Volunteer Training, Simplified

The ministry year is in full swing! We’re drinking more coffee than ever and have full voicemail inboxes, but to God be the glory! At this point in the fall semester, you might still be searching for volunteers, or you may be realizing that the ones you have still need some help.

Today’s post is to provide some practical advice on: creating the best team of volunteers you’ve ever had in ministry.

First of all, as ministers we need to realize that building a team takes time. It won’t happen overnight, meaning you need to put time and effort into forming your team. You could hold weekly training sessions, host a volunteer retreat, or even have a longer training that takes up a good part of your Saturday afternoon. I promise you though: the effort and time put in for your volunteers is worth it.

 

Here is our list of foolproof tips in training your volunteers:

  1. Share with your team the mission of the Church (Matthew 26:18-20) and teach them how to have a personal prayer life (they can’t give what they don’t have).
  2. Give them opportunities to pray! Whether it is a volunteer retreat, or simply having Adoration or a prayer time at the training, make them pray! We know that it is only through God that any lives will be changed, so we must stay connected to Him to do that! After they know their mission as Christians and that God should be their lifeline, then we can move on to the practical tools like how to run a small group, what to do in special circumstances, etc.
  3. No clumping: no more than 2 adults can stand next to each other in a room when a teenager is in that room. This forces your volunteers to be brave, get out there, and start conversations with those they don’t know.
  4. (For Youth Ministry, especially) Fight the parent voice: talk to your team about not going into “scold mode” every time they need to correct someone’s behavior.
  5. In small groups, watch for the shield: when someone puts up a defense for conversation, as the leader you can either go over them with any connecting point you can (like humor) or under them with care and concern (like changing your tone).
  6. SAFFE in Youth Ministry: when you run out of things to talk about in small group, go to your safe topics: school, activities, family, friends, entertainment. Always look for common ground.
  7. As the leader, talk last and least.
  8. Embrace the awkward: as awful as awkward silences are, they’re worse for teenagers and young adults. Let it be silent sometimes so they can pipe up.
  9. Every aspect of ministry is relational. That includes your volunteer team. Build relationships with them! Know their insecurities, testimonies, hobbies, families, etc. Invest in them. When you show you care and notice if they’re there or not, they will develop a loyalty and a love that is beautiful to see. Once you’re connected with your volunteers, they will be more willing and able to help. They know when to step up if you’re stressed, when to encourage you, and when to give you new and better ideas!
  10. Trust and let go. As ministers it’s tempting to do everything ourselves. We feel like we must give all the talks, run all the games, have meaningful conversations with everyone, and single-handedly change every life that walks through the door. But you can’t. And if you try, you will wear yourself out to the point where you become ineffective. Getting burnt out from doing too much is a real thing. Train your volunteers to be the leaders that God has placed them there to be, and then trust in Him and let go.To better trust and let go, let your team give talks. Equip them with an outline, preview what they have to say, and then let them speak. A lot of times they have better things to say than you do (shocker, I know). Give them the opportunity to give their testimonies at events. They each have a story that can impact someone in a way that you can’t. Let them reach the groups they click with. It’s impossible for you to have a real fit with every single youth in your ministry. God has called your team members to serve with your ministry for a reason. Get out of the way and let them.

I want you to know you’re doing an INCREDIBLE task in bringing hearts to Christ, which is why He’s given you a team to help you and support you along the way. You are not alone. If you are still looking for volunteers, ask God to provide them! Pray for them. May the Holy Spirit come alive in your ministries and in the lives of your volunteer team! For further reading, I encourage you to listen to a talk by Tiger McLuen called “Moving Your Team From Chaperones to Shepherds”.

What would you add to this list of tips?

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