Volunteers: do you value or burden them?

One of the keys of an effective leader is learning to work with volunteers and be able to figure out how to dance the fine line between making volunteers feel valued and making them feel burdened.

Value: One of the ways we value volunteers is to give them ownership that is empowering and rewarding without being menial and demeaning.

Burdened: If you (as a leader) give them too much ownership/responsibility they can will feel overwhelmed and burdened and ultimately feel devalued. Devalued volunteers don’t last.

Question: how do you value volunteers? Share with us so we can learn from you.

Question: what have you done in the past that has burdened your volunteers? Willing to share?

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Leading volunteers… the art of keeping them!

My dentist has a plaque on his wall that reads, “You don’t have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep!” I hate flossing… but, I get the point.

There’s a similar principle in leading volunteers, “You don’t have to encourage/affirm all your volunteers, just the ones you want to keep!”

Most leaders understand how vital the principle of affirmation is when leading volunteers. Good leaders already know this!

Volunteers are not serving for the money (duh, that’s why they’re called “volunteers”)… they have their own reasons for why they volunteer their time (I believe the two biggest reasons is because they either feel called, or someone asked them–but that’s for another post at another time), they have their own inner-motivation that connects to their “why”… but, a good leader can add to a volunteer’s longevity by delivering some timely encouragement.

Beyond your own delivery of encouragement, I would encourage you to use (what I’ve termed) “outside” encouragement. This is specific encouragement that comes from outside of you–as the primary leader. You facilitate it, others deploy it.

Think about it, if I encourage you weekly… chances are you’ll be thankful (“Wow, Doug sure is nice to me! Always encouraging.). But, after several months of this encouragement, it can begin to lose some of it’s power. But, what if I ask a parent to encourage you? Now, there’s a new voice, different words, unique tone, and a different motive. That new “outside” encouragement can become very meaningful.

My wife is a volunteer leader of small group of (junior) girls. She was given the attached note. Simple. Thoughtful. And, definitely powerful. Some of the other girls gave her Starbucks cards for Christmas, small gifts, etc… but, it was the note that was the most meaningful. She feels valued by the youth pastor, but this note because valuable. Facilitating this type of leadership is not only easy, it’s powerful!

As a leader, you hold the power to keep your volunteers affirmed. In addition to your encouragement (I’m assuming you do that already), you can direct “outside” encouragement by asking students, parents… even your senior pastor to write an occasional note of appreciation. The power of well placed words can go a long way.

Question: What other simple, practical ways do you use to encourage your volunteers? Share them here.

[Are you getting Doug’s daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

The Fantasy Youth Ministry Team

The last Sunday afternoon of every August I sit in my living room with 11 other guys. We’re intensely focused as we type away on our laptops while looking through stacks of papers covered in handwritten notes. A planning retreat? No. A curriculum development meeting? Nope. An anointed brainstorming session? No way. It’s my annual fantasy football draft.

It sure would be nice if we could pick our youth ministry teams like we pick our fantasy football teams: looking at statistics and match-ups and choosing based on need. Obviously, it doesn’t work that way but if there were such a thing as a “fantasy youth ministry team draft”… here are five categories I would consider:

Love the Gospel – I don’t care how hip or influential a person seems to be. If it isn’t obvious they love the story of redemption and are centering their lives on the goodness of Jesus, then I don’t want them on my team. I’m not talking about perfect people. I’m talking about people who are entirely aware of their imperfections and modeling a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Love the Family – Youth ministry is not just about teenagers. Youth ministry is about partnering with and supporting the work of discipleship happening in the home. Youth workers that try to take the place of parents or try to make parents out to be the enemy would go undrafted by me. If parents are unsaved this may look different but it’s still a non-negotiable.

Love the Team – We’re better together. Sometimes talented individuals and natural leaders have a hard time believing that. I want people on my team who love that they’re a part of a team and are glad to have a role to play. I don’t need someone with a messiah complex or a lone ranger.

Love the Journey – We’re all in process and there’s never been a teenager who emerged from youth ministry a finished product. 15+ years after high school and I still have so much growing in grace to do. I would select youth workers who patiently trust in God’s progressive work of sanctification as opposed to trying to be the Holy Spirit in teenagers’ lives while forcing behavior change that is disconnected from heart transformation.

Love the Vision – This one starts with me as the leader. What’s the vision, why does it matter and how can you be involved? The vision should me memorable, engaging and regularly repeated. I would be using my draft picks on people who feel the tension of the problem that the vision exists to solve, buy into that vision and can share it with others in a compelling fashion.

We can’t draft our youth ministry team but we can intentionally recruit them and we must strategically develop them. Consider using these five categories as areas of development in your team and you just might be on your way to leading your very own fantasy youth ministry team.

Question: What would you add to this list? Share it here and let’s learn from one another.

Guest Post: David Hertweck serves the Assemblies of God in New York as the District Youth and Chi Alpha Director. Prior to that he served as a youth pastor for 11+ years at Trinity AG in Clay, NY. He’s married to Erin and has two daughters, Lilia and Caraline. He loves his girls, his extended family, good music, good food, his Weber grill, his Taylor guitar, Liverpool Football Club, the Yankees and the Gospel. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidHertweck.

[Are you getting Doug’s daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.