Can a 20-year old lead a small group of 17-year olds? How big an age difference should there be between youth leader and the students? It’s an interesting question I got this week from a youth pastor.
Here’s what he wrote: “We have stated that a leader needs to be at least 5 years older, but we are currently having trouble finding older leaders after our main leader stepped down. There have been leaders in training (16-18 year olds) in the group who help to plan events, etc. The question was asked, “Now that these younger leaders have gotten a taste of working with youth as leaders in training, do they really have wait until they are 23 to be an actual leader? What are they supposed to do in the meantime?”
I’ve encountered this same dilemma in my previous youth ministry, where we had a ‘teen group’ for 12-16 year olds and a ‘youth group’ for 16-22 year olds. We’ve had ‘youth’ serve as assistant leaders in the teen ministry and we had young adults as young as 23 serve in the youth ministry, meaning there was quite a small age difference. It worked for us, because we kept their responsibilities fairly limited and provided good training and supervision.