I don’t think I have ever heard a youth pastor say, “You know what, I have plenty of leaders. Why don’t you come and try to apply again in 6 months.”

Having volunteers is the life blood of any ministry, and I would say especially youth ministry. Taking on volunteers to onboard them, to make sure they know what to do, to make sure you set them up well to lead, and to care for them while they are in your ministry is vital, but also a ton of work.

Over the last 15 years I have learned some things in regard to caring for and leading volunteers. I wanted to share my top 4 thoughts when it comes to having a healthy volunteer team and structure. Again, this is not exhaustive or the ONLY 4 things, but as I have been reflecting in this season, I kept on coming back to these 4 things to keep in mind.

1. Pursue clarity before pursuing people.

The biggest sin in volunteers is just trying to get people to fill spots instead of finding the RIGHT people for those SPECIFIC spots you have laid out. Too many times I have seen leaders just throw volunteers into the mix without thinking through exactly how that person will operate and without fully knowing what they will be doing. What happens with that is an awkward conversation in 6 months when both them and you are frustrated. This is why it is vital to make sure we pursue clarity before people. Things you should probably think through so you can add the right people are:

  • How clear is your vision?
  • What will they do on service nights specifically?
  • What role do they hit to make your ministry move forward?
  • Are they trained well to lead students?
  • Do they know how to win as a leader?

2. Leaders who know how to win, win.

This one seems pretty simple, but it’s surprising to me how many ministries do not have their wins set. Everyone and their mother wants to know how to win in whatever they are doing. Everyone wants to know that whatever they are involved in, they are doing a good job in those things. Same with your leaders in your ministry. Do they know how to win in your ministry as a leader?

Leaders who have clear targets tend to hit those targets better. For us, we have the “4 F’s”. It’s short. It’s clear. It’s memorable. All leaders know that this is the win for them when they serve for us.

You can get out those 4 wins HERE

3. Leaders who know each other create a great culture.

This one is from my friend and co-worker Vivi Diaz. She said this in a way I didn’t really know how to describe other than “the vibe” of your team. But when you break it down, when you know the people you serve with, like really know them, it changes the game on the involvement and commitment of volunteers. She said that we have to remember that this is not them just serving in our ministry, but they are serving THEIR church and wherever they are serving they need to be connected into community. So do we look at our volunteers as people to help us do what we need them to do? Or are we intentionally creating an environment and opportunities for our people to truly know each other? Because when people feel like they are in community they are more bought in, more committed and love being a part of it.

4. You’re goal as a leader is “to be” (delegation and purpose)

I think some of the best leaders are the ones when it comes to game time they are just “available”. The person that comes to mind for me is our children director at our biggest campus. 600+ kids on the weekend, hundreds of leaders and she seems like she is “not working” on the weekends during services and standing around in front of the kid’s check in. But the truth is, she’s working well. She has set up her team well, they know how to win, she put in the work so she can be the most effective… which is “to be available” when things go down or she can be available to connect new families and make sure they are taken care of. In order to do that she has given real big tasks to her team. She has given away a lot of her ministry, trained up people, and set people up well. Leaders who are struggling are usually the ones who are not great at delegation and giving volunteers purpose for the serving.

Again, I don’t think this is anything crazy or knew, but something I feel as we get into the thick of ministry sometimes we forget. I can look back at some of the healthiest teams I have seen and it seems to have these 4 items in their ministry and culture.

If you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out episode 103 of the Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast