Regardless of the size of your group, every healthy youth ministry has a healthy volunteer staff. Many new youth leaders start out with lots of energy and lots of ideas, but not a lot of confidence when it comes to inviting others to help out. This is a fatal flaw if you want to have a healthy, sustainable, reproducible ministry. We have plenty of experience at failing. Consider our list below of things we didn’t do enough, and how it led us to fail as leaders of volunteers.
- We didn’t welcome new volunteers enough. Taking the first step to volunteer means this newbie is officially out of their comfort zone. One way to make the youth ministry zone a little more comfortable is to welcome them, introduce them to the team and the students, and pair them up with a veteran volunteer or two to help them get integrated into the group.
- We didn’t train volunteers enough. Volunteers only know what they know. Providing opportunities for your team to grow in their ministry skills and their understanding of today’s teen is super important.
- We didn’t support volunteers enough. You can support volunteers by providing them with the resources and training needed to fill their roll. But they also need to know that no matter what, you have their back. Never make fun of or gossip about a volunteer in front of a student, your team, or anyone, really. There are times when a volunteer will just have to get slimed in the face with a five gallon bucket of Jello, but that’s clearly a gesture of love.
- We didn’t value volunteers enough. Volunteers are not minions. They are champions in your ministry, champions for your ministry, and champions of your ministry. Lead your team with a servant’s heart, and recognize your role to serve and equip them to do good youth ministry. If volunteers are on their feet, you should be on yours. The worst thing a volunteer could say (or think) is, “Why am I doing all the work? I’m not even getting paid!”
- We didn’t value volunteers’ time enough. Most of your volunteers have lives outside of youth ministry. Value their time commitments by starting and ending meetings on time, developing and sticking to your meeting agenda, and by being clear about what you need your team to do.
- We didn’t listen to volunteers enough. Your volunteers are making significant investments in youth ministry. Make sure you are giving them a voice as well. Give them a voice in the overall vision, the direction, the calendar, and the budget for youth ministry.
- We didn’t thank volunteers enough. There are many reasons to be grateful for volunteers, so tell them “thank you” often. You can’t overdo gratitude. Youth ministry is rewarding work, but it can get rough down in the trenches. Thank your volunteers for their willingness to walk this tough journey with you.
- We didn’t affirm volunteers enough. You can’t overdo affirmation. Lavish your team with positive feedback. Be specific and personal. Don’t make the mistake of only giving negative feedback Your team needs to hear from you when they’ve done a good job.
- We didn’t serve volunteers enough. Lead your team the way Jesus led, with a servant’s heart. Pray for them, comfort them, lift up their arms, and wash their feet. Recognize that serving your volunteers is part of your calling as a youth leader.
- We didn’t pastor volunteers enough. Remembering to pastor volunteers is easy when they agree with your leadership. Remembering to pastor them when there is conflict is a challenge for even the most seasoned youth worker. Make it your prayer to never stop pastoring your team, even when the relationship is strained.
Avoid our failure stories. Make your volunteers one of your youth ministry priorities. It’s good for you, it’s good for them, it’s good for students, and it’s good for the Kingdom of God.