As I talk with Youth Workers across North America and listen to interviews of prominent youth workers such as Mark Hall, lead singer and song writer for Casting Crowns, I hear the phrase ‘LOVE ON’. It’s not a new phrase; it has been around for a while within the youth ministry circles. It’s a cool phrase because it captures the essence of youth ministry—loving youth the way Jesus loves them!
Every time I hear these two captivating little words people are talking about youth. We need to Love On the youth but I very seldom hear youth pastors talk about Loving On the volunteers.
Perhaps this is an area that needs some exploration. As a youth pastor and being in youth ministry for over 15 years I have come to the humbling realization that any paid youth pastor is only as good as the team of volunteers he/she has surrounding them. No one youth pastor can do it alone. The need for volunteers is crucial and needed for your survival in youth ministry.
As you begin a new year of programs I am sure you have a list of volunteers for each ministry you are responsible for. And if you don’t there is this bead of sweat coming down your forehead due to PANIC!
Volunteers—a sweet sound to any youth pastor.
So how can you LOVE ON your volunteers and equip them to be the best volunteers they can be as they reach out and build strong healthy relationships with your youth? Here are just a few ideas to start out the new year:
Special recognition on a Sunday morning: Take some time, get behind a microphone, have your volunteers stand up and express your deepest heartfelt thanks. This does not only give the entire church family the opportunity to thank the volunteers but it show momentum for youth ministry. If your church does not appreciate clapping during the service, perhaps this is an opportunity for an exception or a good time to start! Clap for your volunteers!!! Make a joyful noise!
Remember their birthday. We take the time to remember our youth’s birthdays but it is just as important to take some time to send your volunteers a birthday card, a birthday phone call or show-up at their door with a birthday cake or coffee. If your budget allows, send them a $5.00 gift certificate to their favorite coffee shop. Be creative and celebrate their birthday.
Pray for them individually. Take some time during a youth ministry evening, after church on a Sunday morning or during a phone call and pray with and for your volunteer. There is tremendous power in prayer! Ask them what you can prayer for and encourage them through prayer. This shows genuine interest – be sincere!!
Give them a ‘Night Off’. On occasion, give them a night off of ministry. An unexpected night at home to ‘veg’ in front of a good movie is a treat. Call them a few nights before youth and share with them that you want to bless them with a night at home with their spouse—rent them a move, get them some popcorn and let them enjoy a night enjoying each others company.
Mail them a ‘Thinking of you’ note. Yes, admit it, there are many times in the day that you think about your volunteers. This is a good thing. You need them! They are a huge part of your ministry so why not let them know that you were thinking about them and prayed for them. A little note can go a long ways.
Provide them with the resources they need to be the best youth volunteers they can be: Get them the resources needed. Here are a few magazines to consider: Youth Unlimited eQuip (totally focused on the needs of the volunteer), Group Magazine, Youth Workers Journal, Relevant and there are many others. Send them as a team to the Youth Unlimited Soul Care Youth Worker Retreats. Send them to the National or Canadian Youth Worker Conventions. The options are endless.
FREE! FREE! FREE! Make sure that any youth ministry related events that they attend are FREE. Yes is can be costly depending on how many volunteers you have but make sure to incorporate the cost into your budget. You need volunteers to help out on Retreats, chaperone at concerts, go bowling etc—PAY FOR THEM!
These are just a few ideas that you can do to LOVE ON your volunteers as you begin a new season of ministry.
Volunteers are crucial to your ministry. With out them, your ministry programs would be in jeopardy—admit it! Volunteers are the longevity factor of ministry and have the greatest potential of building long, lasting Godly relationships with the youth of your church. Investing in them IS investing in your youth.
Go and LOVE ON your volunteers today!