Was digging through some old files on our student ministry archives, and found this simple gem on how to pray for your small group leaders. Not sure who to credit (probably Matt McGill or Doug Fields). Good stuff here:

  • Put a couple calendar reminders for each day of your week as a reminder to pray for your small group leaders. (i.e. I pray for Bob and Jim on Tuesdays, Sue and Sammy on Wednesdays, etc,)
  • Look up the list of students in their small group and pray for each of them by name.
  • Pray for something very specific to happen with their small group. Send them an email letting them know about your prayer.
  • Put a post-it on your dashboard with one leader’s name and every time you get in your car to drive to work or small group…pray for that leader. Change it each week.
  • Write a letter to God on a postcard that is a prayer for that small group leader and send it to them in the mail.


You already know that your volunteers are a crucial piece of your healthy ministry. That’s why you spend so much time identifying, training, and developing awesome volunteer leaders.

But what are you doing to make sure your volunteers are really cared for?

Remember, your volunteers are susceptible to stress and burnout, just like you are. They also have important relationships with students, just like you do. That means that if a volunteer leaves your ministry, they’ll leave behind some saddened kids, and now you’ll have to start finding and developing a new person to fill that spot.

But, if you exercise good care over your volunteers, there’s an excellent chance they’ll be there for the long haul. That’s what you want.

Here are four (fairly) easy ways to make sure you take better care of your awesome volunteers:

1. Regularly send notes of encouragement.
Did a volunteer do something exceptional? Tell him. Is it her birthday or anniversary? Celebrate with her. Did you spontaneously remember the Cheez Whiz incident from last fall’s retreat? Send a note to your volunteer so you can laugh about it together.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but sometimes the easiest way to tell someone you appreciate them is to actually tell them.

2. Create volunteer teams that are larger than they need to be.
Your leaders shouldn’t feel anxiety if they have to miss youth group because they’re going to an out-of-town wedding. But if you are always tight on volunteers, then that’s exactly what will happen.

You want your leaders to be missed when they’re gone, but they also need the freedom to take a session off without guilt.

3. Pray for and with your volunteers.
This seems like a no-brainer, but when a volunteer reveals a problem, stressor, or struggle, they are asking you for your prayers. Yes, add them to your prayer list.

But as a leader (administratively and spiritually), be willing to place your hands on another person and to lift them up in prayer. It won’t take long until you become comfortable with this, and you won’t believe the impact your prayers and presence can have on your volunteers.

4. Say ‘no’ for your volunteers.
There are always a few volunteers who will say ‘yes’ to everything. I love those volunteers. So do you.

But be careful about overdoing it. Your volunteers need to have healthy home lives and careers in addition to helping with ministry. Don’t impose your own program so much that it starts to affect everything else.

Just because someone has the inability to say no doesn’t make it right for us to take advantage of that.

What else do you do to make sure that your volunteers are well-cared for? I’d love for you to share your input.

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – like leading volunteers. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

While you and I are called to serve teens and their families, our most important audience is the volunteer who serves alongside of you.  Without them you can only do so much and last so long.  That’s why every summer you make a huge effort in recruiting and training them in your craft.  Every year there is a mad rush to get them and then when you do you are happy because you have a team.  But, you aren’t done.

The hardest part about building up your volunteer base isn’t asking them to join, it’s retaining them for the long haul.  When you have a volunteer who not only commits to your ministry for one year but five or even ten, the amount of fruit their service will bare is immeasurable.  So, how do you keep them around?  Well, it’s all about how you pour into them.  Some of the big ways to do this is by sending them to conferences and hosting all day training events.  However, the investment doesn’t always have to be expensive and complex.  There are a few small things that you can do that will go a long way.

Here are three practical ways you can invest in your leaders:

Send Them A Note – There is nothing better than receiving an authentic hand written thank you note in the mail.  It communicates; I took the time and effort to express my gratitude for you.  You don’t have to write anything profound, just thank them for something simple or small that meant a lot to you.  It’s another way of telling them how valuable they truly are to you and the ministry.

Get Personal With Them – You might meet with your volunteers constantly; however, how many times is it personal?  Agenda-less meetings are essential to the relationship you have with your ministers.  Find time to take a few of them out for coffee.  Invite a couple of them over for a bite to eat or to watch a movie.  Indoctrinate a couple of the key leaders into your family.  The more they get to know you the easier it will be for them to return the investment.

Brag To The Pastor – Our pastor encourages the staff to introduce to him the all star volunteers and first timers.  While he’s not going to get to know all of them, he wants to know the people making an impact on the church.  When you introduce a volunteer to the pastor it shows them that you are so impressed with their work that you want the boss to know.  That just might be the public affirmation they need to bring their service to the next level.

It’s important to note that you can’t do all these things for everyone.  Not only is that a difficult task but also if you tried to praise everyone equally your investment would lose value.  Lastly, always think simple.  Your investment doesn’t have to be expensive or overly creative.  Just make it authentic, transparent and spontaneous.

What other ways can you simply invest in your team?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

As we’ve already discussed, summer is a chance to change up your student program; why not let it be a chance to change up how you care for your leaders as well. This summer we’re trying some new things, and bringing back some time-tested classic ways to encourage and care for our leaders. Here are a few of both!

Kick it off with a BBQ.
Nothing says “You’re important to me” like a double cheeseburger fresh off the grill….unless  you have ribs, too. By now your summer is in full swing, so take an evening to relax, eat some tasty food, and love on your volunteer team. They’ll need the encouragement to make it through the rest of the summer schedule!

Think about a ball game.
A while back we did a big tailgate party with our leaders and bought them tickets to a baseball game. Pick a great night (with fireworks) and if you’ve got the chance, spring for tickets for their whole family as well. Everyone makes sacrifices when a parent serves in youth group—give them all a ballpark dog and a seat in the upper deck to say thanks.

Host a coffee drop-in.
As you care for leaders in the summer, consider this one: Drive-By Coffee. You bring your MacBook and work from Starbucks for the bulk of the afternoon and let all your leaders know if they drop by you’ll buy them a drink. In our experience most will stay for maybe 10-15 minutes, so you can get in a ton of relational time as well as crank on a few emails in between. Of course, you need to be prepared for the awkward leader who decides to hang around for the majority of the afternoon!

Have some end of summer beach/pool fun.
Summer has been incredible, so why not pull everyone together for a little fun poolside? Maybe break out the grill again or just do s’mores at the firepit. Forget any formal program; just circle everyone up at the end of the night to share highlights, favorite moments, and stories that are destined to become legendary in your ministry for years to come.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

This month in the SYM Today we’re focusing largely on your volunteer team — and this week we’re tackling the topics of caring for and training your team of amazing leaders. Today, we want to talk about care. Here are a few practical ways you can add more personal care to your team:

Know them well
I (Josh) remember when a key leader at our church remembered all 4 of my kid’s names without missing a beat. It was a big deal! I stumble over my kid’s name sometimes, so it was totally impressive. It was a reminder to me that sometimes the little things send big “I care” messages. Set up recurring calendar alerts to trigger a reminder about a birthday or important date in their family history. Stalk them on Facebook — whatever it takes. Truly caring for the leaders on your team is one of your primary roles….and you can’t truly care for them unless you truly know them.

Surprise them
My (Josh) wife is shocked when I bring home flowers. My (Kurt) wife is shocked when I pick up my socks. Their delight and surprise is because for most people there are few things better than a “I was thinking of you” gesture. Write an unexpected note, or buy a small “thank you” gift for someone in your ministry, and see how they respond! We recently sent our volunteers fresh-baked cookies in the mail. We’ve shown up to their place of work to deliver ice cold drinks, and we’ve given them an unexpected weekend off…and paid for them to go on a date when they would normally be serving at church. Surprise!

Be there when things go bad
Life is full of good, bad and ugly things. Show up when life takes a rough turn or they get bad news. Caring for your teammates in need is one of our key responsibilities as leaders. You know this feeling all too well — there’s nothing worse than a leader who feels distant when you need them most. Be present. Send a card. Send flowers. Attend the funeral, even if you didn’t know their great-aunt Matilda. Give them time.

Be quick to coach, forgive and restore
One of the final aspects of caring for your leaders is showing them grace. Over time you’ll begin to master the nuances of caring for your team — when to drop the hammer, when to forgive, when to overlook and when to make a big deal out of something. Sometimes the best way to care for a leader is to show them grace by giving them a second chance.

For a whole book-full of ideas to help you care for your volunteers, Check out Full of It…ideas to fill youth ministry volunteers with encouragement by Kurt Johnston and Katie Edwards.
This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.