Volunteering in our church’s youth ministry has been a part of my life for several years, and you’d be hard pressed to find a dull moment when hanging around with students. While volunteering with students can be time consuming, it is also rewarding. Any youth pastor, or anyone in charge of any ministry, would tell you volunteers are vital to a ministry’s success. Volunteers need to consider a few things that can help them and the ministry be successful.
One of the most important aspects of volunteering is clear communication. Many of us come across situations where people fail to communicate well, and it tends to be extremely frustrating. Poor communication leads to blurred expectations, resulting in confusion about the desired outcome. Good planning and clearly communicated expectations lead to a more cohesive event or ministry. Clear communication also allows volunteers to focus on the desired outcome instead of having to wonder what their role should be. It also allows volunteers to be more present in the moment with students, providing better opportunities for connection. Lack of clear communication can cause burnout to volunteers.
Ministry Goals and Direction
Another important element is having clear goals and direction about the ministry. I have been in volunteer situations that lacked clear direction of what we should be doing, which forced us to stand around and stare at one another or scramble to come up with a plan. In one situation, I stood around with a bunch of students in a second-hand store for an hour. We eventually left without even starting the service project that was assigned. It was clear to everyone there had been no discussion of what we were showing up to do, and it was frustrating to leave without accomplishing anything. While numeric goals are not always possible, it is always possible to set a general direction of what result is desired.
Finally, volunteers need support. This term is somewhat all-encompassing, but it is also extremely important. In a ministry context, very few situations are as frustrating as not feeling supported in a volunteer role. There are many ways you can help volunteers feel supported. One obvious way is to let a volunteer know they are supported is to let them know you are praying for them. Another way is to listen to frustrations or reservations they may have regarding the ministry. Obviously, it isn’t plausible or necessary to make all the changes volunteers suggest, but simply knowing that their thoughts are being heard and processed can help volunteers feel valued. Similarly, based on the need of each volunteer, there are numerous other ways to let your volunteers know that he or she is being supported. It is always helpful to seek out what makes each individual volunteer feel valued and supported.
By definition, a volunteer is someone who gives his or her time freely without expecting any compensation. Providing clear communication, setting direction, and extending support are all necessary in keeping volunteers involved and thriving in ministry.