Most student ministries in the world are able to function because of volunteers. Whether you work at a huge church with a fully staffed team or a small church with zero paid employees, you still likely benefit from the support of numerous leaders who give up their time to help your environment succeed.
In my first student ministry job, there were approximately 10-15 adults who volunteered every week to make our program happen. Our environment (about 50 students) was called Retromacallit (those were the days before social media, so we had very little concern with the hashtag-ability of our name). None of those leaders were paid a dime. When I took my second student ministry job, which was at a mega church with a big staff, I assumed there’d be less of a need for volunteers. I quickly realized the opposite was true.
As a side note, I think 6:1 is a great ratio of students to volunteers. That’s debatable, I realize. But both student ministries I worked in stayed pretty true to that. Because the mega church had more students, we obviously needed more adult leaders.
Take a second and really think about what volunteers do for you:
1. They give up time in their busy schedules.
2. They don’t get compensated for it.
3. That uncompensated time helps your student ministry win.
That’s amazing. Incredible. Other great synonyms. Yeah, you’ll run across volunteers every now and then who frustrate you or have ulterior motives. But overall, when you think about the fact that THEY devote some of their precious free time for YOU, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Let me quickly state that I realize it’s not really for you—it’s for God, the church, riches in heaven, philanthropy, community service hours, etc. But if it’s an environment you’re responsible for, they’re helping you do your job better.
With that being said, here’s what I’d love for you to do: write some thank-you notes.
On a couple of occasions I’ve heard my senior pastor say, “Feeling grateful is not the same as expressing gratitude.” Many people who give, serve, and care for their local church are never thanked. That’s a problem. We have to get better at expressing gratitude. Think about the number of adults who volunteer each week to help you win. Five? Fifteen? Thirty? Now sit down and write each one of them a thank you note. The notes don’t have to be long at all. In fact, you can write similar stuff in each one. Here’s an example:
Todd, thank you so much for giving your time and energy to help students grow closer to God. I really appreciate who you are and what you do.—Ben.
So what’s your one step? Write some thank-you notes. Don’t procrastinate like it’s your freshman English class. Sit down and barrel through them. Let the people who help you know how much you appreciate them.
Ben Crawshaw is a youth ministry thought leader, and a DYM resource author.