First Free Wichita Asks What Makes a Great Youth Leader?

Recently at the First Free Wichita blog Jordan Krahn wrote about what makes a great youth leader. This is my response to what is said and some thoughts on how youth ministry should be and what should be avoided. 

“Youth comes but once in a lifetime.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Youth is the best time to be rich, and the best time to be poor.”


Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

1 Timothy 4:12 NLT 

First Free Wichita sign 

The youth leaders at First Free Wichita are Lucas McGarity and Jordan Krahn. Jordan attended Wichita State from 2005 until 2009 and then went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he graduated in 2012. He picked up a Masters of Divinity in preaching and teaching. He has been at First Free for a combination of six years and six months. Jordan has been the high school pastor since February of 2013. Lucas McGarity is the other youth pastor at First Free Wichita. Lucas is on the advisory board of Campus Ministry Network which is based out of Andover, Kansas. At the national EFCA blog in 2011 there was an article about the top risks that exist in a church setting. Some of what is in this article I have written about as I analyze the EFCA. In that article Lucas talked about First Free and tightening up permission forms for missionary trips.  In writing this blog I lean heavily on sources, sources that have first had and direct knowledge of the churches I write about. From my understanding Lucas McGarity is one of the best features of First Free Wichita. He is known as being nice, kind, and quite compassionate from what I have heard. In contrast I have heard differently about Jordan Krahn. Jordan started out well but he made a faustian bargain with the church leadership and became a Kool Aid drinker. Jordan is someone who tows the line and does so for future endeavors. Recently Jordan wrote a blog post at the First Free blog about what makes a great youth leader. You can read it in, “What Makes a Great Youth Leader?” I will let you read the following below and then I will do commentary. 

When I ask you “What makes a great youth leader?”, what do you think of? Most adults would say: young, extroverted, and high energy. That’s the stereotypical youth leader. But do students agree?

To find out, I asked several of our students that question. And what students want in a leader and the stereotype couldn’t be further apart. Students don’t care if a leader is young or old. Students don’t care if a leader has no kids or grandkids. Students don’t care if a leader is outgoing or introverted. Here are the two main characteristics students value in their leaders:

Great youth leaders seek to build relationships.

  • One sophomore girl said she loves how her leaders “plan get-togethers outside of church” and “make food for us.”
  • A freshmen boy loves how his leaders “visit some of our sporting events and plays.”
  • A senior girl shared how one of her leaders “meets with me one-on-one” and “shares prayer requests and struggles with her.”
  • One senior boy shared how his leader would “meet up with me on the weekends and share what we had learned either in life or from the Bible.”
  • One freshmen boy noted how his leaders “all sacrifice something” to build relationships with him and his peers.
  • Similarly, a junior boy noted how his leaders “make time for our group, even with a busy schedule.”

Great youth leaders seek to talk about spiritual things.

  • A freshmen boy mentioned how his leaders “ask us what we are struggling with.”
  • Another freshmen boy noted how his leaders are “helping to prepare them to become men of God.”
  • A sophomore boy loves that his leader “knows how to get into the Word and make it deep.”
  • A senior boy loves that his leader is “open and shows how everyone struggles with sin.”
  • One junior boy who was teaching his small group that week loved that one of his leaders “helped me structure the lesson and facilitate discussing.”
  • One junior girl has noticed a leader that’s “always ready to pray with me.”

It’s pretty simple. Would you love spending time to build relationships with students? Would you love talking about God and the gospel with students? You too could be a great volunteer youth leader!

What a Youth Leader Should Do

This is my perspective having been around the church culture for a number of years. Here is what a youth leader should do. 

  1. Allow Kids to Enjoy ChildhoodKids only have one childhood. Don’t guilt them or entrap them into fundamentalism. Let them discover their talents, interest and enjoy the time they have. Sooner than many of them think they will be dealing with student loans, rent or mortgages, and job responsibility.  This is the only time of their life that they can enjoy being carefree and be themselves. Don’t steal their youth. 
  2. Don’t Guilt them with Accountability. Accountability is toxic and destructive. Sexuality is a part of being human in many ways. If you get them into accountability purity programs you are setting them up for failure and problems. Not only that but I would suggest that you will drive the young adults more toward pornography by doing such problems. I wrote about this a while back. You can read that in, “Does Evangelical Culture Contribute to Pornography? Plus the Torment Accountability has Left in My Life.
  3. Allow for Doubt. Allow young adults to wrestle with doubt. Let them struggle with creationism vs. evolution. Let them make up their own minds on penal vs. substitutionary atonement. Let them ask about atheism and allow them to read different people. If you want to set up a person for failure tell them what to believe. I will get into that next. 
  4. Education vs. Indoctrination. There is a major difference between education and indoctrination. One is good, and one is toxic. One leads to an enlightened mind, while another leads to slavery. Education is good and necessary. To educate a young adult is an awesome responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Indoctrination in contrast is setting them up for failure. You are going to cripple them for life. If you indoctrinate you are going to have angry people in their 20’s and 30’s who are fried and done. Education is hard but indoctrination is easy. Do the right thing and take the appropriate course of action. 
  5. Don’t Introduce Females to Patriarchy. Let females find themselves and don’t restrict them to gender roles. If a female wants to be with the Kansas Highway Patrol one day let them. Instead of the Proverbs 31 concept I would remember the stories of Lydia, the women who went to the tomb and Deborah. Many Neo-Calvinists seems to forget the story of Deborah, and Lydia who was the first female convert in Europe. She defied the gender roles by reaching out to Paul. Encourage women to develop talents and be independent. Don’t expect them to be chained to a bed popping out five kids in one year.  
  6. Guide Them Away from Questionable Pastors. For their health I would guide them away from people like John Piper, Mark Dever, D.A. Carson and so many others. I write often about many of these people and if another life can be spared of the torture that is John Piper my goal in part has been accomplished here at The Wondering Eagle. 
  7. Support Their Families. Reinforce the families that exist at home. Don’t interfere. And if a child does not have a traditional family well love them. Allow them to call First Free home and to explore. Be remembered for your love and kindness. Why? Because years from now when many push back from the faith that love may allow some to come back. Let them have pleasant memories that they can cherish and recall when they turn into adults or more. 

Those are some of the ideas that exist. I hope this will be received well. That is it for the day, First Free please know that you are loved. 

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