Reject Your Volunteers’ Bad Excuses by Phil Bell
I meet a lot of great volunteer youth workers who lack confidence in how God can use them to reach and equip students. I often hear, “I don’t have what it takes,” or, “I’m not young enough,” or, “I don’t understand students well enough,” or, “I’ve never worked with students before.” But those excuses are missing the point.
So many volunteers will compare themselves to some impossible or inaccurate standard of what it takes to be a great youth worker. However, they are using the wrong metrics to gauge what it takes to work with students: age, experience, and some kind of magical ability to understand students. It’s time to throw those old standards. Here are the foundational traits that can make an eternal difference as we reach and equip students.
1. They have an authentic and growing relationship with God. In the short span of time we have with students in our ministry, what is it we hope they will see in us? While volunteers will not always be the youngest or trendiest, it is their faith walk that will leave a lasting impression. Students need to see adults who are deeply committed to God and spiritual growth in him. While they will forget our well-crafted messages, our relationships with God will influence their growth for years to come.
2. They are good listeners. When working with Generation X students, a volunteer needed to be a student immersed in the culture of students. But today’s Millennial students don’t expect or want adults to be like them—or worse, act like them. They simply want to be heard. In our crazy busy world, our students are starving for people who will truly listen to them. Students will pour out their heart to you when you listen well.
3. They are consistent. It’s hard to find consistent adults in the lives of students these days. Students will share their lives with those who will be a constant in their lives. I often hear from new volunteers that the first six months are extremely hard, since so many students are “closed off” to them. After six months, they usually experience a breakthrough. Students begin to open up. Relationships take time, and students are waiting to see if an adult volunteer is going to be around for the long haul.
4. They are team players. This should be a given, shouldn’t it? However, I have met so many unhealthy volunteers who have their own agendas and treat youth ministry as their own personal ministry. They don’t want to follow the vision of the leader, and they are often fueled (in an unhealthy way) by the attention of students. Other volunteers sense this as competition and become frustrated by the conflicting agendas. As a volunteer, it’s imperative that you follow the vision and implementation of the youth ministry. Make every effort to support the work of other volunteers.
5. They have a healthy home life. In our world of broken marriages and unhealthy families, students are desperate to find a better way. Many of our students have come from broken families and have experienced great hurt—and we have, too. Students are searching for answers through your example. They need to see how you make your family a priority. What kind of example are you giving them? What opportunities do students have to gain an insight into your family? Of course you need healthy boundaries for your family and youth ministry, but at the same time, your family could be the example students follow as they move into adulthood.