Don’t Kill Yourself – Volunteers are Key

youth pastor volunteer

Volunteers… We don’t always have them but we need them.

I have been in Youth Ministry for a little over 4 years now and for about the first 3 years I thought that everything was my responsibility. I did three lessons a week, scheduled a meal sign up sheet and made contact with whoever was signed up for the current week, spent as much time as I could with the students (which wasn’t much). I led parent meetings, did lock-ins, 30 Hour Famines, Camps, Mission Trips and all of the fundraisers that our program needed. I had parents come and volunteer their time but I never appreciated their help fully until about 6 months ago. I started in a new church about a year and a half ago and for the first year I continued my devastating trend of not allowing anyone to help me. I was exhausted, I was depressed, I didn’t feel like I belonged in ministry anymore.

The past 4-6 months I have truly begun to understand the need for allowing adults to help in student ministry. I need to be in the front leading the group in the direction we are going but that doesn’t mean that I have to be pulling the entire group behind me. Now, I have a group of 4-6 adults that are absolutely invested in this ministry. I bounce ideas off of them, I ask them to do stuff for the ministry (instead of me doing it all) and I do my best to be there whenever I have a leader that has a question or idea for the program. Believe it or not, I am not stressed anymore. I don’t worry about how I am going to tackle certain tasks now, because I have a team that I know can help me and is behind me 110%. Whether that task is little or daunting, my team works together with me and we accomplish it.

A question arises though… Where can I get the leaders that I need to do this?

1. Talk to People

There are many people in the church that don’t do anything and are not invested because they have never been asked to do anything. Invite them out for lunch one day, give your vision for the ministry, ask where they can see themselves helping out and give them the reasoning on why you chose them. Most of my volunteers have stepped up because I have asked them or talked to them about the ministry.

2. Broadcast Your Ministry to the Church

Make sure your church knows that they actually have a student ministry.  And make sure they know that the student ministry is doing everything in its power to equip the students with the faith and the biblical understanding that they need to be able to tackle the challenges that are waiting on them when they leave to go to college. Your students are your best promotional opportunity, so get your students to stand up in church and make announcements for the youth program. When you go on a mission trip or go to church camp, get up in front of the church and let the students share how God moved in their lives during the event. Adults love to hear how the students are tackling the difficult concepts of faith early in their lives and more than likely would love to help out.

3. Make Sure Your Ministry is Inviting

This is something that really took some effort and practice on my part. In all my time as a Youth Pastor, I had never truly worked on being open and inviting to criticism and being open to people trying to help out. I honestly believe that I have had some great volunteers run through the ranks of my ministries and I have burned bridges by not listening to ideas and critiques. Make sure that you are welcoming to volunteers when they have questions or concerns. Discuss their thoughts (neutrally), find solutions to the problems and move on with implementing the solutions. Burning bridges because someone gave you a critique that you didn’t like will only make it harder for you in the long run. Be humble and be wise. You do not always have the right answers, neither do your volunteers. That’s why it is best to work as a team.

 

Please don’t kill yourself like I did for close to 3 years… It’s not worth it. Find some volunteers that share your vision and love on them as much as possible. Give them tasks to accomplish, get their opinions on things that are happening and get out there and love students with everything you have.

The 2 Questions I Ask Every Volunteer Leader

There are countless things that I love about youth ministry; one of those things is the explosion of job descriptions for volunteers in the ministry. These job descriptions list qualifications and expectations, which are all good and needed things; but to be honest, it freaked some people out in my ministry.  I am not saying that my volunteers did not like to hear about what qualified them or what we expected from them, because they did, but it appeared that we were boxing it up too much.

In a lot of ways volunteer leaders are fragile.  They have many questions like:  Am I too young? Am I too old?  Am I cool enough?  Do I know enough? Do I have enough experience?  Will students like me?  Will staff like me?  Will my schedule allow me to serve for a long period of time?

There are so many questions that we all have to freak ourselves out in student ministry, but none of them them have ultimate importance.  Therefore, these aren’t the questions that should take precedence in the interview process; and therefore, they aren’t even necessary.

For a while I would lead interviews with potential volunteers with job descriptions.  I thought that by doing this I was so cool and so relevant… but I was SO wrong.  They just needed two really important questions and my willingness to figure out the rest, as their leader.  I needed them to give me the pieces and then the drive so that I could put it all together.

After talking to a lot of my leaders at Mariners Church these are the two questions I came up with.

1.  What are you passionate about?

2.  How much time do you have?

They may seem soft at first, but look closer; these questions are the backbone of all of the Junior High leaders we have.  I want to know what a leader’s passions are and what drives them.   I also want to know what their schedule looks like to fulfill that passion.  For every passion we can make a way to fit that in to Junior High Ministry.

We as staff need to be the creative facilitators for our leaders.  They don’t know ministry, so they don’t know how their gifts and talents can be used in the ministry. That is why they count on us without even knowing it at times.  It is our role to help send them to action.

Volunteer Camp Gifts

I had camp a few weeks ago! I went to the Windermere Baptist Conference Center for AreaOne Camp. I have never been to this camp before, but the speakers and the worship team looked awesome, so I was really looking forward to see what the Lord had in store for us. It was awesome!

One thing I did this year is give camp gifts to the students and the leaders. My wife and the girl volunteers went all out for the girls and I really don’t even know what they got them. I just know it involved lots of construction paper, Modge Podge, and glitter. I was in charge of the leaders and the guys.

I asked in the YouthMin Facebook Group what would be good gifts for leaders as a “Camp Survival Pack” I got some great comments and this is what I decided to go with. Almost all of it was either found in the “Dollar” section of Target or in the “Travel” section of the Health and Beauty area.

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Here is a blown up version of the card that is attached to the box describing each item and why they are in there.

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We also added little Snickers bars to fill up space in the box. We didn’t write it on the card but the same reason why these commercials are great is why we gave them the Snickers bars. We don’t want them to get hungry. Also not written on there and kind of hidden from the picture is a hand written Thank You note I wrote to each leader. Basically it is me telling them thanks for giving up a week of their Summer to be with students, and also a note that I am praying for them.

The box came from old postage boxed I had lying around the house. I went to Staples and bought “Craft Paper.” I love this because it is plain brown. I felt like it added to the “Survival Kit” feel.

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That is it. Very simple and pretty cheap. Less than $10 per leader and they are all things the leaders will enjoy and find some humor in as they go to camp. The important thing is that they feel like you care. They are giving up a week of their time. Even if you paid their way to camp, they could be working or at home with their family instead of there with students. Make them feel special. Happy leaders lead to happy students, which leads to happy youth pastor. At least, that is how it’s supposed to go.

BONUS

As mentioned before, my wife was in charge of the student gifts. I don’t really know what is in them. They could be just bags full of glitter and Justin Bieber bobble heads for all I know. I asked around if it was normal for the guys to get gifts. Everyone said that they wouldn’t expect it and they really don’t care. Camp gifts are mainly a thing between the Female cabin leaders and their girls. So I figure I would surprise them with a very pragmatic and manly gift for the guys.

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Nothing screams “Youth Camp” like Slim Jims and Mountain Dew. I added the gum for hygiene. I think the guys will be totally cool with this. All of this I bought in bulk and there were extras for me (benefits of being a Youth Pastor I guess!).

Do you do “cabin gifts” for camp? Do you give gifts for volunteers for camp. What do you give them?

Volunteer Camp Gifts

I had camp a few weeks ago! I went to the Windermere Baptist Conference Center for AreaOne Camp. I have never been to this camp before, but the speakers and the worship team looked awesome, so I was really looking forward to see what the Lord had in store for us. It was awesome!

One thing I did this year is give camp gifts to the students and the leaders. My wife and the girl volunteers went all out for the girls and I really don’t even know what they got them. I just know it involved lots of construction paper, Modge Podge, and glitter. I was in charge of the leaders and the guys.

I asked in the YouthMin Facebook Group what would be good gifts for leaders as a “Camp Survival Pack” I got some great comments and this is what I decided to go with. Almost all of it was either found in the “Dollar” section of Target or in the “Travel” section of the Health and Beauty area.

IMG_0467

Here is a blown up version of the card that is attached to the box describing each item and why they are in there.

IMG_0468

We also added little Snickers bars to fill up space in the box. We didn’t write it on the card but the same reason why these commercials are great is why we gave them the Snickers bars. We don’t want them to get hungry. Also not written on there and kind of hidden from the picture is a hand written Thank You note I wrote to each leader. Basically it is me telling them thanks for giving up a week of their Summer to be with students, and also a note that I am praying for them.

The box came from old postage boxed I had lying around the house. I went to Staples and bought “Craft Paper.” I love this because it is plain brown. I felt like it added to the “Survival Kit” feel.

IMG_0486

That is it. Very simple and pretty cheap. Less than $10 per leader and they are all things the leaders will enjoy and find some humor in as they go to camp. The important thing is that they feel like you care. They are giving up a week of their time. Even if you paid their way to camp, they could be working or at home with their family instead of there with students. Make them feel special. Happy leaders lead to happy students, which leads to happy youth pastor. At least, that is how it’s supposed to go.

BONUS

As mentioned before, my wife was in charge of the student gifts. I don’t really know what is in them. They could be just bags full of glitter and Justin Bieber bobble heads for all I know. I asked around if it was normal for the guys to get gifts. Everyone said that they wouldn’t expect it and they really don’t care. Camp gifts are mainly a thing between the Female cabin leaders and their girls. So I figure I would surprise them with a very pragmatic and manly gift for the guys.

IMG_0469

Nothing screams “Youth Camp” like Slim Jims and Mountain Dew. I added the gum for hygiene. I think the guys will be totally cool with this. All of this I bought in bulk and there were extras for me (benefits of being a Youth Pastor I guess!).

Do you do “cabin gifts” for camp? Do you give gifts for volunteers for camp. What do you give them?

Giving Constructive Criticism

Confrontation.  It’s hard, it’s messy, but it’s needed.

So how do you give constructive criticism to someone in a way that isn’t rejected? I’m going to present a method to give it in a way that makes the other person feel like “Hey, I’m doing a good job, I just need to work on a few things” rather than “I’m a piece of crap and I need to go move back in with my mommy.”

It’s called the Feedback Sandwich.

It’s as simple as this: Begin with a praise.  Give the critique.  Then end with a praise.

But…be careful not to turn the feedback sandwich into a “You’re Awesome.  You suck. You’re Awesome.” There needs to be balance in what you say.

The format goes: “Name, praise; YET (never say but) critique. If this happens, that praise will be even more praise-y, because you are so praise-y.” (See? lots of praise!)

Here are some examples:

Have a volunteer who never tells you when they’re coming or not coming?  Joe, our teens really love you and get so excited when you are here; yet, you can be here so randomly that even I don’t know when you’re coming.  If you can give me a schedule or just let me know when you can’t be here, we can work together in harvesting your gifts so that we are more effective and can reach more kids and impact the Kingdom.

Have a student leader who is struggling with some sin?  Jane, you are a natural-born leader and your peers really look up to you; yet, they can see that you are struggling with this sin.  If you push through and don’t let it hold you back, you can be a even greater example of perseverance and strength to your friends.

Have a pastor who is micromanaging you?  James, I love that you are so invested in our ministry and that you’re not one of those pastors who sits and the sidelines and doesn’t care; yet, I feel like I want to be given a chance to do things more independently.  If I succeed, your validation of me will mean the world, plus it will give you a chance to focus on tasks that really need it.

Genius, huh?

Sometimes it can be hard to find something praise-worthy about that person.  One of the wonderful people in my life who disciple me recently told me, “Sometimes, even if we can’t stand a person, we need to focus on the good traits they have–traits that remind of us God’s traits.”  God is creative, loving, consistent, vocal, active, and countless more wonderful things. We are made in his image, and sometimes we need to remind each other of how we resemble God. What better compliment is that?

And remember, this isn’t fool-proof. There will be those people who reject critique in every single form and who don’t do well in confrontation. I think that’s when you need to go all Matthew 18 on them.  Good luck.

Now…go make me a sandwich.

Have you tried this?  What are some ways that you have effectively given criticism?

Engaging students you have nothing in common with

Confession time: I like to talk to people who are like me. You probably do the same thing as well. You naturally gravitate to someone in a room who you feel you have a connection with. On Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, the people I’m around that I have the most in common with are the adults in the room. They have kids. They have jobs. They have bills and schedules and other “adult” things going on.

The students in the room? They have homework. And soccer practice. And girlfriends. And video games.
OK, so I at least have video games in common with students.

The next time you’re in a room with adults and students, make an effort to have conversation with multiple students before you seek out your adult friends. As a volunteer, you came for the students. They are the ones you’re ministering to.

If it helps, decide to have three conversations with students before talking with an adult about their week. The conversations don’t have to end in a Gospel presentation (though you never know!), but should be longer than “Hey! How was your week?”

Ask them how their extra curricular programs are going. Ask them what their plans are for the next holiday. Ask them about their jobs, their boyfriends, their school, their home, their math test, even their video games. Show students that you came for them by engaging them as they walk into the room. It can make a huge difference later on as they reflect on their experience in the youth group.

Seek out students first, you never know what you’ll find!

 

This was submitted to the site by Ronald Long using the Submit button near the top of the site. We didn’t ask for enough information from him to give him a bio, so Ronald, if you see this, message me so we can fix it.