Volunteers: 3 Questions to Ask About Your Greatest Youth Ministry Asset (Part 3 of 4)
This is part 3 of a 4 part post. In part 1 I suggested that we need to see our volunteer team as our greatest asset in youth ministry. I shared three questions that can help us think about how we are stewarding and developing this team in fresh ways.
In part 2, I touched on the first question. In this post, I’ll drill down on the second question, again with the hope that it will both affirm some things you are already doing as well as prime the pump for fresh intentionality and creativity as you steward the gift of your volunteer team and grow together in being disciples who make disciples who also make disciples…among the emerging generation.
Question #2: What is my plan to intentionally develop our student ministry volunteers this year?
- Placement: A great way to help any volunteer flourish is to get them into a position that aligns with their strengths, passions and gifts. The more they are serving in their “sweet spot” the more motivated, effective and thrilled in serving they will become.
- Remind: Andy Stanley in his book 7 Habits of Effective Ministry speaks of “defining the win” for each volunteer (and staff) role in one short memorable sentence. An example of this for a small group leader may be “Build relational bridges that are able to bear the weight of the gospel.” By using this simple, one sentence job description, you are defining the essence of the “win” for a small group leader. You can then remind your small group volunteers of this critical role in your normal communications, in year-end evaluations, when you’re encouraging them for a way you saw them build a relational bridge or communicate the truth to a student, or as part of your monthly team meetings, etc. Remind volunteers often of what the win for their role is and you’ll discover that each month they’ll contribute more on the team in that direction.
- 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.
- Train: 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. This may be a Saturday or weekend away, heading to a student ministry conference, inviting in a trainer or cancelling your regular weekly programming twice during the year to invest intentionally into your volunteers. 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.
- Feedback: Provide honest, authentic and frequent feedback to volunteers. 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.
- Appreciate: 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.
What ways have you found helpful in developing your volunteer team?