Building a Supportive Volunteer Team
by Janice Long
Does your youth group volunteer team resemble a family? Do they enjoy each other, encourage, and support one another (as well as the youth)? Is there good leadership, communication, and time spent together outside of “volunteer work”? If not, don’t give up. Building a youth team that resembles a family takes time, planning, and prayer. Take a look at the following ministries and the ingredients that set their teams apart.
Hope Church, San Diego, California
* Philosophy on youth volunteers in ministry: “To develop staff, I look at it as building many youth pastors under me,” says Todd Hitchcock, director of student ministries. He looks at himself as a leader of leaders.
* What’s unique: Todd’s youth volunteers initiate things themselves. They understand the youth ministry vision—that their role is to build relationships with youth.
* What keeps volunteers committed: “I give to them as I want them to give to the kids in the group,” Todd says. He consistently affirms and encourages his volunteers, puts their names in the church bulletin whenever he can, and gives them hugs and high-fives. Also, seeing the lives of kids changed is a big motivating factor for his volunteers.
* Responsibilities volunteers handle: Their responsibilities depend on their gifts, Todd explains. It’s important to have them in areas where they desire to be. For example, teaching or games coordinator.
* Team building: They go on retreats to look at their different personality types and spiritual gifts. Todd says this helps their team understand each other better. His team also gets together to pray about “non-ministry stuff”—spurring further communication within the group.
First Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico
* Philosophy on volunteers in ministry: “If you’re investing in adults, you’re investing in kids,” says Jon Brooks, pastor of students. “If you have a healthy youth worker, you have a healthy youth group,” Jon says. He says it’s his job to surround kids with significant adults.
* What’s unique: Longevity is a key to the uniqueness of Jon’s volunteer team. And Jon believes longevity translates to effectiveness—providing security and stability to the group. Jon also feels his volunteers have a clear vision of what they’re doing—that their top priority is the kids. “That vision has to be
* What keeps volunteers committed: “They’re committed because they understand this is where God wants them to be,” says Jon. And he reminds them of that. Jon includes volunteers in the vision for the ministry by asking them, “What’s your goal for this group of kids?”
* Responsibilities volunteers handle: Often the church forces volunteers to wear too many hats, and they can’t wear them all well, says Jon. So he’s implemented a ministry-team approach. Jon finds out where each volunteer’s gifts and desires are, then plugs them into one of five different positions on a ministry team. Each ministry team ministers to a different age group. Positions include activities leader, outreach leader, in-reach leader (caregiver), teacher, or administrator. This approach adds variety, balance, and stability to the ministry.
* Team building: Jon sends out weekly correspondence to his team to share the youth ministry vision and to keep volunteers in touch. Jon looks at this as his personal ministry.
New Life Church, Goodlettsville, Tennessee
* Philosophy on volunteers in ministry: “They are as called to do what they’re doing as I am. They’re equally as gifted,” says Ken Allman, minister of music and youth. Ken feels he can’t hold tightly to the kids and his ministry if it’s going to be effective.
* What’s unique: “I don’t know of a group like them,” says Ken about his volunteer team. Ken’s volunteers show a commitment to one another and what they’re doing by praying for one another and supporting one another. Throughout the year they also meet quarterly for a special fellowship. They’re committed to kids both inside and outside of church. They have a prayer ministry to pray regularly for the kids they work with.
* What keeps them committed: Their personal and dynamic walk with God is what keeps them committed, Ken says. He firmly believes his volunteers are called to do what they’re doing in ministry. They’re also gifted in different areas-showing a broad range of personalities, style, age, and gender. This diversity in his team allows kids to find unique people whom they can share with.
* Responsibilities volunteers handle: Ken’s volunteers plan all group fellowships and monthly events for each age group. They help Ken and the parents come up with a two-year ministry plan. They go to kids’ games and events, and they all act as models and mirrors for the kids.
* Team building: Ken goes on two retreats a year with his volunteers for education, fellowship, sharing dreams and desires, and planning.