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Develop Kids' Leadership Skills

Children's Ministry Magazine

Expectations And Best Practices

Young leaders can be see in the Bible, such as Jesus teaching in the temple, David's childhood selection as the future king and subsequent victory over Goliath, and Joseph vision casting in front of his brothers, to his own demise. Most cultures expect more from their preteens and teens and often see it as a result. The Pygmalion concept holds true, especially in leadership development that we strive to become as we are treated. When we begin to see and treat our preteens as leaders, they tend to rise to the occasion and exhibit behavior that appears to be "beyond their years," when in reality it was lying dormant until someone or something catalyzed it's growth.

In our work with preteens, we've seen that younger leaders, ages 10-11, learn faster when mixed with 12-13 year olds. They gain confidence from seeing their older colleagues in action. While some preteen experts suggest separating boys from girls, we found that combining them on teams also improves learning effectiveness. It also reflects a more true-to-life situation where they'll have to work with each other in years to come.

While coaching young leaders, one of the biggest temptations is to get involved in the "doing" of the task then standing back as a leader and helping the team members to stay organized and engaged. Reminding designated leaders that their job is to help everyone work together and affirm what is going well is a consistent coaching priority for adults. Another early skill to nurture is gathering ideas from team members before making a decision. Adults can coax this out of kids by helping them brainstorm ideas as a group, before a designated leader leads, in order to provide him or her with possible ideas.

Adults, on the other hand, usually need to be coached not to provide answers or quick solutions, letting kids come up with their own solutions in problem solving and then letting them experiment with their plans. They also need to ask more than tell, limiting talk time to 25%. Kids begin by expecting adults to dominate activities, but seen learn confidence when allowed to lead.

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