7 Ways to Appreciate Student Ministry Volunteers

Written by Emily Katherine Dalton for Youth Specialties:

Send out a schedule and stick to it.

While we are over the moon to spend our time hanging out with students whether at a service event or by the pool, there are few more frustrating things than hearing about an event hours before it’s taking place.

Appreciate your volunteers by appreciating their time and understanding they have commitments outside of your ministry.

Communicate your schedule of weekly programming along with special events where your volunteers’ attendance is desired.  Communicate any changes to the schedule as soon as possible and start and end on time.

Do not assume a schedule sent out to parents and students has also been sent out to regular volunteers.

Communicate clear expectations.

What role do you desire your volunteers to play?  As a regular student ministry volunteer, different student ministers have had very different ideas of my role.  One shared his desire was simply for each student to be greeted by someone who cared and this greatly alleviated any pressure or questioning for me if I was fulfilling my role correctly.

Do you need a team to clean up or hold a door open? Volunteers are not inconvenienced by being given a role to play, but significantly more often than not knowing if they have a role to play.

Provide curriculum to be taught in a timely manner.

No matter how great and relatable curriculum may be, it always takes time to be adapted and crafted to best fit its target audience.  Communicating value to volunteer teachers and small group leaders includes providing curriculum to be taught at least 5 days before they are expected to deliver content.  

Furthermore, if a small group leader has been given content to teach and told they have a set amount of time, ensure that time is actually theirs, rather than cutting their time in half by an activity or game that goes over or starting later than planned.

Ask for feedback and provide avenues of communicating needs.

Volunteers fill many gaps and are greatly aware of the gaps in our ministries.  A ministry can be greatly benefitted by their volunteers by asking them to give a pulse they are sensing with the students they interact with.  Some good questions include:

  • Are there any needs the students you interact with are facing (family, health, etc.)?
  • Is the curriculum impacting students?
  • Do you have any insights you have used to deliver content other small group leaders could benefit from?
  • Do you have any ideas of how we can make our student ministry events more safe (physically or emotionally) for students?
  • What question should we be asking?

Over-communicate change and transition.

In change and transition, often the student minister or often staff members will not face as much of the pushback and growing pains and the volunteers and small group leaders.  When a transition is coming, overcommunicate the new plan and the purpose for the transition to volunteers, parents, and students.

Are you changing the night or time of student ministry meetings?

Are you changing a summer mission trip students had been looking forward to?  

Each parent, volunteer, and student should be tired of hearing why and what the new plan is in order to minimize frustration. If a volunteer is unaware of the purpose behind a change they are often placed in a position of having to assume in order to answer pointed questions.  

Protect your volunteers and the reputation of your ministry by providing insight into transitions that may seem small.

Ask and care about their lives.

Volunteers are volunteering to pour out into the lives of the students in your ministry.  Not only are they giving of themselves in this role, but often are sacrificing a Sunday school or Bible Study hour for their own age group in order to be there.  

Shepherd your volunteer team and small group leaders by being aware of their lives and areas to pray for them.

Create community amongst volunteers by providing team building programming or gatherings where volunteers and leaders can get to know one another.

Say thank you.

Do not ever assume your volunteers know they are appreciated.  Say thank you to your volunteers when you see them at church, in the bleachers at sporting events, and simply when they show up at church.  

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