For anyone who has done youth ministry for any amount of time, an element of ministry that you learn to treasure very quickly are volunteers. You may value volunteers because you have the best group of volunteers and do not know how you could do half of what you do without them, or because you wish someone, anyone, would be willing to help on the days when you experience burnout.
In many ministry contexts today, the person leading the team is also a volunteer, which means youth ministry is just one of the many hats he or she wears. Whether you are leading a team as a natural progression of your experience and leadership or you were assigned the role because no one else raised their hand at the meeting, youth ministry is a privilege that cannot be taken lightly. As a volunteer youth leader myself, here are four lessons that have helped me become a better team leader.
Consistently Check-in with Your Team
Have a designated time during the day or week to plan, prepare, and conduct periodic check-ins with your team. This can help you be prepared and eliminate last minute emergencies in addition to showing your team that your time, and theirs, is valuable. Clear and consistent communication is crucial when leading a team. Whether that involves weekly text messages or monthly emails, let your team know the most up-to-date information before anyone else. When everyone is on the same page, the potential for misinformation is eliminated and your team will understand the value of its support and encouragement in the ministry’s success.
Take Your Team behind the Scenes
Let others on your team know what it takes to make a gathering or an event successful. This may involve taking a team member along on your supply shopping trip, having someone run registration for an event with you, giving someone else access to important documents and forms, and letting your team know of the chain of command or established procedures for an event or the ministry as a whole. In case of an emergency, you’ll feel better knowing that there are people on your team who can run the show because you’ve already worked behind the scenes together.
Leave Room for the Team to Work with You, Not for You
As team leaders, there will be crucial and humbling moments when we realize that we are not just serving the youth and our church community but also our teams. One way to do this is to let the voices on your team be heard. Ask for regular input and feedback, listen to others’ ideas, and be open to change. Share the vision with your team and work on that vision together. When you get a seat at the table, add more chairs for others to join you. This helps foster leadership in others and offers amazing opportunities for discipleship and growth.
Find Your Spiritual Cheerleaders and Supporters
In ministry there will be great disappointments, but there will also be amazing victories. However, even in the victories, the person leading the team can easily get stuck in the what-ifs, the criticism, and how things could have been better. Your team needs the encouragement from those victories, but you do too. Find those people, both in your team and outside your team, who will be honest about how things are going, who will pray with you and for you, and who will remind you to celebrate the victories and heed the disappointments with caution and care. Create an environment of support and encouragement for the work that you do together.
Leading a team as a volunteer can seem daunting. However, surrounded by God’s grace and guidance, it can also be fun because it is a chance to make connections and learn, grow, and work for God’s kingdom in a way you never thought possible before.