Create a Work and Life Balance for Volunteers

Youth Specialties
November 1st, 2016

We’re excited to have Gina Abbas as one of our NYWC speakers. This blog post is a great start to the conversations she’ll be navigating in her seminar: Managing Me: Ideas and Inspiration for Work-Life Balance. Check out more information HERE

I know what you did last Sunday

Your volunteers show up as predictably as another Taylor Swift break up in People magazine.  There is a predictable rhythm to their week. Your volunteer squad has had Wednesday nights [or whatever night you meet] blocked out for months on their smartphone calendar. The first step to creating a work life balance for volunteers is to schedule things that coincide with times they are already there. Do volunteer meetings and appreciation events before or after youth group so no one has to give up another night of the week. Cuz there is Shark week to watch and Football season is back. And don’t make them choose between you and their 2nd grader’s Back to School Night. I am pretty sure 2nd graders are cuter.

Know them better than their barista

“Jody”- the name written on Helen Hunt’s [remember that old movie Twister?] Starbucks cup. The barista mistook her for Jodie Foster AND misspelled it.  Celebrities ARE just like us. Getting their names written down wrong at Starbucks [source the Daily Skimm]. It’s hard to create a work life balance for your volunteers if you have no idea what’s going on in their lives. Know your people. Who they are. What’s happening on the home front.  Know their family systems. If they have a daughter who is having surgery, you can help alleviate things by delivering a few meals for their fridge and saying “I’ve got this” so they don’t show up at youth group when they should be home taking care of things.

Give me a little personal space

There is this word called “margin” and I don’t think we use it enough in ministry. There are times of the year where your volunteers are already stretched thin, so don’t add to the crazy! The holidays, exam week for college age volunteers, and the beginning/end of the school year are super busy times for most people. One of my pastor friends uses these seasons of busyness as “margin” months. Margin months are when their church shuts down all volunteer led programming.  During margin months the pastoral staff steps in to lead elective classes centered around the themes of “Grow, Play, and REST!” Volunteers get a break but there are still new and creative program options that add a little momentum during what would normally be a seasonal decline in attendance anyways. March Madness class in the gym anyone?

Make sure your people are not climbing into the danger zone by themselves

Do volunteers know your youth group crisis procedures and supervision policies? They are not social workers or crisis counselors [well unless they are]. Do they know YOUR cell phone number so you can help guide them through those sticky situations in youth ministry? If you are not checking in with your leaders about their own soul care and emotional health, it won’t take too long for that work life balance thing to go out the window. Especially when volunteers are helping students with some really tough stuff or overwhelmed with their own personal struggles.

Finally, when it comes to work life balance for volunteers, it’s imperative that you look at your youth group calendar through the eyes of your volunteers. It might sound awesome to tell your Senior Pastor that you have 3 youth programs a week, a fall kick off, a volunteer training and a volunteer appreciation all on the horizon, but not if it’s completely hijacking a healthy ministry rhythm for the volunteers on your team. And any volunteer who is happy to be at church 3 times a week, probably needs to get a hobby and some friends.

[bctt tweet=”If your volunteers are not healthy, your youth group is not going to be healthy.” username=”ys_scoop”]

Fight to create a ministry environment where your volunteers have space to thrive.

GINA ABBAS, the author of A WOMAN IN YOUTH MINISTRYhas been hanging out with middle schoolers since the year Mulan hit movie theaters. Gina recently joined the pastoral staff of the Meeting House in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When she’s not leading small groups, she can be found shooting foam finger rockets at her children and roaming Gettysburg with her history-loving husband.

Youth Specialties

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.