7 Junior Youth and 7 Senior Youth. We have a president and VP, we have a secretary recording official minutes, and most importantly we have youth programming ideas flying back and forth across the room with something that hasn’t been felt before, excitement.
“Let’s do a Roller Skating trip!” “why can’t we do more service projects!” “let’s organize a mission trip for the youth!” Wonderful ideas are being brainstormed, and even better the leaders of our youth group are excited about them, if they are excited to attend, then other youth will want to attend as well, simple as that. I do not know whether the youth board will gloriously implode in the future as it has in the past, but right now it is working. Somehow being on the board has empowered youth to speak up, something which they’ve always been encouraged to do, but somehow never felt comfortable doing.
Here is an excerpt from an educational website on encouraging and organizing student leadership, many of the points and ideas it gives are applicable to youth group leadership as well.