Volunteers (Part 3 of 4): How will I develop an “A-team?
We all want an A+ team but we this doesn’t happen just because we recruited good, likable, willing people onto the team. Here are seven ideas that will help you develop your team to be a dream team!
Assign: A great way to help any volunteer flourish is to assign them to a role that fits their strengths, passions and gifts not merely to where you have a hole. The more they are serving in their “sweet spot” the more motivated, effective and thrilled in serving they will become. And, you’ll be recruiting for that role far less frequently because they’ll want to keep doing it.
Aim: It’s important that you and your team member are aimed at the bullseye for the role. Andy Stanley in his book 7 Habits of Effective Ministry calls this “defining the win”. It is a single, short, memorable sentence that defines the bullseye for the role. An example Stanley gives of this for a small group leader is: “Build relational bridges that are able to bear the weight of truth.” By using this simple, one sentence job description, you are defining the bullseye for a small group leader. Throughout the year you can keep aiming them towards the bullseye by reinforcing it in your normal communications, year-end evaluations, thank you notes, or as part of your regular team meetings, etc. The more frequently you aim them in a simple, clear direction the more likely you’ll find them heading that way.
Align: Be sure your volunteers understand how their role fits with the roles of others in the student ministry. When volunteers see how their part fits into a much larger picture, it energizes them to play their part well. So be sure each volunteer understands the disciplemaking vision of your ministry and how everything you do aligns and how their role specifically aligns to and supports that role.
Arm: Before you get too many youth events into your calendar, intentionally carve out two times during the year to bring concentrated equipping to your team. Be sure they are armed with the needed tools to succeed. No doubt, the best training is “on the job training”. But, providing taking intentional time to invest in your leaders to encourage their hearts and equip their hands is vital. This may be a Saturday or weekend away, heading to a student ministry conference, inviting in a trainer or canceling your regular weekly programming twice during the year. After all, this is your greatest ministry asset. You can also provide regular “on-the-go training” in the form of articles, podcasts, book chapters, etc. that you put into the hands of your team.
Apprentice: Intentionally partner a veteran and a rookie volunteer together for a year. Ron Kirkeeng at Crystal Lake EFC in Illinois asks a veteran youth worker to meet 6 times with a rookie within their first 90 days. He encourages them to walk through the Disciplemaking is Relationships journal separately and dialogue about it together over lunch. Why? 1) It intentionally connects the rookie with another volunteer on a more personal level. 2) It passes the core convictions of the ministry through one volunteer to another by wrestling together over God’s Word and its application for their lives as well as for the youth ministry.
Affirm: Provide honest, authentic and frequent feedback that affirms their progress and gently affirms needed adjustments. It is not often in student ministry that we see quick results to the fruit of our labor, so giving volunteers feedback helps them know they are on track and doing well or what they need to adjust. This happens best in either one-on-one or one-on-a few environments. Some of it can happen on the fly, as you observe your team.
Appreciated: How and when will you communicate your gratitude to your volunteers? This is a huge way to keep your team motivated during the year. The more regular and specific you can be in communicating your gratitude to volunteers the better. Two ideas: 1) Don’t leave any youth program or time with volunteers without expressing one specific thing you appreciate about who they are and how that has benefited the student ministry or a specific family. 2) Each month at our leaders meeting we had a “leader of the month.” It had nothing to do with how they performed but just that they were on the team. We’d talk to a family member or spouse to dig up some personal/family history stuff, talk about some of their passions outside youth ministry, share a statement from a roommate, spouse or friend and then specifically affirm them in how they’ve encouraged us as a leader or allowing the whole team to affirm that person.