Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life. – Carrie Chapman Catt

It is absolutely true that oftentimes the people volunteering feel like they are getting as much out of it if not more than those they are supposedly helping. Why? Here are some of the most common reasons I’ve heard:

Knowledge. Volunteering can teach you things about the world that you didn’t even know you didn’t know, whether the experience happens on another continent or right in your backyard. You might discover something about a particular group of people that makes you rethink the previous views that you held, or learn how the ostensibly helpful systems we have in place are actually keeping certain problems from getting better. And I can’t tell you how many people say they feel like the experience of volunteering taught them a lot of things about themselves good and bad and showed them how to be better.

Skills. When you volunteer, you might come away from the experience knowing how to do just about anything it really just depends on the kind of volunteer work you’re doing. Builders for Habitat for Humanity learn a number of skills related to house-building, including carpentry and teamwork, but those who volunteer in other departments might learn transferable skills in administration, marketing, leadership, and more. Chances are, if you can think of a skill you might need in the workforce, it’s something that you might be expected to do somewhere as a volunteer.

Experience. Knowledge and skills are great, but what’s especially powerful about volunteer work is that, depending on the kind of activities you were engaged in, many employers look at almost as another type of job experience. Cooking in a soup kitchen for a year is great experience for someone looking to make meals in the food industry, especially if you can add to it some formal training in the classroom. In fact, this kind of experience can be incredibly important in times like this where jobs are scarce and it’s difficult to get an entry level position to get the work experience you need.

Joy. How can you beat the smiles of an entire village in Africa after you dig a well that will provide them with drinkable water for the next three generations? Or the tears of happiness shed by a family after you fix their home that was ravaged by a storm? Or the look of relief on the face of a mother as you hand her Christmas gifts so that she doesn’t have to tell her children that they won’t be getting anything that year?

Perspective. No one has an easy life, but if you ever start feeling like the world is out to get you and sabotage your success or happiness, I recommend volunteering. Nothing puts things in perspective quite like seeing families dig through dumpsters together or be thankful that they have a roof over their heads even though they live in a shantytown in Brazil where each family’s house is little more than a metal box. Most volunteers end up heading for home happier than when they arrive if for no other reason than they are thankful for all that they now realize they have.

Aileen Pablo is part of the team behind Open Colleges and <a href=”http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/”>InformED</a>, one of Australia’s leading providers of Open Learning and <a href=”http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/distance-education.aspx”>distance education</a>.

Youth ministry was very frustrating until I realized it’s more of a journey than an experience. My problem is that I wanted instant and powerful results. All I got was disappointment. It’s not that the ministry was a failure (It was anything but that), it’s just that what I wanted was not what we were getting. I was impatient.

Again, youth ministry is a long journey and if you stick around long enough you will see fruit. To produce disciples and bring teens into a deep relationship with Jesus Christ takes hard work, patience andPERSISTENCE. If you are persistent in your ministry you’ll eventually build momentum and see the reward to your labor. Three areas in youth ministry where persistence is key are:

Recruiting Volunteers:There is no silver bullet to recruiting volunteers. It takes a lot of:

  • Meet and Greet
  • Email Blasts
  • Announcements From The Pulpit
  • Phone Calls
  • Invests and Invites

The more you make it a part of your routine and your volunteers the more leaders you’ll recruit. There will be seasons when you get better results than others; however, the key is to continually ask.

Connecting With Parents: No offense, but you are not the first person on a parent’s mind. To bust through the noisiness of a parent’s life you need to persistently call, reach out and connect with them. If you are hosting an event, don’t just throw out a flyer, create a buzz. If you are trying to meet one on one with a parent, set-up the meeting, check-in and then confirm it. Hold them accountable and support them by consistently communicating with them.

Leading Up: If you want your pastor to respect and support you, then you need to make the relationship a priority. To keep it in the front of your mind you need to be persistent when dealing with contention and disagreement. Communicate when it’s hard to talk and shout his praise when it’s not easy. Work through the tension and watch the relationship grow.

Persistence is a key to endurance in youth ministry. It means working through the tension and trusting that God will pull you through. It’s easy to give up, change things around and abandon ship when life gets hard. What you need to do is stand up straight and move forward.

Where else is persistence needed in youth ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



The week before going to camp or this case a retreat is always hectic with tons of plans and last minute details that have to hammered out. The stress level is high and patience is running low as we rush around sourcing out pens and extension cords. We do a retreat every year and somehow we hadn’t learned from the year before and were allowing students to sign up after the registration deadline which increased the workload for our team in shuffling cabins and bus lists but we knew it would be all worth it and after all the more the merrier of course!

In the craziness of last minute registrations and final details we were experiencing a problem bigger than insufficient pens and power bars. With two days remaining until we were leaving for camp, a significant number of our leaders were not committed or not coming to camp. When our leaders sign up for the year we give them two weekends we were all hands on deck for and this was one of them and they just weren’t committing to be there.

I was frustrated.

I was frustrated because they had said they would be there and now nearly half weren’t coming. Some had to work, others had weak excuses and others did not respond to multiple emails and texts. We had a leader crisis two days before camp.

I didn’t know what to do, so I drafted up a long and well articulated email that outlined my frustration, reminded them of the commitment the made and tried to explain the life change that happens at camp and basically tried to take them on an all expenses paid guilt trip. It felt great to write, to get my feelings out but I quickly realized that while helpful for me, it was not going to be helpful for our team. I left the message for an hour and after showing my colleague, rewrote the email shorter, clearer and outlined THE NEED -More volunteers for the weekend THE ASK - Would you consider shuffling the weekend to spend with our students at camp THE WHY - Help them understand why our weekend camp is the most important event we do all year. The result was 11 more volunteers committing to being there.

Here is what I learned:

  1. Anger, Frustration and Rebuke are not best communicated via email.
  2. Let someone you trust get you off the ledge by showing them your draft and chat with them about your frustrations.
  3. Deal with the need before the event and follow up one on one after you have cooled down.
  4. Remember that God is going to do something in spite of you, or your volunteers.

There are going to frustrating situations where you might be tempted to use email to let someone or a group of people know how you are feeling, and while it might feel good for the moment its not the place for conflict. Deal with immediate need and once you have sorted out your feelings, take the time to meet one on one with your team when the extra time to meet will be worth it in the long run.

Long story short: Don’t send that email.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking some tough questions about hiring an older youth worker. Was hoping you could share your thoughts in the comments, too. Weigh in!

I just have a simple question … beyond the obvious (stamina, “cool” factor, cost? etc.), why is it so many churches are reluctant at hiring youth pastors nearing 50 with 20+ years of student ministry experience? I obviously fall into the camp. Oddly enough I feel like I am pastoring and leading volunteer leaders, staff and students better (and more wisely) at this age than I did when I was younger. Additionally … the credibility with parents comes in having my own HS and JH student living in my home.

Thoughts? Weigh in!

JG



Leadership continues to be one of the hot topics in the church today. Now more than ever before we are seeing books, seminars and coaching sessions revolving around leadership. My hope of writing this series of blog posts isn’t to bring anything new to the table; rather I want to share with you what in my opinion are four non-negotiable aspects of Christian leadership.

Have you ever tried to lead without a team? How did it go for you?

I am slowly learning over time about team building and team management. I have had two scenarios of leadership that have taught me the hard way a lesson I should have picked up on simply by following the example of Jesus.

My first hard lesson came when I worked at a summer camp in a leadership position. I wasn’t in charge of building a team, rather training them and working alongside the leadership team. My failure came in the form of not training people to do tasks I could do more easily by myself.

The second lesson came while working in my current church. I work in a midsized Canadian church and struggled for a long time with building a team. I procrastinated and it backfired. As a result of my failure to build a team I dealt with a period of decline in attendance and struggles of being overwhelmed with my workload.

I believe that we learn from the example of Jesus when it comes to team management. The first lesson we can learn simply is that we need a team. One of the first things Jesus did during his ministry was to gather his disciples. In the first chapter of Mark we see Jesus beginning his ministry by sharing the Gospel, and while walking along he sees Simon and Andrew and says to them “Come, follow me… and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1: 16,17). In addition to these twelve He also called an additional 72 to go and prepare the way for His coming. (Luke 10:1) Not only does Jesus appoint people to a place on His leadership team, He also takes the time to empower them. “And He called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1) A key skill as a leader is to find a team and surround oneself with them. Once a good leader has found a team they will equip and train these new leaders with the skills to carry out the necessary tasks at hand.

How do you build and empower your team?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

Email blasts, announcements from the pulpits, and flyers on car windshields are only a few of the methods we have tried when it comes to recruiting ministers.  It can be a painful process because the idea of hearing, “NO” breaks our heart and leaves us hopeless.

If you want to successfully recruit volunteers for your youth ministry you need to KEEP IT SIMPLE.  That means making the process less intimidating and frustrating.  To be successful at this you need to:

Give Them A Test Drive – Ministry can be intimidating, especially with teenagers.  Many reasons people will turn you down is because they think it’s all in or nothing.  Allow them to witness and shadow a night of your ministry.  Sit down with them afterwards and invite them back for another try if they are unsure.  A non committal test run, takes away the fear of signing their life away.

Eliminate Surprises - With the growing need for paperwork and background checks getting involved in ministry can be like taking out a mortgage on a house.  This can be shocking to someone who just wants to serve teens.  Make the process simple and clear by laying out the steps they will need to take ahead of time.  This way they won’t be caught off guard when you say, “Welcome to ministry, now let’s go to orientation and training.”  Clear expectations allow them to walk in confident in your leadership.

Share The Vision – Ideally you want your volunteers to serve once a week, every week for an entire year.  If possible you want them for more than just a year.  That’s a lot to chew; therefore, give them a vision of what happens when they invest in the ministry.  Share with them testimonies, give them a window into your passion and let them know that it’s more than just chaperoning.  Help them see WHY so they can see past the HOW.

Get Their Input – Once they commit and begin serving, follow up with them.  This way they’ll know you are happy to have them on board as a team player.  Not only will they feel included in your ministry’s mission, but you’ll gain insight you’ve never heard before.  Sitting down with them to hear their thoughts will affirm their decision to serve alongside of you.

You need ministers and it will always feel like you cannot get them fast enough.  Be patient and develop a system so that when the mass communication hits the air waves you are prepared to bring them along.  While you will still hear, “NO” from time to time, you won’t make the process as painful as going to the dentist.

What steps would you add?  How do you recruit volunteers into ministry?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)



From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about violence and accidents that happen during youth group. Was hoping you could share your thoughts in the comments, too. Weigh in!

I was wondering, when it comes to youth trips, how are chaperones funded in your ministry?  Does everyone pay out of pocket?  Are all of their costs subsidized by the ministry budget or fundraisers?  Is there a split between the two? I was just curious as to what your policies are.  How many “trips” would an adult leader have the opportunity – or even be expected – to attend in the course of a year with your youth group?

JG

It’s hard to recruit an adult into youth ministry; however, to keep them for the long haul is another story.  I would like to say that everyone that served with me in my first year is still with me today; but, that would be a lie.  In fact there is only one person that has stuck around for the last 9 years.  Fortunately, that trend has changed and the turnover is much lower today.  THE PROBLEM is that ministers were leaving because they did not feel value.  They felt like they were treated like doers and not leaders.

If you want your ministry to grow, you need to take the volunteers you have and give them the opportunities to lead.  You can’t just wait around for the perfect leaders because they may never come.  Instead you have to look at opportunities to build your ministry depth.  That’s done when you:

  • Take A Risk: Doesn’t matter if you ask them to hand in a resume or if you pick them out of a hat, when choosing a leader you are taking a risk.  To take a calculated risk it’s important for you to develop parameters and steps that will allow them to grow as a leader.  That means giving them room to fail.
  • Give Over Control:  In order for a leader to grow, they need opportunities to lead.  Give them a project, an activity or event to run.  Not only will it give them confidence as a leader but the understanding to what you feel as the youth pastor.  This will allow them to understand the work that goes into reaching the vision for your ministry.
  • Equip Them With Resources: You need to set your leaders up for success.  To make that happen you need to give your leaders resources to educate them on ministry and materials that they need to perform certain tasks.  This means understanding how and where they need to grow.
  • Step Away: You can be the biggest obstacle to your leader’s development.  While you think you are giving them control you could still be micromanaging.  Encourage your leaders to come to you with any questions and then trust that they will follow through on the invitation.  This means allowing them to fail.  It means giving them permission to run the ministry in “their” way.  By stepping away and allowing them to lead you give them the most important gift as a leader, trust.

To build your ministry depth you need to equip, motivate and empower leaders.  They will extend your reach and influence.  They’ll help you create more capacity in your schedule.  When you grow leaders you build momentum behind your movement.

How are you empowering and growing leaders?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)