For many youth pastors, volunteers are the greatest part of their job. That was my experience. However, the more I travel and visit different youth ministries, I've noticed that this isn't every youth pastor's experience. I've had numerous conversations with frustrated youth workers over their volunteer teams. Laments over spotty attendance, laziness, and overall commitment to the ministry are common perpetrators.
If you're one of the frustrated youth pastors, I want to let you know there is hope! It doesn't have to be that way. Here are three things you can start doing to change your volunteer culture and get more out of your volunteers.
1. BRING THEM INTO MEANING.
With your current leaders and the ones that you’ve yet to recruit, you have to invite them into significance. My favorite line that I say to volunteers is this: “Will you strategically invest into the lives of a few students for a season of time to help them develop an authentic faith?” (this is taken 100% from the book Lead Small, which you have to read!).
Don’t ask “will you stack chairs for me” or “Hey, if you have some time can you help out on Fridays when you’re not busy”. You have to realize that people want to be involved with something significant. I can’t think of something more meaningful than walking alongside a teenager and helping shape their eternity!
Sometimes we are nervous about asking big of our volunteers. And most youth pastors I know don't like recruiting new volunteers? Secretly, we hope that people will just step up or fall from heaven. Here’s my tip for you: get over it! Often we think volunteers are doing us a solid by helping serve in our youth ministries. You’re thinking about it all wrong. If you can get Ephesians 2:10 deep in your bones, you’ll realize that you are doing them a favor by engaging them in what they were created for…ministry!
2. RESOURCE THEM.
You need to give them what they need in order to do the job that you’ve asked them to do. There’s nothing more frustrating for a volunteer when they don’t have what they need to do the job.
Remember, if what you are saying is that they’re going to be a part of something significant, you have to behave like what they are doing is significant. So do whatever it takes to make sure the have the knowledge and tools to do what it is you’re asking of them.
Here are some ideas:
- Over-communicate the ‘why’ of what you’re asking them to be apart of
- Take them to conference/training sessions
- Don’t overschedule them. Instead, create 3-4 spaces throughout the year where they can learn practical ministry skills
- Create a shared Evernote notebook with links to great blog posts and podcasts. Remember, they have school and jobs. They aren’t looking for this stuff. Look for them.
3. FUEL MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS.
Most volunteers want to be a part of something significant, but they want to find friendships as well. The tightest communities I’ve ever seen have been teams that serve together (missions, youth worship teams, student leaders, small group leaders). If you want to get more out of your volunteers, you have to buy fully into them, and allow them to buy into each other.
Party together. Rent out frozen yogurt joints and laugh together. Create spaces for friendships to be nurtured. The tighter your leaders are, the longer they will stay. The longer they stay, the more significant ministry can happen to your teens. You need to be constantly connecting and deepening friendships with your volunteers. People are more likely to buy into a person than an idea.
A great principle is this: do for them, what you want them to do for their students