Mothers always say, "Happiness is close to Godliness." Ok, they might not say that at all but great youth workers will say that great youth ministry volunteers are happy ones.
Recruiting leaders to serve alongside you in your youth ministry is tough work. Once a volunteer says, "yes" and begins serving, I challenge you to help make them happy. It not only helps them stay serving in your ministry longer but also will help them serve more effectively. I bet when you are happy serving at your church, you do a better job then when you are unhappy. Right?
Here are 5 tips you can use as-is, or use them as though primers to use in this season of ministry.
Seek Their Input
Many people enjoy being asked, "what do you think about XYZ." In my life, I find myself trying to do it all on my own without the influence of others. Deep down, I know if I were to include others the work I am doing would be significantly better. Additionally, not only would my ministry be better, but others would also take ownership of it. That is a goal of mine-that my ministry would not be "my ministry" but would be "our ministry."
One way to help create happy volunteers on your team is to seek their input along the way continually. As a Youth Worker, you make hundreds of decisions every week. What Sunday School curriculum are we going to us? Where are we going to summer camp? What should the theme of our next retreat be? Is our program schedule meeting the news of students? Does my breath stink? Ok, maybe we don't need input on everything.
When we have some skin in the game, we usually are significantly happier. This is true with youth ministry volunteers as well. When you seek their input, they develop a feeling of connection to the ministry and pride for it. In turn, they become happy and motived to continue to serve alongside you.
When you seek the input of your volunteers, you don't always have to use their ideas. But when you do be sure to give them credit. When you are in a staff meeting with the rest of the pastoral staff, and you talk about your upcoming Weekend Retreat theme you could say something like, "This year's theme is going to be Relentless. It's a great theme, and God is going to use to do great things in the lives of our students. Sally, who serves with our 7th-grade girls, really helped us land on this theme."
I encourage you to create an environment where you seek the input of those on your volunteer team continually.
In a previous online article, Andy Blanks said, "When you recruit adult volunteers, call them to a vision, not a task." You aren't just looking for someone to teach 6th-grade boys Sunday School class. You are seeking God to bring you a man of God that will invest in the lives of pre-teen boys so they can grow up loving the Word of God.
To keep a volunteer happy and engaged in their calling connected to your ministry, you need to inspire them continually. Continually beat the drum of vision and inspiration. Your youth ministry has a God-given vision. Keep that vision in front of your volunteers.
A way to continually inspire your volunteer team is to share the stories of success in your ministry. When students lives are transformed. When a student chooses to live for Jesus. When a student is baptized. Share these stories among your volunteer team. You can do it in an email, a quarterly meeting, a video texted to them. The key here is to inspire your team. They are called to a purpose, not a task, and they ARE making a difference.
Have you ever run a race? Like a real race. One where you laced up your shoes and took off running with a group of people. You know the finish line is out there somewhere, you can't see it yet. You feel it should be coming up, but you've been running for miles and no finish line in sight. Then in the distance, you see it... it's a beacon of hope! AN AID STATION! Praise Jesus. Someone is there with a refreshing cup of water and half a banana. Your spirits are lifted. You have a smile on your face. You are ready to continue toward the finish line.
Your youth volunteers are like a runner in a race, needing that aid station to put a smile on their face. That is what encouragement for you does.
There are many ways to encourage your youth ministry volunteers. It could be as simple as catching them after Sunday School on the way to service, and you pull them aside and say, "thank you." Thank you for teaching this class. It means a lot to me, our ministry, and to the church. Or as elaborate as creating a video of parents and students saying "thank you" for serving in the youth ministry.
Encourage your volunteer team, and you will have happy volunteers.
Your volunteers didn't join you on the youth ministry team to receive a reward, but it sure feels great to be rewarded. Have you ever opened your mailbox at home and found a card inside with a pair of movie tickets and notes saying, "thank you for serving on the team"? No? Yeah, me either. But imagine if you did. You'd be pretty stoked, right?
When you reward your youth ministry volunteer team members, it communicates that you value them and they are essential to you, the youth ministry team, and the church. This can be as simple as purchasing a book to help them in their role on the team. Or a personal reward like a Starbucks or Chick-fil-a gift card. Or even a gift for their spouse like flowers on their anniversary.
Rewards aren't why they are a youth ministry volunteer, but it sure does make them smile and feel valued.
Nothing more frustrating than feeling you're the only one left out. This is true for you and me as much as it is true for a youth ministry volunteer. Your youth ministry volunteers are some of your most excellent ambassadors around the church. When they are in the know, then the church is in the know.
Just like some juicy gossip, everyone wants to know about it. That is the same about information in your youth ministry. Your youth ministry volunteers desire to know all the details about events, vision, upcoming changes, and so much more. This is one area that cannot be overdone. It is really hard to over-communicate. Now, let's not confuse this with oversharing. It isn't appropriate to share what you had for dinner each day. But it is always appropriate to share about the upcoming events and the details of those events.
When changes or shifts are on the horizon, it is beyond crucial to over-communicate with your youth ministry volunteers to make them happy youth ministry volunteers. If you are changing start times or purposes of regularly scheduled events, these type of things in your ministry should be shared early and often. Don't wait until the last minute to begin sharing about these. Think about starting months ahead of time.
I have yet to meet a happy youth ministry volunteer that feels they have received too much communication from the youth pastor!
You are making a difference. Thank you for leading your ministry well. YM360 is here to help you along the way. Thanks for all you do!