How To Navigate Being Both A Teacher And A Young Life Leader

October 11, 2019

Have you ever considered how many hours teachers get to spend with students? Think about how great of an impact a classroom teacher, who also serves as a Young Life leader, can have on students! Below are some things to think about if you’re a Teacher/Leader or considering going into the profession.

Legal Guidelines

There are a few limitations when a public-school teacher serves as a Young Life leader. Generally, during the contractual day, the time between when the busses drop off students and when the buses leave the school at the end of the day, we owe our time and attention to the school district.

A Teacher/Leader must be the best teacher possible, (Colossians 3:23), and their classroom should reflect their strong preparation and instructional skills. Also, during the school day, our students are considered a “captive audience.” Because of this, Teacher-Leaders aren’t advised to directly invite students to a Young Life event. Teacher-leaders can encourage Campaigners and Senior Leaders to do the inviting!

Boundaries and Professionalism

A teacher might worry that being relational with students informally could cue students that it is not necessary to treat the teacher with respect in the classroom during the school day. As Rita F Pierson said, “Unless there is a connection between a teacher, the student, and the lesson, learning becomes tiresome to all involved.” In my experience as a teacher and Young Life leader for 30 years, I would say that students who know their teachers in a personal way will not only respect, but sometimes even socially “protect,” or “defend” their teacher.

Time Management

Teachers are busy people! In addition to teaching lessons throughout the day, there are preparations for those lessons, grading student work, and many tasks mandated by administrators. Additionally, leading Young Life well requires time for contact work, club, Campaigners and preparing for these activities. The advantage of a Teacher/Leader is the significant amount of overlap.

Teaching is contact work, and a teacher attends school events just as a Young Life leader does. Anytime the Teacher/Leader is intentional about interacting with students, they are doing contact work! This includes the students in class, as well as other students encountered throughout the day. For example, when I was Teaching/Leading, I stood in the hallway during every class change and spoke to each student who walked by. 


The advantages of teaching and leading far outweigh the limitations or challenges. An important principle to consider while navigating the teacher/leader experience is being aware that it’s less about what your intentions are, and more about what others perceive are your intentions. Be upfront and transparent about the duel role. When picking up a student for a Young Life activity, be certain to meet their parents and introduce yourself as the Young life leader and teacher. Also, whatever opportunities a Teacher/Leader offers to those students who attend Young Life should also be available for any other student, like extra tutoring.

It is difficult for me to think about teaching without leading Young Life, or leading without teaching. Being a relational teacher is the closest thing to being in the world of the high school student. Teacher/Leaders experience the same mundane events each day, but they are also present during the intense moments. Leading provides the platform to speak to our own relationship with Jesus that we live out each day in the midst of our students. 

Have you identified teachers in the schools where you lead who love Jesus and are willing to be relational with their students? Or are you an education major who will soon be a classroom teacher? Don’t miss the opportunity to have an eternal impact on the students in your school!

Written by Glynda Rice.

Glynda is the Carolinas Region Initiatives Coordinator for Teachers and Mentoring. She is also a retired high school teacher, coach, and volunteer Young Life leader. If you have questions, email Glynda here.

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