5 Things Leaders Need To Do for Their Volunteers
After being in ministry for about 5 years, I began to wonder why the team I was building wasn’t working the best. I was confused why my volunteers were not as excited as I was. I felt like I was doing everything and they were just hanging out with their back against the wall. I decided to meet with a handful of leaders and really ask them what was going on. I quickly began to realize how beat down and burnt out my leaders were. Many of them loved volunteering and working with the teens in my group but they felt like week after week they were just being dragged through the mud.
Years later now, I have learned my lesson. Here are five things we need to do in order to lead volunteers well in any area of ministry.
1. Leaders Need To Communicate and Set Clear Expectations
Leading a ministry can be chaotic. And many times you are just happy to see volunteers showing up so you can begin to order them around to fix, clean and set up whatever it is you didn’t get done. However, volunteers have chaotic lives to. They have just come from a stressful day at work or home and as much as they want to help, they also want to know what is going on. This is why I not only make it a point to have a “detailed” schedule for every ministry event, but I talk over that schedule with leaders before the event.
In order to effectively communicate with your leaders, you need more time with them than just at youth group or church. You need to have monthly or bi-monthly meetings where you communicate clearly about upcoming events, the flow of a service, and your vision of what their role is in it. I have monthly meetings and then also make time at least once a semester to meet with each of my leaders individually. Each leader has also filled out an application which outlines my expectations for volunteers and my vision for our team.
2. Leaders Need To Encourage
Leaders need to know that what they do matters!! It is our job as a leader to make an environment of encouragement. If this does not describe your ministry right now, it is very much possible you have an environment of discouragement or apathy. If you show your leaders that you care about them and what they do, they are going to carry that over into the students and people they are leading.
Thinking of creative ways on a monthly or even weekly basis to simply say “You are AWESOME” to your leaders. I recently photocopied my hand for each of my leaders. I put their name on the center of my hand and wrote five words I would use to describe them. I wrote a note for each of them and called it the “High Five Note.” Get your leaders birthday presents, Christmas presents, and surprise them. I like to start each leaders meeting with something called “Mad Props” where volunteers have an opportunity to give one another encouragement for things that they saw each other doing.
3. Leaders Need To Delegate and Give Control
It is not our job to do everything. I believed that lie for a long time and it burned me out quickly. As leaders we need help! But more importantly, volunteers need to have the freedom to lead on their own. They need to feel empowered and valued. If your leaders are standing in the back of the room not engaging in your ministry it could be that they don’t feel like there is any room for them to engage. Ministry cannot be a one-man show. Even in Jesus’ ministry, he empowered his disciples to do his work.
When I meet with my leaders each semester I ask them questions like “If you could do youth group any different what would you do?” or “Is there anything you wish we did as a ministry?” So many of my volunteers have given me the best ideas for events and activities for students. Also, I have been able to hand over the reins to different areas of our ministry and seen leaders do things ten times better than I ever could. So remember to let leaders live out their passions and stand back and watch how God will begin to bless your ministry.
4. Leaders Need To Challenge and Motivate
As a youth pastor, I have learned that if I want to be effective in reaching hundreds upon thousands of teenagers with the hope of Jesus I need to be a leader of leaders as much as an I am a leader of teens. This means that we who are leading need to be pushing our volunteers to take ownership of their spiritual walk and to be held accountable to God’s calling on their life. When I meet with each of my leaders I make it clear to them that I want to know what they are struggling with and want to pray and encourage them through tough times.
Volunteers are looking for us to set the atmosphere of the church. This means that if we are stressed, careless or even apathetic we shouldn’t expect any different from them. This is why I try my best to set the bar high for my leaders. I expect that they are meeting with students, calling students, remembering students names and going to students events. I don’t give it as a suggestion but tell them it is a requirement to truly minister. I have discussions with leaders about what they are reading in the word or ask them what God is teaching them. In Hebrews 10:24, it talks about how we need to “spur one another on” towards love and good works. This doesn’t mean that we are the cracking a whip but it means that we are bearing with them and walking alongside them in the faith.
5. Leaders Need To Have Fellowship With Volunteers
Stop treating volunteers just as volunteers and begin to treat them like family. Your volunteers need to know you and truly get time to really know one another. Invite volunteers to dinner, go out bowling together or even plan a yearly leadership retreat with all your volunteers. If your volunteers don’t feel like they are friends then they probably won’t work together very well. Many times the reason that people volunteer is because they want to belong to something. They want to feel a sense of togetherness and be a part of something greater than themselves. Therefore make sure you are planning time to simply hang out with your leaders with no agenda, training or planning involved. Volunteering is supposed to be fun not always feel like a chore.
I hope these five points will help you think about the volunteer culture in your ministry. Volunteers are a blessing and remember to shepherd them with care and precision. Listen and care as much as you guide and direct and move forward together.
Andrew May is the Middle School Director at Calvary Chapel Worship Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. HE has been serving youth ministries since he was a high school student and has been in full-time ministry for four years. For more information and writing by Andrew, please check out his website at pastorandrewmay.weebly.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.