Youth Mission Trips, Adults, and “Leaders”

Words matter. Sometimes the words we choose to use greatly affect the perceptions of others.

This is the reason that, several years ago, we who were then on the Advisory Board for CTCYM made some changes to the words we used.  We’ve gotten sloppy since, so, at least at my Living Center, we are trying to get serious again this year.

Our mission trips are organized into Living Centers, each of which has 60 to 150 youth and adults.  These youth adults are split up into work teams of five youth and two adults each.  Work teams then head off each day of the week to do light construction and repair for folks in the area who need help but can’t afford it.

I notice many of the people at our Living Center were referring to all our adults as the “leaders.”

But we decided several years ago that calling all of the adults “leaders” was problematic for two reasons:

  1. not all adults are leaders
  2. not all leaders are adults

So, I explained at an adults meeting Tuesday night, let’s make a concerted effort to refer to adults as adults rather than leaders.

The United Methodist Church is making some serious effort to raise up young leadership, and it doesn’t help our efforts to assume that adults are leaders and youth aren’t.  That line of reasoning presumes that leadership comes with age, and I think we all know some older people who have no business in leadership as well as some younger people we would be proud to follow.

Do you know youth who are leaders; who exhibit natural leadership abilities?  If you do, encourage them.  Tell them.

As for adults: honestly, I would settle for adults simply being adults. We are doing adults no favors to assume they are leaders merely because they have reached a certain age.

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3 thoughts on “Youth Mission Trips, Adults, and “Leaders”

  1. Agreed: not all adults are leaders. And, yes, we need to encourage youth who seem to have God-given leadership abilities. But don’t you have to have adult leaders on a youth mission trip? And don’t the youth, by and large, need the example of adult leaders?

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