Why Invest in Your Youth Ministry Volunteers?
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten during my years in youth ministry is to always be working myself to a place where I’m not needed anymore.
Yes . . . That advice does sound counterintuitive.
Yes . . . That advice does seem as though it might adversely affect your ability to support your family.
However, it really is representative of what we need to be about as youth workers. You see, we not only need to be investing in our students, but we need to be investing in those whom God has called alongside us in service. We need to be investing in them in a way that will help them to both grow in their faith and grow in their ability to serve and lead.
THE BIBLICAL WHY . . .
In Scripture, Paul put this example out there for us in his investment into Timothy. Barnabas did the same with both Paul, and later, John-Mark. The model investment into those who would take the lead is painted throughout the pages of Scripture, as the biblical narrative is painted with mentor/apprentice driven relationships; where the seed of faith, and often, even the welfare of a nation is passed on from one faithful individual to the next.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul appears to put the responsibility of such an investment in front of his own apprentice, Timothy, as he instructs him this way:
“…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (ESV)
In essence, Paul is instructing his apprentice to invest into faithful men, entrusting them with the seed of faith that they may, in turn, pass on that same seed of faith to others. Or in other words, Paul is instructing Timothy to invest in leaders and potential leaders, who can, in turn, do the work of ministry; passing on the seed of faith to those whom God has called them to. This is a wonderful model for us, which certainly has applicability to working with the volunteers in our ministry.
THE PRACTICAL WHY . . .
But just as with much of the biblical instruction we receive, there is very sound practical reasoning behind it. Sometimes we don’t think of the Bible as practical, and certainly, there is much contained in Scripture that moves beyond practical and shows us the power of God when practical reasoning just doesn’t apply. However, this is one of those pieces of biblical instruction that is certainly practical and offers us sound leadership guidance.
This is because when we take the time to invest in our volunteers, we expand our effectiveness immensely. If nothing else, this is simply a statistical reality. Each one of us only has a certain amount of time each day to devote to the ministries God has called us to. We can spend that time pouring ourselves into our students, and we should do that. However, what if we had 10 well-developed, mature volunteers, who were pouring their time into students as well? Logically, wouldn’t there be more opportunity for students to be impacted? And as an added bonus, we’d be empowering those volunteers to use their God-given gifts to serve the Lord just like we’ve been empowered. Eventually, we’ll have a well-oiled machine that is investing far more hours into discipling the next generation than we could have done on our own. That’s BIG!
WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
But this kind of investment does take time. We’re talking about, just like we see with Paul, Barnabas, and others in Scripture, a real relational investment. We’re talking about taking regular time with our adult volunteers to help them grow and learn to use their gifts to serve students. It means being a pastor to these volunteers. Working through their ups and downs with them, investing in their growth and development, and even giving them the opportunity to serve in areas of ministry that we’ve often reserved for ourselves. This type of investment may require some resources as well. It may mean buying our volunteers books, taking them to training events, helping them to develop a personal resource library, and other such things.
But all of this investment is certainly more than worth it when we consider the impact such investment will make in their lives, and in the lives of the students that God entrusts to their care. We, as youth pastors, are not called to do ministry alone. We are called, instead, to bring others alongside of us, and to empower them to use their gifts, helping them to grow to the point where they may not even need us anymore. Such an investment has biblical precedent, practical reasoning, and will allow us to leave a legacy wherever God calls us to that far outlasts us.
MATT LARKIN serves as the Director of the Department of Student & Family 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 around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MATTWLARKIN.