This may seem backwards, but you are called to first minister to your volunteers, then to your teens. Your volunteers may need you to show them how to more effectively minister to your teens, but you must pour into your volunteers to help them learn, grow, multiply, and become disciple makers. If you disciple your volunteer team, they will disciple your teens.
8 STEPS FOR A STRONG VOLUNTEER TEAM
1. Pray. Pray. Pray.
Pray for those who God’s calling to respond.
Pray for those currently discerning.
Pray for those afraid to say ‘yes’.
Pray for your active volunteers.
Pray for your youth.
2. Set the Bar High
Many people will see the expectations you have and then, for various reasons, began slacking off throughout the year. If you tell them to “try and make it every week” then they’ll miss quite often because you didn’t clearly express how it is vital and expected for them to be present every week. Whereas, if you tell them they need to be present every week, they’ll tend to be there short of an emergency or family situation.
3. Hold Them Accountable
If they miss a meeting, contact them to see how they’re doing and why they missed. This not only holds them accountable but also shows them you care about them enough to notice when they’re not present.
4. Train them Well
Every year I hold a day-long Volunteer Training. Honestly, it’s not enough. I’d love to have a weekend retreat solely to train my volunteers but I know they wouldn’t be able to commit to a weekend away from their family (but maybe yours would). Thus, we hold monthly meetings during which I spend the first third continuing their formation as volunteers. Topics range from: Tips for New Volunteers, Spiritual Formation, Question & Answer Session, Growing Together – Praying with and for One Another, to any upcoming hot topics where I want to make sure that they’re more fully prepared.
It is vital that you train them well from the beginning and you continue their training. Connect with them throughout the year and see if they have questions, are struggling, or need further support.
5. Teach them to Discipline
…in a loving manner. They’re called to be ministers, but if a teen puts them in a disciplinary situation then they should discipline swiftly then jump right back into ministry mode. The teen may be upset, but I’ve repeatedly found that teens later understand that these healthy boundaries and rules are enforced out of love. Every single time I’ve disciplined a teen, within weeks or months that teen begins to look up to me and curb their behavior because they know I cared about them enough to tell them “no”.
6. Care More About WHO THEY ARE Than WHAT THEY DO
Your volunteers will know if you only care about them because of what they do for you. When they have a personal situation or death in the family, be compassionate. While I do expect my volunteers to be present every Sunday; if a mother’s child is sick, I expect her to stay home to care for him since her primary vocation is as a wife and mother. Note: you may need to help very passionate volunteers to remember that their family is their first priority.
7. Sometimes Less is More
We’ve all been there. You need 15 volunteers but you only have 10 good ones. Should you compromise and take any 5 volunteers you can get just to fill those slots? NO. The teens deserve better than this. It’s better to have 10 good volunteers than to have all you slots filled and 5 mediocre volunteers that will make the next year extremely difficult. I’ve learned from experience that those 5 volunteers will generally: not show up, not give prior notice of their absence, show up unprepared, quite midway through the year, and not fulfill your expectations. This is not only disheartening to you, but it’s disappointing to the teens. Stick with the solid 10 so your teens are getting the committed love, care, and preparation that they deserve.
8. Provide Resources for them to Succeed
VOLUNTEER CAPTAIN: I have a large group of volunteers and, while my primary role is to minister to them so they can more effectively minister to the youth, I’m not able to be as available to them as I’d like. Thus, I’ve started to have Volunteer Captains. These are people who’ve been volunteering with me for at least a couple of years and do a fantastic job. Each Captain is an active volunteer and is given 4-5 newer volunteers. A beautiful relationship develops where the Captain mentors the volunteers, when needed, answer questions and most importantly, prays and journeys with them.
SMALL GROUP BOOKS: I have yet to be able to share all that I desire in my volunteer training. There’s always more to learn. Thus, I give my volunteers a book that helps them dive deeper into what it means to be a small group leader and how to do so effectively. I’ve utilized various books over the years. Contact me if you’d like some great small group book resources.
You can’t be everything to everyone. Don’t be afraid to search for other resources, or even outsource your training. I will often bring in outside speakers for my Volunteer Trainings so that my team can hear the importance of some of my training topics from a different perspective. The Next Level Ministry Team has accomplished numerous volunteer trainings to help parishes have more effective ministries. Reach out to us so we can empower your team; reach out to others in our youth ministry family; and together, with our powers combined, we can lead more youth to encounter Christ!
May God be with you during this active time of preparation! Come Holy Spirit!!!