Imagine a group of teenagers. They are self-confident, ambitious, responsible, able and eager to set goals and accomplish them. They treat each other well, supporting each other in times of need, and even when it isn’t particularly needed. They have good moral values, and academic success is prized. And while they welcome and even seek out advice from trusted adults, they actually manage their group with virtually no adult supervision.
I doubt there is a youth counselor, advisor, teacher, scoutmaster, or youth minister who would not be thrilled to work with or help create a group like that. And it’s hard to imagine a parent who would not wish their own son or daughter to be part of such a group, and have the opportunity to become a leader in such a group.
That such groups exist at all is remarkable given the attitude much of our society has towards teens. Adults may say they want teens to become leaders, but their actions more often ask for obedience, passivity, and conformity. Teens are expected to respect adults, but are granted little respect in turn. They are much more likely to receive a lecture than an understanding and fair hearing.
Yet such groups exist, and in most cases you will find an adult, somewhere in the background, providing just a little bit of guidance.
This book is written for those adults.
They come with many titles, such as counselor, scoutmaster, youth minister, youth pastor, adult guide, advisor, youth advisor, and so forth (though throughout this book I use the term “advisor” to represent all of these roles). And they all have the same goal – to help young people to learn, to grow, to build friendships and to become confident leaders while in a safe environment.
Before writing this book, I looked for books on developing youth leaders – and there are a few. But they mostly seemed to be written by “experts” – psychologists and other specialists on adolescent development. And while they have plenty of jargon and analysis, they seemed to lack the down-to-earth practical knowledge that is needed by those who work in the trenches. If you are an expert, a psychologist, a social worker or therapist, I encourage you to read one of those books. Why, you can even write one of your own.
This book is for the counselors, advisors, teachers, scoutmasters and parents who are not “experts”. It contains real-world practical information and techniques that you can use every day to help teens become real leaders. You won’t find psychological jargon or endless tracts on adolescent psychology. Instead, you’ll find advice that works.
How do I know it works? Because I have spent over 20 years working with a group that comes as close as you could imagine to the kind I described at the start of this introduction. Every idea, hint and technique you’ll read here is based on the real world experience of myself and others I’ve worked with. And I know they will work for you.
Note to teachers and parents
While this book has been written with an eye towards adults working with groups of teens, much of the material is directly relevant to teachers and parents as well. Towards the end of the book, you will find a chapter for teachers and one for parents that offer a perspective on how you can apply the ideas and techniques in this book and adapt them to your own situation.