Everyone in youth ministry knows the pressures of feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. So with that in mind I’ll get right to it.
You need help. I need help. Money is scarce and volunteers are our only option.
But if we’re honest, that can either be a great solution or a really tough one, leaving some to just “do it themselves” rather than work with a volunteer. It’s rough because if this is done wrong, you end up more burnt out and your volunteers end up feeling “used and abused.” But the great side is that when done right and everyone feels “empowered and encouraged,” including you the leader.
I’ve found that the key to a great volunteer experience is giving them a chance to serve in an environment that fits their style. So I break down the ways I ask for help into the following four categories. I hope they help you like they’ve helped me.
MAKE A LIST HELP:
These volunteers are servants, but not leaders. They require a specific task list to be successful. They might make phone calls, drive a vehicle, get food, or photocopy fliers. But they don’t do all of it. If you ask them to lead something, they’ll freeze and freak out. They serve one step at a time. So make a to-do list and call someone like this to help. You’ll be glad you did.
TRAIN RAIL HELP:
These volunteers are trustworthy helpers, but not visionary people. They’ll do a lot for you, as long as you give them rails to run on. If you want them to lead a small group, they can. But they need curriculum, a list of expectations, and a follow-up from you to make sure nothing derailed them. If you give them one thing to do, they’ll feel like they are wasting their time. If you give them 10 things with no direction, they’ll fumble. So set up a training time, give them the resources they need, and let their engines run on the rails you gave them.
GIVE ‘EM FENCES HELP:
This volunteer is a well-intentioned, but dangerous, leader. I love this group, but if not kept in check, they start stuff without talking to you and can cause problems accidentally. (Like they planned their small group retreat, called the parents, and did everything perfect… except it is the same weekend of your ski trip.) They might be able to over see an entire event or lead a small group on their own, but they need to know what you expect and what you don’t want. They need regular communication and regular checks and balances. The key to this person is to have them work with you as a co-leader first. Give them big roles, but stay in the loop. Once you feel confident they know what you do or don’t want them doing and the lines of communication are open… Then you’re good.
This is a tried and true leader. You will probably only have a handful of these people. You can have them teach, lead the music, design a flyer, or oversee an entire event depending on their gifts and talents. However, do not underestimate their ability or corner them with a small to do list or they’ll leave to find a place they are truly needed. This person is someone you bring into your vision brainstorm meetings, empower with a piece of your ministry, and then walk away knowing full well that they will get it done and probably better than you could have done it anyway. If you have one of these, what are you waiting for? Give them a piece of your ministry now.