Volunteer / Youth Worker Development

Be Like Flatulence

Jonathan McKee
January 24th, 2012

I trained my junior- high staff how to avoid the “horseshoe” by telling them, “Be like flatulence.”

I beg your pardon?

Let me explain. Remember in elementary school when everyone sat at their desks quietly working on their math, and the student in the corner of the classroom let out one of those silent-but-deadly ones? One by one, the stench reached each student in the classroom, starting in the corner, working its way to the uttermost parts of the room. If you could watch students respond from above, you would notice students react one by one, the closest first, then finally the farthest away.

This process is called dynamic equilibrium. I can still remember my science teacher Mr. Jenson explaining it to us. He opened a jar of some stinky chemical in one corner of the room and told us to raise our hands when we smelled it. One by one I saw dynamic equilibrium taking place. The molecules spread throughout the entire room until they could spread no more.

Hmmmm. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t we all love to see our volunteers spread evenly throughout the room and mixed in with the crowd of students?

At the beginning of each school year I always take the time to train my volunteers. At this training, I let them know clearly that I don’t need uninvolved chaperones; I need relational adult leaders! I always explain dynamic equilibrium and instruct them to be like molecules seeking dynamic equilibrium. In other words, I should look across the room at any time and see a sea of students with adult leaders spread throughout—not in bunches, -but mixed throughout the students.

My leaders never forgot the flatulence analogy—crude but effective. Simply dissipate through the room evenly. Whenever I saw leaders bunched up in clumps, I’d simply tell them, “Break wind,” and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

I have used that analogy for years now in articles and various training seminars. At a recent National Youth Workers Conference, a group saw me and pulled me aside. With a smirk on his face, the leader pulled out a small card they gave to all volunteers which simply read F.A.R.T. —the acronym was even surrounded by artwork of a stench cloud: Float Around the Room and Talk. My friend Danette has adopted this acronym and actually puts the word F.A.R.T. on her youth group schedule each night at 6:30 p.m. as a reminder of what her volunteers should be doing.

Are you devoting time to F.A.R.T. with teenagers in your ministry?

This article from Jonathan McKee is an excerpt from his creative book on relational ministry, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation.

Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books including Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website, TheSource4YM.com.

Jonathan McKee

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