I have been in full-time youth ministry for a little over 7 years serving in churches of all sizes, ranging from 50 people to 1,300 people. The one principle I have carried with me is my focus on building a strong and diverse team of leaders. Nearly every week I make it a point to recognize and thank my leadership team. Early on I discovered you are able to get a lot more done if you have a strong team around you. The truth is I am only as effective as the team I have around me. My current volunteer team is made up of 28 adults ranging in age from 21-60+. We intentionally have a very diverse group. My goal is to be sure each student has someone they are able to connect with.
I tell my volunteers every time we are together, you are the youth pastor for your group! I know this may sound odd to some of you but track with me. I am very selective of who I invite to serve in this ministry. I meet with every volunteer before they ever attend a youth event and share my vision and ministry model with them. I give them a document with our meeting times, our expectations of our volunteers and a list of areas we have for them to serve. I want to be sure we have people who are a good fit.
I feel like I get to work with some of my best friends each week as we serve our students together. This is crucial because it leads to a sense of mutual trust and respect.
My leaders are not viewed as warm bodies to babysit some teens a few hours a week. I expect them to interact and engage in the lives of the students in their small groups and in their areas of ministry.
I am always looking for ways to more effectively communicate the gospel to our students and I want to equip my volunteers to be effective as well.
SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION
Leaders want to know they are making a difference. Have you ever been given a job where you feel like no one would even notice you if you were gone? Make sure your leaders know they are valued, recognize them, let them know how vital they are to your ministry. Start with saying thank you, often! One idea I have been looking at “stealing” from another church is a youth worker appreciation month. Ask kids to bring candy or cards for their small group leaders. Host a youth worker appreciation dinner or dessert bar one Sunday just to say thank you! (Starbucks gift cards are typically a great gift for youth workers as well.)
Over-communicate with your youth workers. No one likes to be blindsided! I hate being put in a position where I am asked what is going on and I have no clue how to answer. Make sure your team is on the same page. I send out a quarterly calendar to all of our students, parents and youth workers. I also do a newsletter each month that goes out to these groups. Both of these highlight dates, times and details for all our upcoming events.
I also meet with my various leadership teams on each month to keep them up-to-date on our activities and events. We pray together and share our dreams and visions for the ministry. This also enables them to get advice on difficult situations. I use this time for training in small group leadership, one-on-one discipleship, connecting with visitors, etc.
EMBRACE DIVERSITY IN LEADERSHIP
The ultimate goal is to help each leader see that God has a way to use them. I want them to use their passions, gifts and even their quirks to their advantage. It is the diversity of our team that allows students a variety of leaders to connect with.
Each week I am humbled to look around our group and see a student who walks into the room and sees “their leader,” they light up as they walk up to meet him/her.
I see the local church as a family. We all need the strong father, the loving mother, and the crazy uncle! The goal is to help my leaders see we are just sharing life with our students and helping point them to Jesus. My job is as much investing in my leaders and empowering them as it is ministering to students!