I like to use an American football analogy when it comes to guiding those we call “volunteers,” or “support staff,” in youth ministry. (If you knew me you would find this in itself hilarious.) Still it works. Imagine your team has shown up for their first game. You have never practiced together; still you know that you can WIN! So the team Captain says, “Alright, the goal today is to make a touch down. Get the ball from the other team and meet me in end zone as quickly as you can.” You take your place on the field, wondering why only about one person on your team has followed. Everyone else looks confused. “What game is this again?” one asks. “We are wearing yellow and they are wearing red, does that matter?” another chimes in. “How fast should I run? Do I knock people down if they get in the way? I know I am supposed to have a position on the field do I just pick one?” The questions keep coming. Those of us who lead the vision are usually in the game because it is intuitive. For the rest of our “team” his is not always true. That is why position, processes, and practice are vital to the growth of our youth ministry.
It isn’t that they don’t want to play, they are excited to be there. They want to win the game and simply need some coaching on how to make that happen.
1. Position: Not everyone wants to teach a Bible study. There are those that are relational, some are administrative, others like to organize details or make meals. Yes, yes and yes as far as who you need. It is easiest to assess the needs of your ministry and tell people where you will put them. This is not the most beneficial for everyone involved. We had a gentleman once who came into our ministry wanting to serve the youth. Our greatest need at the time was a small group leader. That is where we “stuck” him. This lasted about 3 months until he came into my office one day and told me he was going to need to quit. I could have let him walk out the door, instead I sat with him and asked “Why” he was leaving. Had I done something? He went on to explain that teaching a small group Bible study was just “not for him.” “I love what you are doing here, I would guess there isn’t anything else you might have?” After some searching we discovered that this detailed retired engineer loved administrative type roles. He now has been volunteering for about 15 years, has his own desk and refuses to let us pay him. Leadertreks (leadertreks.com) has some amazing tools that help you take a different look at placement. Instead of what you need, who are the people the Lord is sending you? If you are willing to meld your needs with their passions then we keep committed workers for longer. My favorite tool in this area is the “Sweet Spot,” assessment. This takes less than 5 minutes for a potential volunteer to fill out. It helps them see where they should serve, who the students that they are most comfortable with and where they feel they will be most useful. Get to know your people. Take them out for a quarterly (at least) cup of coffee and get to know them and their lives. They want to know their position so they can be a true part of the team.
2. Process: Job descriptions are step one. It details exactly what and who you are looking for. HOWEVER- there is so much more to learning the game than this. Over communicating expectations is step two. You have a vision statement? What is it? Can each member of your team recite it and explain it in 3 minutes or less? When you look at a student who has left your ministry in graduation who are you looking to see produced? A fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that look like exactly? Processes help everyone to know they are on the same team, on the same field, at the same time. Do you have an application? Do your potential “help” fill out any sort of leadership style, personality or spiritual gifts assessment? Do you have a covenant that they sign? What about a full on manual that details full expectations? Each person will enter with their own unique strengths and ideas on how to carry out the vision. There are key components that you are asking of them. These need to be clearly outlined. Our “call” is to see a generation transformed by the understanding that they belong to Jesus. How often do you interact with your team? Do they get at least a weekly email update? When that is the goal, we are never afraid to bring direction to the players on the field.
3. Practice: Your team understand who they are and what is expected of them. Still they want to know HOW to play. This is where training is indispensible. This can come in many forms. After your weekly meeting do you do a “debrief.” I follow a method I learned from Doug Franklin. The “3’s”. 3 things that went well. 3 Challenges. 3 Action steps. Once a quarter we offer a deep evening training on a practical “how to” that the team has been asking about. Sometimes these are led by me, other times we bring in others to train. Weekly I send out an article or web link that I think might be helpful. Obviously, there are so many ideas of ways that you can train people. If you are reading this site you are a learner yourself. I would begin with sending along helpful tips you are learning to everyone else on your team. Make the time and the expectations on everyone that this is a “must” that helps them with all that they do.
You know in a post like this you have a limited amount of words to convey the thoughts that are most vital. The ideas about are most likely not revolutionary to you. However, I would say that these are the elements that help build a stronger team, heading to the same goal. It can be easy to think, “of course we all want to win together.” However, I would never be afraid to stop and ask if everyone really knows. Any good football team knows that position, process and practice is what takes you to the super bowl. In this case it is producing a generation that takes over our job…