If you've got more than about six students in your ministry, you already know how very important it is to have a healthy volunteer team. But do you know if your team is healthy?
When I ask this question to other youth workers, I usually get a response that sounds a lot like this:
“Oh yeah, I think I've got pretty good volunteers.”
The issue is that there are too many qualifiers in that sentence. So, your volunteers might possibly be good? But how do you know for sure?
Here's a few thoughts on how you can tell if you've got a healthy volunteer team, and if not, some suggestions for how to fix it.
1. Your volunteers should genuinely like each other.
This is part of what it means to be a team. In our ministry, our volunteers represent a diverse group of individuals. The college students don't invite our grandparent leaders over for movies in the dorm, but when we get them together, they all get along.
At the very least, your volunteers need to know each other's names. It's even better if they are comfortable enough to share prayer requests with one another.
One easy way to build a little team spirit is to host a thank you party just for your volunteers. Get some food and some board games and maybe a movie, then observe your leaders and see if they sort themselves into cliques or if their engagement shows that they really enjoy each other’s company.
2. Your volunteers should be able to operate without you.
If you're out of town for a weekend, what happens? Does everything fall apart? Do you preemptively cancel ministry? Does it take hours of coordination on your end to make sure everything goes smoothly?
If your volunteers have clear roles and responsibilities, they won't need you there to manage their actions and movements.
You'll love the simple way to gauge this: just take a Sunday off. Give your leaders a heads up and some brief directions. Tell them to arrive early to meet without you. Enjoy your time off, and afterward, check to see how things went.
3. Your volunteers need to be EXCITED for youth ministry.
If your volunteers are burnt out or if their passion for students is waning, they won't last long and they likely won't be very effective.
Every once in a while, we'll shut down for a weekend. Sometimes it's because of a holiday or community event. Sometimes it's just because we know our volunteers need a break.
Every time we shut down, I gauge the reaction of our leaders. Are they bummed out about being away from students? Or are they desperately anticipating taking the evening off?
4. Your volunteers need healthy spiritual lives.
We can't be in the business of using up our volunteers and discarding them. As the youth minister, you also need to assume some of the ministerial duties for your volunteers.
Pray for them, and not just silently during your prayer-time. Be excited about laying hands on your volunteers and praying with them too. Demonstrate care for your volunteers the way that you do for students.
When you have the privilege of spending time with volunteers, make it count. Become an expert at asking spiritual questions, gauge their responses, and act accordingly. That's what your volunteers desire you to do.
Remember, in many ways, a youth ministry is only as healthy as its leadership. What else are you doing to make sure that your volunteer teams are healthy?