Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry - 7 Best Practices: Teamwork

Posted on by YFC Seattle

By Warren Mainard, CORE & Youth Ministry Network Director

Practice Four: No Lone Rangers - Building Your Volunteer Team.

Who are your drivers?

I was a brand new youth pastor.  Full of energy, enthusiasm, driving my Camaro with long hair and a beautiful girlfriend.  At 19 years old, I was ready to take this youth ministry by storm and there is no better way to grow a youth ministry than playing laser tag, right?  So, I told our youth group of 3 kids all about it, gave them fliers to invite their friends, looked through the church directory and called every student, parent and grandparent of students in the church and sold them on bringing their teens to the church on Friday night to play laser tag.  Friday night rolled around and when I showed up a few minutes late, there were nearly 20 students waiting to go on their first youth group activity with me as the new youth pastor! The Senior Pastor had a big smile on his face and said, “This is great! Who are your drivers?”  Immediately, my euphoria evaporated and was flooded with feelings of terror, panic and humiliation.  I had not even once considered how we would get these students to and from the event! Embarrassed, I confessed that I had no idea who my drivers were, and thankfully and graciously, my Pastor came to my rescue and rallied a few adults to cancel their evening plans to join me.  This would be the first, but not the last time that I found myself caught with my pants down (metaphorically, of course) because of my “lone ranger” approach to youth ministry.

Over time, I began to gain a new perspective about my role as the Youth Pastor.  One key insight was that my job was not to “do it all,” but to make sure that it all “gets done.”  Youth ministry is a team sport and I could not be the Coach, Quarterback, Punter and Waterboy if I wanted to see the ministry grow and thrive.  Here are 3 Key Principles for building your Student Ministry Leadership team.

  1. Recruit For Where You Are Going, Not Where You Are: Somewhere along the way, a wiser, older youth ministry leader taught me this truth.  Do not recruit the leaders you need for today, recruit the leaders you need for tomorrow.  If you have 10 kids in your student ministry, you may only “need” one or two additional adult leaders.  However, if you recruit enough leaders for 20 students, you will be amazed at how often the group will grow to that size.  Always recruit enough leaders to get you to where you are going.
  2. Investing In Leaders Is Investing In Students: Early on, I thought I was too busy investing in youth to be able to invest in adult leaders.  However, as I began to invest in growing, developing and caring for leaders, I was increasingly impressed with how well my students were being cared for.  Over time, instead of lining up after the youth group service to talk to me, I saw students grabbing other leaders to pray and process together.  I also found that the leaders I put around me were often much more skilled and aware in my areas of weakness.  It became fairly routine for me to have a flashback to my parking lot panic, only to discover that one of my adult leaders had taken care of the situation for me!
  3. Create a Leader Community:  Volunteer burnout is very common in Youth Ministry and I have definitely experienced my fair share of youth leaders “tapping out” for a variety of reasons.  While turnover is normal and inevitable, what I have learned is that what keeps leaders engaged for the long haul is a sense of belonging in a community.  When I began to love my leaders and create a community for them to belong to, I found that they were far more likely to lean in, not step out when life or ministry because challenging.  We developed great friendships and supported each far beyond the immediate ministry of working with students.  In Youth For Christ, we call this a 3 Story Community- A place where we can Share our struggles and how God is moving in our lives and students, Pray for each other and God’s direction and Discover how God would lead us to follow Him more closely in real and practical ways.  This process of Share, Pray and Discover cultivates a deep sense of Spirit-filled community.

Cast a vision for potential volunteer leaders to not only “fill a need,” but to join a community that cares for one another and serves students together.  This simple change of mindset will dramatically increase your leadership team growth and retention.  Grow your leaders and the students will follow.

Other Posts in this Series:

Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry - 7 Best Practices: Balance

Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry - 7 Best Practices: Parental Guidance

Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry - 7 Best Practices: Mentorship

Your First 2 Years in Youth Ministry - 7 Best Practices: Be, Know, Do

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