Let's face it. We (and by we I mean us personally and our ministries) can't survive without great volunteer leaders working alongside us.
Yet, finding, and more importantly keeping them can be a huge challenge.
Here are some tips for to successfully mobilize a group of excellent adult leaders.
- Have a vision worth catching--If you haven't developed your philosophy of student ministry yet, start there. Put on paper exactly what you believe the Biblical and cultural purposes of student ministry are. What should student ministry accomplish? What role will your adult leaders play in that?
- Recruit the best--I don't mean find the coolest, most talented people. I look for humble, teachable, faithful people of integrity who love students. I can teach these people student ministry. I would rather have one solid leader (who might not be super cool) than a dozen average ones.
- Provide the best training--If you don't have a budget line for leadership training, make one. Even if it means cutting other places. A well-trained leadership team is more effective than a hundred camps, retreats, and day trips to play paintball. Take members of your team to ministry conferences. Develop a training plan with reading and writing requirements, opportunities to put into practice what they're learning, and opportunities for them to train others. If you don't require anything from your leaders, your ministry won't be worth their time to follow.
- Your volunteers should be your best friends--Spend a LOT of time with your leaders. Take a leader out to lunch each week. Call one on Friday to pray for their lesson on Sunday. Send random cards (not just Facebook birthday comments, slacker!). Invite one of them and their families to your home for dinner at least once a month. They will catch more enthusiasm for ministry from you than you could ever teach them with words.
- Recognize, recognize, recognize--Send a physical thank you card to every leader that's involved in any trip or event. Take time during your announcements to publicly thank leaders who have put extra effort into making something successful. Arrange a "leadership recognition" time during a Sunday morning service where you bring up all your leaders to publicly thank them. This will not only encourage your leadership team, but it will help the church see just how many faithful people it takes in a student ministry.
- Give them significant responsibilities--Scripture tells us that our job as ministers is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Eph 4), not do the ministry ourselves. If you've trained your leaders well, they're ready to take on significant roles. Let them do this, even if they think they are not ready. A leader with significant responsibilities is a leader for the long haul.
- Give them what they need to do what you've asked--It seems like a small thing, but have supplies in abundance and ready for your leaders to use. A leader that can't find the resources they need is a pretty frustrated leader, and frustrated leaders don't lead very well.
- Over communicate--Use every means available to you to keep your leadership team in the loop. If they have knowledge and ownership in every aspect of the ministry, they'll be more likely to lead your students in the direction you're going. An ill-informed leadership team can be more destructive to the ministry than one that is set against it.
- Constantly recruit-- Never assume you have enough leaders. Someone will get pregnant, have a job change, have a death in the immediate family, or something else that takes them out. You need to have other leaders trained and ready to step into all of your ministry roles.
- Be a transparent model for your leaders--Like your students, your leaders need to know you're real. Apologize sincerely when you've messed up. Be open to criticism (of course, ask them to do it in private, not in front of students) and even arrange for times that your most trusted inner circle of leadership can be completely honest with you about the ministry. Don't assume you have all the answers.
A good leadership team will be in your corner when it really matters. More than that, they'll have a greater impact on the Kingdom.