Really enjoyed this post over on from Greg Baird called 5 Things Every Kid’s Ministry Volunteer Needs to Know. Almost 100% of it transfers over to youth ministry easily – thought I would send you that way to read it today. Here’s 3 of them to get you started:

1. They are not babysitters.
Of course, most would agree with you about this. Unfortunately, many times they don’t act like it’s true. Volunteers need to truly understand that they are here to make an eternal impact in the lives of the kids they are serving.

2. Their ministry needs to flow from their relationship with God.
Following on from #1, it’s important for our team to understand the importance of their own relationship with God. And it’s important for us, as leaders, to understand that children’s ministry isnot just about discipling children, but also about discipling our volunteers. Are you checking on the spiritual health of your individual team members?

4. Connecting with parents is critical.
Volunteers need to know that, while what they do is critically important, it’s not what will make the biggest difference in the spiritual lives of kids. What the parents do will make the biggest difference. But parents often need (and usually want) to connect with what’s happening at church in order to make the spiritual investment at home.


I love my volunteers.  I have a great group of men and women who give so much of themselves to the students, myself, the church and God.  When I see them investing in the next generation I’m filled with joy.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a perfect streak when it comes to recruiting and keeping volunteers.    I’ve had a few people who are full out committed at first and then never show up to a single small group.  There have been grown ups who have said inappropriate things around the students because of carelessness.  And then there are the volunteers who are consistently late and showing up unprepared.  When this happens, something needs to be done.

Addressing a volunteer’s commitment and expectations can be awkward and painful.  Your mind says, “Get rid of them.” Your heart says, “I need them.”   And your stomach is in knots.  So what do you do?

Before you decide whether to can or keep that volunteer, try these options:

  • Reassign Them: It’s possible a volunteer is serving in the wrong ministry.  I’ve had large group ministers who should be small group leaders.  People who were better with kids than teens.  It happens all the time, someone responds to your invitation wanting to help you out not thinking, “Is this the right ministry for me?”  Before you reassign a volunteer make sure you help them discern their transition.  Walk with them through this journey so that they feel confident it isn’t about their lack of skill it’s just misplacement.
  • Give Them A Season Off: Even your volunteers need a vacation.  Unfortunately, they might not recognize the need so they overcommit and burn themselves out.  As a youth minister one of your main responsibilities is to oversee the health of your volunteers.  If they are acting slow, or frustrated discuss with them about taking a couple of weeks or months away from the ministry.  Be sure to check in with them during their Sabbatical.
  • Follow Up With A Review:  Reviews and evaluations are done in the professional working world and the same should be done in your ministry.  Reviews help the employer and employees reevaluate the position, productivity and  address any serious issues they might see.  Set-up a review process with volunteers who are struggling and you’ll find it easier to tackle the tougher issues before it’s too late.

Addressing volunteer concerns is never easy.  You grow with these men and women who have sacrificed much of their time to be with you; therefore, it becomes personal.  If addressing a minister about anything serious be sure to partner up.  If it’s with someone of the opposite sex make sure your partner is too.  In the end if you have to let them go, you know that you’ve given them plenty of chances and options.

How do you address minister problems?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)


This week’s poll question comes from Steven (from GentoGenYM) and asks about how often you meet up with your volunteer team. There are lots of different strategies to this – I’ve heard people meeting every week before youth group to as little as once a year.

In my current ministry setting we’ve moved away from the formal meetings every month to quarterly, to now maybe 3 times a year. In between we make sure to stay in regular contact with our team and pour into those that need more coaching over meals or coffee. Vote now!


Was reflecting on this past year of ministry and how I’m so privileged to serve in our church and have a great group of people I work with on our church staff and amazing volunteer team. Probably lots of similar things have been written about building a winning team – but it has been fun and challenging to do these things in our youth ministry:

Genuinely love your people. You can fake it for a while, but it eventually comes out that it is all about you. Make it all about them and all about Jesus and you win.

The team that laughs together, stays together. Ministry is draining, challenging, and inspiring. Make sure you laugh along the way – it’ll double the life expectancy of your people.

Make sure they KNOW they are loved. Make sure it is obvious you are thinking about them, promoting them, speaking highly of them. You shouldn’t have to say anything, they should just feel it. Typically when there is doubt in this area, they feel undervalued, ignored, under-appreciated, worthless.

Give your people real, audacious projects. Trust them with critical situations. Give them the ministry while you’re away on vacation, and don’t take it back when you return. Belief goes a long way when building people.

Would love to know what you do to build your team, too!


Who Takes The Blame?

Chris Wesley —  December 11, 2012 — 2 Comments

If you work with teenagers chances are you’ve witnessed many mistakes.  Maybe it was that game that you thought would be awesome; however, a girl ends up puking.  Or that trip that was incredible until you arrived home late because you couldn’t find the one teen in the rest stop gift shop.  In youth ministry mistakes will be made.  Parents, teens, volunteers and even the pastor will get angry with you.

When something doesn’t go as originally planned the temptation is to find a scapegoat.  You were late because of someone else.  The game didn’t go according to plan because the instructions weren’t clear.  You make excuses and point the finger; however, all it does it hurt your leadership.  Mistakes will happen because you and I are human.  As a leader instead of looking for an excuse or someone to blame:

  • Take Ownership Of The Situation:  Owning the situation doesn’t necessarily mean you will take the blame.  It means that you will take the steps to resolve the situation.  If someone is at fault you’ll find out who that is or if there was a miscommunication you’ll discover when that happened.  By owning it you are allowing others to hold you accountable.  By embracing the situation you show others that you care.
  • Criticize And Critique Privately: If a problem does occur because of someone else make sure you talk with them privately.  Making a fool of them in front of their peers is embarrassing and doesn’t look well for you.  If the situation is severe be sure to have an accountable party who will affirm the discussion.  This will also protect you if they aren’t accepting of the feedback.
  • Pray With Others: Most youth ministers are their harshest critique, which will drain us emotionally and spiritually.  Having a small group of peers to listen to your concerns is essential.  Allow them to pray for you and pour into you so that you can continue to move forward.  In the end you’ll know you aren’t walking through the problem alone.
  • Obtain Trustworthy Feedback: Make sure you analyze the situation with the help of others.  If the mistake was made by another person seek wisdom on how you could have prevented putting the wrong person in the wrong place.  Have someone you trust to give you the brutal facts to point you in the right direction.

I’m not suggesting that you as the leader take the fall 100% of the time; however, it’s important to own the situation.  Look to resolve it, share the burden with others and make the necessary preparations to avoid the situation in the future.  A great leader is one who is humble enough to know mistakes are made and that it’s all a part of being human.

How do you rebound from mistakes being made?  

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Most youth workers I know have one thing in common…they try to do too much. Many of us are perfectionists. Many leaders care so much that they give too much. Many leaders don’t know how to recruit. Sometimes we just reach teens quickly and we seem to never be able to catch up.

I have been that guy trying to do everything. I finally started asking for help but I made a critical mistake. I started dumping responsibility on people who were willing instead of looking for leaders who could partner with me in ministry. When you dump responsibility you look for a willing person and give them stuff to do that you don’t want to mess with. You basically ask them to do the work and leave you alone so you can do other things. Sure, it helps for the short term but when they have other things to do they will hand you back the responsibility. I leaned in the process I needed sharp leaders who would partner with me in ministry so they understood the why behind the what! Here are four kinds of leaders we need to be empowering…

  • Small Group Leaders / these are leaders who will invest in teens intentionally like you wish you could do for every teen. They will mentor, guide, clarify, instruct, encourage, and pray for teens on a weekly basis. These leaders are extensions of you doing youth ministry and they are the most important partners you will have.
  • Detail Leaders /  these are leaders who are gifted administratively and can help you by talking care of the details that bog us down on a weekly basis. These leaders can organize, delegate, and systematize but they may not be great with teens. Let them thrive in the detail so you can lead the big picture!
  • Presence Leaders / these are leaders who care for teens but may not be ready to lead a small group. They just want to serve teens and help where needed when they are available. They love teens and they love your ministry but they have other things that pull them away from leading a small group. Let them run a cafe, work the parking lot, or help run games during programing.
  • Tech Leaders / these are leaders who love the digital side of what we do but may not be good at other areas of student ministry! Let them make your environment look , feel, and sound better.

What are some “leader types” that you empowered and they made you and your ministry better? What keeps you from empowering leaders?

Michael Bayne is Family and Student Pastor at Grace Community Church, Clarksville TN. Follow him on Twitter at @michael_bayne and read more of his writing at

Like most ministries out there, we have been struggling with cliques. Our “core” students, student leaders included, have not done a great job about being inclusive with our lesser known/new students. At our last Student Leadership meeting, we decided to address the situation head on. The response was incredible! I know that this is sometimes a hard issue to confront in a way that is impactful, so I thought I would share what we did that made our meeting so special!

We started with a short testimony from one of our adult volunteers. She said that she went to her youth group and felt totally alone even though she was in a room full of people and how she wanted so badly for someone just to come up to her and say hi. She asked if anyone could relate to her story and one by one, students in our student leadership program started telling their own stories of how they used to feel unwelcome at church. They told us how badly they wanted to be known and seen. It was such a powerful way to start the discussion because the problem became real and personal.

We followed that by telling our students that God wants to use them to make students feel welcomed and loved in the church. The idea was inspired by an interview I saw with Taylor Swift. In it, the interviewer asked if Taylor ever thought of the millions of girls that she is influencing everyday. Taylor responded that it would be irresponsible for her not to be aware of the influence that she has because she can make use of it for good. That is what we communicated to our student leaders. We wanted them to recognize that the Lord has given them influence. It is a gift from God and it would be irresponsible (or a waste) to not use what He has given them.

So we challenged them to make a difference. We told them we didn’t want them to focus on destroying the reputation of cliques at our church; we wanted them to focus on reaching out and showing the love of Christ to other people. Breaking down cliques can be an outcome of our ministry, but it isn’t the point. We told them that we want them to be on the look out before, during, and after service for students that seem disconnected. It could be one student by themselves, or a small group of students that don’t seem to know anyone else. They were challenged to never be with more than one other student leader as they make these outreach efforts. They were also challenged to go to another youth ministry alone and see what it feels like to be that new student.

I think it is so important to end it with their feedback. Some of our students who used to feel left out gave us some great insight on what we can be doing to make students feel welcomed and loved. Other students shared tips on how to built intentional relationships with new students. We closed out with prayer and hugs. It was awesome!

How have you approached students with this topic? What have you done to make it “work?”

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I’m sure you love most if not all of your volunteer ministers.  Face it, they give up their time and energy to help you, walk with teens and serve the Lord.  What isn’t there to like about them?  In fact if we were to sit down over coffee (Your buying), you would have some amazing stories to share about how you see God working through them.  Bottom line: MINISTERS ARE IMPORTANT

Since you can’t do what you need or want to do with out your volunteer team it’s imperative that you show them YOUR APPRECIATION.  While they might not be on your Christmas list this year, you need to make sure that they are thanked and celebrated.  So, what does that mean?  How does thanking and rewarding your volunteer ministers look like?

Sometimes there is an internal push back to thanking our ministers because you can’t afford it or there are just too many to track.  Again, you might be gracious for all that they do; however, unexpressed gratitude isn’t really true gratitude at all.  If you feel that gratitude isn’t a natural habit of yours, than consider these three tips:

Free Goes Far – Sometimes the best gifts are the ones that take little money; but, lots of thought.  If all you are receiving in your mailbox these days is junk mail, you know how incredible it is to receive a handwritten note or card from a loved one.  Next time you want to thank a volunteer take a minute or two to write out a card and mail it to them.  Even if your only note is, “Thank You” it will go a long way.  If you receive an email from a parent or a student that talks about how that volunteer has impacted their life, print it out and stick it in the card.  It will show your ministers that not only do you appreciate them; but, so do the people they serve.

Praise Them Publicly – Brag on your team.  Whether it’s in front of the congregation at your church, or to one of their family members, let them know how proud of them you are.  It might be a little embarrassing for them; however, when you praise someone publicly, it rallies a crowd behind them.  They go from joe-minister to “BIG TIME” volunteer instantly.  Let them know that they can be proud of themselves.

Do For One Even If You Can’t Do For All - There are going to be times when you have the opportunity to spoil at least one of your volunteers.  Maybe someone gave you an Ipad to give away, tickets to the ball game or money to spend.  This is your opportunity to find someone in your ministry to praise.  Then comes that voice, “If you can’t do for all, don’t do it for anyone.” that holds you back from expressing your gratitude.  You’ve been taught to treat others fairly; however, you risk depriving someone of the accolades that they deserve.  When you can do for one what you can’t do for all, you aren’t showing partiality.  Instead you are showing the individual how much you appreciate them.  Too many times when you give something to everyone, it looks formal and insincere.  This is taking opportunity of a blessing you received to pass it on and show someone else that they are blessed too.

There are many ways to thank your volunteers, and how you thank them is going to depend on who they are, and what you have to give.  The important thing is to always think outside of the box.  Let others know how important your team is to you and pour out the appreciation.

How do you thank your volunteers?

Chris (Twitter)