5 Things Volunteers Need From You by Ron Powell
Here’s a list of 5 things I learned that my leaders need from me.
It’s not fair to ask volunteers to do something that they haven’t been trained for. If you want them to contact a group of 5 students every week, do a role-play, or leaders’ session teaching on exactly what that looks like. If you want leaders to pray with students, walk them through a process of listening to needs and praying with the student. Even if it’s just taking attendance, managing student behavior, or leading a small group, it’s unfair to put a volunteer in this situation without:
- teaching them,
- letting them observe it,
- letting them assist you or another leader,
- then you watching them do it.
Clear Expectations Repeated Regularly.
I had a lead pastor who would tell me “check up on the kids, Check up! Check up!” Granted, English was not his first language but I couldn’t get him to specify what “check up” looked like. (Frankly I’m still not sure!) I never knew if I was living up to his expectations. If you are expecting leaders to “hang out with kids” be specific about what that looks like.
It could be,
- stay with your students from start to finish of the youth program.
- Have a conversation with each student each week.
- Arrange to meet each of your students face to face outside of youth once a month.
- Arrange one group activity for your students each term.
These standards need to be repeated regularly. You can share the standard in a leaders meeting, have leaders share what is going on with their students in a leaders meeting, or call each of your leaders each week to get praise and prayer reports with what is going on with them.
Consistent Communication and Feedback
I have mentioned this in another blog. Volunteers often feel that they are not performing very well. They feel that they could be doing more. Sometimes they wonder if the work they do is appreciated. Some youth ministries have a debriefing meeting after the students have gone home. Some have a meeting an hour before the students arrive. Whenever you meet (and I think it should be each week) it is important to provide group feed back. Here is a chance to talk about how well the leaders are relating to students at the program.
Mention specifics that you want to be repeated like “I saw many of you go out of your way to include fringe kids and newcomers! Way to go!”
Meeting each week and encouraging your leaders is crucial. At the same time don’t neglect speaking to your leaders individually about the work that they are doing. Point out what you have observed and affirm every effort that they make. Never underestimate just how insecure they are!
Most of all, please communicate with them about what is going on and what is expected at your meeting. It’s terrible when the volunteers know less than the students. They will be very angry if they don’t get advance notice. This is going to require good planning and communicating information in written and verbal form. As Tyson Howells has shared you can never communicate enough.
Opportunity to Be Heard
I love Steven Covey’s Principle –Seek first to Understand then to be Understood. It applies to youth ministry. Have you ever felt that your leaders “don’t get you?” It could be that you need to get them first. Asking your volunteers or sponsors for input even an evaluation of how the ministry is going, will provide you with necessary insights. Often they will see things that you miss. Value their input and wherever possible, act upon it.
In the same way that the volunteers serve the youth, I always felt it was my role to serve the leaders. This meant following up with them to find out how things are going; not just in their ministry to the students but other areas of their lives. I found that they would do the same thing for the students as I did for them.
I find that volunteers are inspired when they can see the big picture. Every volunteer should feel like an important part of the overall direction of the ministry. Too often the vision is fuzzy. Adult and student leaders aren’t able to see the connection between programs, activities and the overall goal of the ministry.
I heard a local youth pastor communicate his vision this way before their prayer time.
“I know that this may seem like just another youth night but I want you to know that there will be new community kids here who are going to hear the gospel. They will be assigned to one of you leaders. You will have the chance to build a relationship with them and help them to be part of a small group. Eventually this student, like many of you, will grow in the faith and be part of this team. You may not realize it when that new student steps on to the property but we are changing this community, one student at a time!”
Staying On Top of All This
It’s hard to stay on top of these five essential leadership functions. I don’t think that I ever did, at least not all five at the same time. I do know however that when I made conscious effort to recommit my time to making these a priority ever area of the youth ministry went better. The volunteers were happier and more effective in their ministry. Students were growing and each week we knew that our vision was becoming a reality.