Appreciating The Volunteer

Youth Specialties
April 15th, 2015

Over the last year or so, I’ve entered a new world in youth ministry—the world of the volunteer.

Since leaving my paid role in the local church to begin serving youth workers in a denominational role, a new chapter has begun in regards to how I will serve in my own local church. It’s strange because, for the first time in my life, I find myself faced with the struggle that all volunteer youth workers do: trying to juggle ministry with a life that doesn’t necessarily revolve around my local church. 

Now, I’ve always respected my volunteers immensely. I’ve respected their willingness to take their much-needed vacation time from work to wrangle kids who are not their own at camp or on a youth mission trip. I’ve respected their willingness to help out at an all-night lock-in, knowing they would have to be back to work on Monday without full recovery. I’ve respected their willingness to just take time out of their already-busy schedules to invest into the lives of students. That sort of kingdom investment has always amazed me.

So, now I am one. I am a volunteer youth worker. And after a little over a year of this, I respect volunteers more than I ever have.

Volunteering in youth ministry is hard.

You really aren’t always recovered fully from that lock-in when you go back to work on Monday. It really is more of a challenge wrangling kids when you’re not paid to do it. It’s tough to carry the burdens of your students through the day when you have another job you’re responsible for thinking about.

Why would anyone do this?

So, why would anyone in their right mind do this? Why would anyone in their right mind take their free evenings, their days off, and their vacation days, and use them to be a volunteer youth worker? It’s certainly not glamorous. It can be kind of a hassle, at times. It’s not even always fun. So why do people step up to serve as volunteer youth workers?

Well, the only reasons they should: a profound love for God and a profound love for students.

Those are the only reasons you need! In fact, if you don’t have a profound love for God and a profound love for students, you should probably get out of the game!

It’s amazing what our love for God and our resultant love for others will make us do. A great commandment heart can drive one to do amazing things. Jesus knew this. Jesus modeled this. The incarnation itself is an example of this; when God came to us and “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7, ESV)

Following this example, volunteers of many different walks of life empty themselves to serve students every day. CEOs, doctors, construction foremen, administrators, nurses, and retail workers; people of all walks of life put their lives on hold to serve students because they love God and they love students. I’m just beginning to develop an understanding of some of the sacrifices they make. As I do, my respect, appreciation, and admiration for the volunteer youth worker seems to be growing off the charts.

So, thank you, volunteer youth workers…

for the late nights, the long trips, and for the powerful impact you make as you take time out of your extremely busy lives to serve students.

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MATT LARKIN serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (WWW.ACGC.US). In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students all around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MATTWLARKIN.

Youth Specialties

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