Take just a moment to imagine what your church would look like if the only youth workers your church could use were the paid staff members. To any youth minister, this would quite possibly be a nightmare! Volunteers breathe life into ministries that desperately need them to survive. Volunteers are much more than placeholders or babysitters; they are actual pastors to the students that God has placed in your youth ministry. Even though volunteers are the MVPs of your church’s youth ministry, you can do a few things to empower your volunteers to see that they are doing great ministry!
Communicate Effectively and Timely
Communication might seem like a small thing when we are discussing empowering volunteers, but even the best volunteers I’ve ever worked with couldn’t read my mind. As the leader, you have to effectively communicate the vision and plans for ministry in your local context. This has been especially true in my context during the months we have dealt with COVID-19. While my volunteers have been amazing about showing up and being there for our teens in the middle of a global pandemic, they still want clear communication about how we are planning to keep our teens and volunteers safe and do effective ministry in these unprecedented times! Communication should be a tool used to empower your volunteers through the many changing seasons of ministry.
Give Them the Tools to Be Successful
Good communication with your volunteers can fall flat if your volunteer ministry team doesn’t have the tools it needs to be successful. For example, you ask your small group leaders to connect with every person in their small group through a card or a text message once a month, you should also supply the cards, stamps, and student rosters to accomplish a task!
This rule also applies to the training of your volunteers. Don’t forget to provide one-on-one coaching, book recommendations, and podcasts for your volunteers who might want to continue learning as they lead students. Volunteers equipped with all the right resources will feel much more empowered and ready to lead than volunteers who don’t know how to turn your plans and goals into concrete actions!
Celebrate The Wins
You may have set up your volunteers for success with amazing communication and given them all the tools to be successful, but you still have to celebrate the wins alongside your volunteer team! If you start practicing praising your volunteer team for all the ways they have surpassed your expectations two things will happen. First, you will have an amazingly encouraging culture in your volunteer ministry. People will see that your team encourages one another, and this will pour back into the students in your ministry. Second, your team members may surprise you with their excitement for continuing to be a part of the mission and vision of your church’s youth ministry.
There are so many different wins to celebrate with your team. We love to see students get baptized or make a new commitment to Christ. These are fabulous occasions to celebrate with your volunteer team, especially if the members were influential in the student making that faith decision. However, you shouldn’t always wait for the “big” wins to throw a party! We also love to celebrate when students are excited enough to bring the friend they talk about each week to church with them or when our volunteers are engaging with their small groups outside of our weekly gathering. Whatever your wins are, just make sure your team knows exactly how important they are in the ministry.
Be A Good Friend and a Good Pastor
Finally, be sure to empower your volunteers by sharing a genuine friendship with them. Even the best volunteers will go through different seasons in their personal life. In each season, take time to be vulnerable, share friendship with your volunteers, and remember to treat them like they are the most valuable part of your youth ministry. One of the best ways to empower your volunteers is to pray for them, share meals with them, and encourage them with godly wisdom in every stage of life. The most empowered and successful volunteers will share this kind of friendship and mentoring with the students you both serve.