Ask any minister and they’ll tell you, “we could never do what we do without our volunteers.” Events, giving talks, leading small groups, being in dramas or skits on retreats… I mean, there’s no way that one minister could dress up as the entire cast from the Hunger Games all by themselves. Volunteers really are the best.

Yesterday we posted on vision being a fundamental aspect of leadership in ministry. “Where do you want to be in 2, 5 or even 10 years? Without a vision what are you moving towards? How are you going to lead others to this unknown future that you haven’t even dreamt of?” And this is crucial when it comes to leading your volunteers.

You must share your vision with your leadership team.

Volunteers are our arms and legs. They reach the youth and the adults we can’t and are in all the places we can’t be at one time. However, many ministries struggle to create this dynamic type of core team. Where do we start? How do we make sure that they know what to do? I know the journey of forming my volunteer team, or core team, is still an ongoing one, but I have learned many lessons along the way that I would like to share with you.

A ministry without a vision becomes an obligation.
– Tiger McLuen –

If your leaders do not understand the vision of the ministry, then the time they spend with the youth simply becomes volunteer hours. If your volunteers do not understand their own unique roles, they can quickly start to see themselves as just warm bodies in the room, rather than interactive members of the Body of Christ reaching out to young people through mentoring relationships. For this purpose, I call my volunteers my CORE team. Through this name, they know that they play an essential role at the heart of the ministry, and that they are working members of a team. Every person is essential to making the ministry as a whole work.

Does your team know that they are essential?
Have you told them?

I was told the story of a youth minister – we will call him Bob – who polled his volunteers as to why they were there. He was surprised when every single one of their answers was, “to help Bob.” He quickly realized that they saw themselves as chaperones, watching Bob minister to the youth. They did not see themselves as shepherds of the Church! In 1 Thessalonians 2:4, it says that we are a people “entrusted with the gospel.” This means that EVERY SINGLE ONE of us is entrusted with spreading the life and love of Christ to those we minister! Make sure your volunteers know that! As small group leaders they are meant to be relational not observational, interactive not inactive, and shepherds not chaperones.

Youth ministry without a vision becomes a youth group.
– Tiger McLuen –

Make sure your CORE team knows the vision of your ministry. There are a number of easy ways to do this. Share your own vision for the youth group with your CORE team. Still need to develop your vision? Revisit yesterday’s post. Make the leap from a personal vision to a shared one, and then you can all work to achieve it together. Or, you could write a mission together as a team. However you come about forming a mission, make sure you have one. Have your team memorize it and then randomly ask them – “why are you here?” – to make sure they know that their presence and participation is essential to your ministry and to the lives of the youth!
Be sure to check back soon for more on working with your volunteers. Until then, share the vision!

– written by Sarah Sullivan, iNFUSE (Parish) Coordinator with NET Canada