The longer I am in student ministry, the more I realize that there are so many things involved in making it happen. You have all the more traditional things like teaching, games, worship, trips, and regular communication, but you also have other elements that have been added over time. In many settings, the student ministry functions like a church within a church with their own leadership teams, small groups, fundraising, mission trips, and more. How is one youth pastor supposed to do it all?

One of the more practical workshop breakouts I attended at Orange Conference 2018 was from the YouLead pre-conference with Crystal Chiang on creating a volunteer strategy to get it all done. I spoke about this in my last podcast episode, where four of my fellow Orange Bloggers chatted all about the conference. If you haven’t listened to that, go ahead and do that before you read further, in order to have a setup for what I’m going to share with you today. (I believe I talk about this breakout just over halfway into the podcast.)

Crystal shared that, according to the Barna Group, the average youth ministry has 60 students and 12 volunteer leaders with one paid youth worker. That means that the average youth pastor feels the weight of the spiritual well-being of 72 people. Often time, though, we try to delegate, and it doesn’t go well for a number of reasons.

Crystal went on to challenge us to create more breathing room so we can get more than just a list of names to fill positions. She then outlined four changes that need to happen in order for us to get it all done:

  1. Move from small tasks to the big asks. Instead of asking people to perform small tasks within the ministry, move to asking them to lead in areas or take on more responsibility. Carey Nieuwhof says, “People with significant leadership gifting respond to significant challenges. Under challenge them and they won’t stay engaged for long.”
  2. Move from leading it all to layering leaders. Create layers between yourself and the other leaders, in order to plan for the ministry you want 10 years from now. This involves placing “point leaders” in various areas of the ministry to communicate on our behalf, innovate where we cannot, focus on the “flat spots,” and identify/raise up more point leaders.
  3. Move from training days to coaching groups. Instead of having a couple days a year where you try to train your leaders, put coaches in place in order to train them along the way. This helps us empower them all the time, and it also makes sure each area of ministry has adequate attention.
  4. Move from retaining volunteers to advancing leaders. Thank you notes and appreciation is important, but we need to move beyond that. Another currency that works well (and better?) is responsibility and trust. When we combine both appreciation and trust, we’re going to help our leaders own the ministry and continue to advance in leadership.

As I mentioned earlier and also in the podcast, this was one of my best workshops, because she didn’t only share some practical thoughts, but she also got practical by showing us how they do it. Below is how they structured their high school ministry. It’s a simple model that I think makes a lot of sense and is scalable, which is incredibly important for adapting it to small church, large churches, and especially, growing churches.

I am already working on plans to structure our staff and volunteer team in a similar way. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of the word “logistics,” so that may change. But other than that, I really like this model. It fits with things that have been swimming around in my head for a while, but I was struggling to visualize them. And here, Crystal did just that in something that makes so much sense.

If you’d like to learn more, Crystal has been incredibly kind by offering up all her workshop notes to anyone who wants them! So click here to download her notes, a PDF of her slides, and her full Keynote presentation. And be sure to connect with her online to thank her for her generosity!! Her Twitter handle is @CrystalCChiang.

For more posts about the Orange Conference 2018, click here.


3 thoughts on “Creating a Volunteer Strategy in Student Ministry (OC18)

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