As a youth pastor, I depend on the adult volunteers who commit to years of working alongside me with our Jr. and Sr. High youth. Accordingly, it’s important that they feel blessed and know they are appreciated. There is good information available on the internet on how to get, train, and keep volunteers (one resource I recommend is www.cadremissionaries.com), but for this column, I have three simple suggestions.
- Give volunteers a job description. It’s important when you ask someone to volunteer that you can simultaneously give them a concise description of what will be expected of them. When I ask someone to serve as a youth leader, I give them a printed job description that tells them who else they will be working with, what the ministry priorities are, how much time per week and per month will likely be spent, and the major events in a year (winter retreat, summer trip) that they’ll be expected to participate in. You want volunteers that say yes knowing what they are getting into, and not surprising them a few months down the road with expectations.
- Try to create a team atmosphere. This suggestion applies best to situations when a small group of volunteers are working long term together. In my case, youth leaders commit to 3 or 4 year terms of youth ministry, and we meet frequently to pray, plan, and care for the youth. What are ways you can enhance the team camaraderie of the group? Finding ways to enrich their relationships and enjoy group fellowship (a fun outing together like mini golf, a Christmas dessert party, or making them a meal or taking them to a restaurant for no purpose other than fun and fellowship around the table) can help the group feel like a team of friends, which will augment your ability to do good ministry together.
- Thank them. Choose some regular, tangible ways of saying thank you to your volunteers. Inexpensive expressions of thanks include a written thank you note, a framed annual photo of the youth group, a sincere expression of appreciation for their work in the church bulletin or during church announcements. If your budget allows (and I strongly suggest that it should), several times a year, especially after a high energy, time consuming event, send volunteers a gift card to a favorite local coffee shop or ice cream place (give the card enough value that they can take a friend or their family), just to let them know they are appreciated.
May the Lord give you creativity to bless and show your support for your volunteers!
Mike Ford is the youth pastor at Blooming Glen Mennonite Church. The Ford family mission is to love God and people and to pursue life’s adventures. Mike, Val, and their 4 kids spend most of their time in Souderton, PA, where Mike is a youth pastor and Val a high school teacher. Their current adventure is overcoming Val’s lymphoma cancer, and though hard, the journey goes well.