Why Volunteer Youth Workers Need Greater Investment From The Local Church

In my opinion, volunteer youth workers are worth their weight in gold! However, so often the church places too much emphasis on the paid staff and not nearly enough in investing in it’s volunteer youth workers.

Volunteer Youth Worker Training

Here are four reasons why I think the local church needs to invest greater time and resources in volunteer youth workers, today and in the future: 

1) Paid Youth Workers Are Decreasing in Numbers: Recently I had a conversation with a youth ministry guru who advises and consults churches. During our time together he made a good argument for how church finances will impact the ability to hire youth workers in the future. You see, Millennials are giving more to causes and less to churches. Churches across the country are already seeing their incomes decline. If this trend continues, we should expect paid positions in youth ministry to be lost and greater emphasis placed on volunteers.

In the next 10 years I expect the landscape of youth ministry to be filled with volunteers who are being trained by the church to do ministry…

2) Volunteers Can Reach More Students: Regardless of the future, we need to acknowledge how much impact and how many students a healthy volunteer team can reach and invest in. With a healthy volunteer team we can reach more students and ensure they are followed up, loved, and invested in. While many of us know this reality, we are not all as committed to recruiting and developing volunteers as much as we should. Many paid youth workers are living with a short-term view and allowing themselves to think they are the ones who have to reach every student. Even worse, some of us have allowed our insecurity to share the ministry with others… Which brings us to our next point:

3) It’s Healthier To Focus On a Team, (rather than just one paid person). Too often we look to the paid youth worker as the expert and ‘savior’ to our students. However, the paid guy or girl is only one person and we will see greater impact when we invest in training and equipping our volunteers. In recent surveys in our youth ministry, it was the names of caring small group leaders who were named as the ones who have made an impact in students lives… While it’s nice for me to be recognized, I know I have led well when students praise the volunteers…

4) Students Issues Have Become More Complex: If you have been in youth ministry for more than 10 years, you know how the landscape of student culture has changed. Many of the issues that students face have become wildly complex and messy. In addition, the shear amount of students facing these issues has exploded… Because of this, many would maintain that we therefore need more paid youth workers for this… I would disagree. I believe that the church needs to use greater resources to train volunteers and give them the tools to discern the issues and help students find the help they need.

With the amount of complex challenges our students face today, we cannot expect the paid youth worker to be available for every student. This is where greater training and resourcing is needed for volunteers.

What would you add to this list? If you are a volunteer, what are your thoughts? As a paid person, how do you see the youth ministry landscape changing?

Finally, how are you going to help the local church make a greater investment in its volunteer youth workers? 

Phil <><

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  • ScottTinman

    Volunteers are essential whether there is a paid youthworker in place to give vision and direction to the ministry or if the youth ministry is totally volunteer driven…leaders need to be invested into regardless of the title…I try to make sure we use part of our youth ministry budget to invest in our leaders…it may be going out for coffee or a lunch or paying part of their way to a conference like SYMC or bring training to our church…it will also help leaders longevity in the ministry if you show them that they are valued and building into leaders does exactly that.

  • philbell

    Scott, I agree. Great training is absolutely essential! So many volunteers feel under prepared for ministry and consider themselves ineffective without some good training.

  • Aaron Buer

    This is great. Here’s how we attempt to do it:

    We vision and equip volunteers to be the spiritual shepherds of the students. Our staff simply resources, equips and encourages our volunteers to do the work of ministry. Yes, our staff does the teaching, worship, etc. but all of these things set up the small group conversations–which is where the ministry is really happening–both at and outside the ministry events.

    Our volunteers find tremendous meaning in such a defined and empowered role. We do our best to always put them at the focus.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents.