Building a childrens youth step team involves a different dynamic than working with adult step teams (for purposes of this website, I consider adult step teams 16 years old and up).
Here are some tips & strategies:
Parents- you will deal with disgruntled parents, whether it's uniform related (they don't like, too much $, wrong size) to practices being too long, or why is my child not performing the step dance routine, etc etc. My advise, deal with each problem/challenge as it comes, and learn from it what could you have done better to either avoid this or lessen that. The Holy Ghost will show you what you need to do.
Communication- Whatever information you need to pass along, tell the kids, tell the kids to tell the parents, and then tell the parents. Keep everyone on the same page as much as possible. Hand out flyers with info on it, shoot emails, texts. Give parents plenty of warning if any changes in schedule. Give out the schedule as far out as possible. Communication is extremely important especially when it comes to parents. Lets say you have an adult step team of 10, then you basically only have to deal with those 10 and that's it. You usually have got them all there at practice when you share whatever info they need. Done. But if you have 10 kids on your youth step team, then most of your kids will have a father and mother plus themselves. You do the math and you are talking about trying to communicate with about 30 people (give or take) and get them all on the same page. That is no easy task!
That being said, some more tips....already have youth step team uniforms outlined & ready to go from time of inception of youth step team. That way there is no question on price, the date when is it needed to be purchased by, all of those things. I have tried having parents buy youth step team uniforms and I have tried having them bring me the money and I purchase. I found that either way works and each has it's positives and negatives. It can be a little more stressful when all the burden is on you to purchase everything though, I will say that. But if you can assign somebody to take care of that for you like I eventually did, it can work out just fine.
Pow Wows- sit them down at some point in practice, before or after, be led, set expectations as a group, let them talk about challenges their dealing with, let them discuss how to overcome, let them pray for each other. We have had some very powerful times by doing this, it helps form unity amongst the team too. This is great youth ministry time as they build each other up.
From the very start- Let the youth know they have expectation to be respectful, honor their parents, honor the Lord, honor their pastor and rules of the church. Be example both at school, and at home. In rehearsal they will not goof off. Have consequences if they talk out of line, or break any of step team rules could be physical but you have to know your group you are working with. I primarily work with young boys, so I make them do excercises they don't like (like running, or pushups). In the past when I worked with girls (additionally it was in a public school system, not church related) I would just have them sit out for awhile depending on how bad the circumstance. If it was bad enough, they would miss entire practice or possibly even be exempt from participating in the upcoming show. Ohhh that would hurt them badly, but they would learn from it and not repeat those mistakes.
Games- With youth step teams, it's important to keep your kids focused, keep them interested, keep them disciplined. Boys like to "battle" so I made up this game called "The Battle" where they form a big circle, put 2 kids in the middle, and they have to perform the step dance we are working on against each other. Whoever messes up the least wins and then they get to choose who the next person they gone "battle". this game is usually a very fun game to play, and at same time, they are getting some great reps in and bringin all their energy and helps some of the weaker kids learn the step dance quicker too, because they are all having fun trying to outdo each other. I have found it builds confidence in the kids too, because they are getting out in front of their peers and "struttin they stuff".
Use games from time to time to break up your rehearsals. Use the game to keep practice fun, allow kids to get some good laughter out, and then get back to business.
Youth step shows- when it's time for the youth step show, I let them know this is ministry just as much as my adult teams. I encourage them to watch less tv, and secular music (if any at all) and I tell their parents what the vision is so that they are encouraging this at home. I try to form a team between myself and the parents, because with children, you always need someone to hold them accountable. You have to trust God that parents will be on same page as you. When you get a good bond between you and the parents though, something pretty powerful can come out of that when the youth step team is ready to set it off. You come out with kids that are just as on fire about steppin for Christ as an adult team, sometimes even more so. Check out one of my favorite youth step shows here
Ages- You can start your youth step team out as young as you like, but I have found that good coordination for steppin usually begins around age 9. So I usually go from ages 9-15. If you have enough kids that are younger than 9, you also might want to consider a seperate team of just them with much simplier step dance moves to learn. I'd say if you have 6 or more, you could do that.
Here is a stepper that has been stepping on stages in front of audiences as big as 900 people since the tender age of 2 (two) yrs old.
Here he is passing on his "years of wisdom" to his now younger brother.