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“I can run a ministry alone,” said no youth worker ever. We simply can not do everything ourselves. Yet, so many times we recruit volunteers in a way that acts like it.

Having been on both sides as a volunteer and recruiter I am more convinced than ever that there are some key ways we can shake a really great unpaid team member. (Notice… large doses of sarcasm ahead.)

Never Communicate Expectations or Just Don’t Communicate Anything Ever

This is super simple. Never tell your volunteers what you want from them, don’t reach out to them regularly and merely avoid being clear on much of anything. Along these lines, use the excuse that you are “too busy” or that you “just aren’t administrative,” when they ask simple questions about logistics. Bring them curriculum they should use the day you want them to teach it, without allowing any space for preparation. Run around like a crazed lunatic all the time without directing anyone. They can figure it out as they go, this is a great learning opportunity for them.

Never Ask Anyone Where They WANT to Volunteer

You have ministry needs. If someone shows up to help, just put them wherever there is a gap, without asking them if they are all right with that. Just don’t bother to empower them or give them ownership of anything in the ministry. Make assumptions based on obvious skill sets that this is exactly where someone wants to give their time. In addition make sure to either raise the bar too high, or too low. It is really helpful to treat someone who is giving their time for “free” as if this is the only activity they participate in. You can also create an environment where everyone sort of stands around with no direction. As a matter of fact just give your volunteers a funky name like “Servants” and then you can treat them like this is the only thing they ever do.

Complain That “No One” Is Helping

Ignore the key team members who always show up, drive, go on trips, or generally pour their hearts out. I mean we are all “doing this for Jesus,” so those that are coming don’t really need encouragement. At the end of the year throw a half-hearted gift at them, and hope they feel like they have done something worthwhile. Better yet just send a mass email saying, “Thank You,” with no personalization. Nope, do nothing. This is best. Make sure you spend all of your time whining how you are “doing this by yourself,” then put an “ad” for more help in the bulletin and keep grumbling that the masses don’t come.

Don’t Bother Offering Training- At ALL- Ever

You can’t get anyone to come to meetings, so why would you want to bother to help your team know how to reach teens better? Chances are they are going to do everything their own way, no matter what you say. Never send them an article, suggest a book or video or take them to any sort of conference (one day, local or in house included.) I mean you have heard it said that those who volunteer believe they are there to support the youth pastor, as opposed to loving teens. You have also heard something about most people who “give” their time really don’t intuitively “understand” youth ministry. Ignore these thoughts. Avoid being creative, or brainstorming with your team ways they would like to be better equipped.

I have done all of these. I have had the tables turned and seen just how frustrating it is when they happen to you. Over the years I have come to learn the quality of volunteers matters more than the quantity. It is possible to keep a team member for a long time. The key is to treat them like the precious jewel they are. Stop making it easy for them to walk away. And remember this one thought: most of the time they will feel guilty telling you why they go, because they do see how hard you are trying so they will make an excuse or better yet- just stop coming and never tell you why.

How do you lose volunteers?

- Leneita

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Loved this article from last week’s Homeword newsletter. Jim Burns wrote  Taking Advantage of the Parent/Youth Ministry Partnership – here’s a clip of it but the whole thing is solid and might be a great addition to a parent newsletter or meeting soon:

Build relationships with your youth pastor and youth workers. This is so valuable to the parent/youth ministry partnership, yet is so often overlooked. Do yourself and your family a favor and make the effort to build relationships with the youth ministry adults who work closely with your kids. Building relationships with these youth workers creates common ground, understanding, and trust. Building relationships fosters empathy, caring, love, and concern. We are better together, and even more so when we see each other as friends.

Help your youth ministry team help you. The more vulnerable and open you become to those who work most closely with your kids, the more understanding they will have into your family, and the better prepared they can become to help guide your kids, and to provide you with the support and encouragement you need. Scary? Perhaps. Valuable? Absolutely.

Engage with your youth ministry. Do you know what your youth ministry is trying to accomplish in the lives of kids? Do you know what programs are being offered, and what goals they are trying to achieve? The more you engage, the more you’ll know and understand, and the greater the sense of partnership you will feel.

Attend regular youth ministry parent meetings. Ask questions. Read ministry newsletters, emails, and texts. Stay in touch. When those seasons of life arise where you aren’t able to keep up on everything, and when you finally get your head above water, give your youth pastor or youth worker a call and ask for an update.

Volunteer in your youth ministry. Maybe you are a good fit for being a youth leader, or maybe not. If so, and if your kids are agreeable, volunteer! But even if serving on the front lines with kids isn’t your gift or passion, there are still many ways you can help your church’s youth ministry become stronger, healthier, and more sustainable. Prepare food, provide transportation, help with administration and communication, or offer to be a sounding board for new ideas and programs. In providing support to the youth ministry, you will be helping your own teenager.

JG



OUTTA CONTROL VOLUNTEERS?

The worst story I’ve ever heard about “volunteers gone wild” was at this past SYMC. One of my new small church friends shared with the class how one of her volunteers brought a tazor gun on a youth retreat!

Last in the series; here are? signs u MIGHT have an “OUTTA CONTROL VOLUNTEER:”

1) One of your guy volunteers asks if it’s ok if he sleeps in his bikini underwear on a youth retreat. (Another true story from my track at SYMC.) (This is a problem, btw.)

? 2) You have volunteers who’ve answered the call to hold up the walls of your youth room. Apparently, arms crossed is the official stance.

? 3) Two words: fanny pack

? 4) An adult? volunteer tells you after youth group that, “Tonight’s message didn’t meet my spiritual needs.” It was a lesson for middle-schoolers.?

5) Your volunteer asks if his parole officer can come with him on the mission trip…and are handcuffs on the approved items list?

6) You spend more time enforcing the discipline code with certain volunteers (than the kids) and it’s not easy getting them to stay in time-out.

? But seriously, ministry friends…volunteer management is probably the top most talked about topic among youth workers. What to do to avoid the above scenarios? It comes down to three things:?

1) TIME: The majority of your allotted ministry time should be spent on your volunteer team, training and equipping them. Make them the upfront stars; it maximizes the ministry effectiveness.?

2) TALENT: Use them in their skill sets. Don’t ask them to do what they’re not good at…it’s like asking me to do the crafts at VBS. Not my thing. I’d have the kids using the supplies to make projectile? objects. Otherwise you’re setting your volunteers up for failure. ?

? 3) TREASURE: This one sorta speaks for itself. Treasure your people. Affirm them really, really, really often. Give them stuff, little token gifts that say, “I treasure your time.” Well, I don’t mean you have to give them talking gifts; but that would be cool.

Stephanie