Youth Work Needs More Fat People

Some more reflections on the Sussex Youthworks training morning I mentioned in my last post.

One of the positive things I took away was Rory Bell’s thoughts on recruiting leaders. He looks for fat people. No, not people who have a more than healthy appetite for cake but people who are Faithful, Available and Teachable.

"I'm afraid you're not what we're looking for."

I think looking for these characteristics in people is more helpful than say, looking for character, competence and conviction, as books like The Trellis and the Vine would suggest. Character, competence and conviction are all things which can and should be continually worked on but it’s quite difficult to know quite where the cut off point is between having enough of those things or not. Sure this person has character, but is it enough? Are they competent enough though? Is their conviction as deep as it should be? It’s easy to not make any real headway when those are the criteria you’re searching for.

But being faithful, available and teachable are much more absolute. For faithful, the question is ‘are they actually a Christian?” Yay or Nay? Of course there will be people who have been Christians for longer and some more committed than others, and so I’m not suggesting we do away with all discernment, but generally speaking, if they are a believing Christian, they are a potential candidates for leadership. That opens up your options quite a bit.

If they tick the faithful box, the next question is ‘are they available?” Do they actually have the time to commit to helping with your youth work? If so, great. If not, find out why. It may be that they are already involved in another ministry and it might be right for you to suggest they leave that to help with yours, especially if the other ministry is something which could easily be done by someone else. There’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of poaching when it comes to finding leaders, but we do need to make sure that we don’t put anyone else out by stealing their leaders. It’s helpful to find someone else who might be able to slot into the position you’re taking someone from.

Having ticked both the faithful and available box, the last question is whether they’re teachable or not. They don’t have to be great at teaching or leading a bible study as long as they’re the kind of person who can learn and is happy to be taught, perhaps taking some constructive criticism along the way. Some people might tick both the faithful and available boxes, but if they’re not teachable, they probably won’t be helpful to you in your ministry. In fact, they’ll probably end up being quite the opposite.

So there are three criteria for putting together a great youth ministry team. Get F.A.T. people. Using these criteria might open up more possibilities than we’d perhaps considered before. It’s not foolproof, we still need to be wise and discerning, but it may lead us to some people who we might have otherwise overlooked.


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