If we are truly going to make an impact on the teens in our community, we cannot do it alone. We need a team. But how do we put together a team, and what do we do with them?
I’ve previously written up a list of tips on how to recruit a great team. Let’s say you’re now beginning to put that team together, what do you do now? How do you keep the team great? And how do you continue to invest in the team for the long haul?
There are so many ways you can do this, but here are ten quick tips to help you get started with managing your team of student ministry volunteers:
Qualifications and Expectations
Start with a list of required qualifications. You will need to make sure that each volunteer meets the necessary expectations before you accept them onto your team. This is especially true if they are going to be working closely with teens. For example, do they have a clean background check, do they have the time to commit, are they willing to go through training? I put all of this together in a handbook that we give leaders and go through with them every year.
Create a detailed job description for each volunteer role on your team. This way everyone knows their responsibilities and what is expected of them in order to be successful when they are working at events or leading small groups. It also helps new volunteers get familiar with the position quickly so that you can start seeing results. Have these readily available when you are recruiting and bringing on new leaders. But you might also want to have a short version of these available on your website, so potential volunteers can see what is available.
Resource and Train
Have a place where team members can easily find resources they need. This can include small group guides, ice breaker ideas, job descriptions, a list of expectations, etc. Also, provide specific training opportunities that will help your volunteers build the skills needed in order to lead effectively. In addition, you can provide a list of additional resources for your volunteers, like blog posts or podcasts. I put all of my leader resources in a Google Drive that is shared with our team, which means they can access it anywhere they have internet. And we utilize a lot of the great training resources out there from Download Youth Ministry, LeaderTreks, Youth Specialties, and Orange.
Make time every week or month (depending upon what works best your schedule) to sit down with each volunteer for a meeting. This is important so that everyone can catch up on what they are doing, provide feedback about how the ministry is going and discuss future goals or ideas. If you have too many volunteers to do this yourself, consider adding in additional layers of leadership. For example, you could have a team of four “coaches” who each care for four small group leaders. So instead of having to meet with each of your 16 small group leaders, you meet with each of those coaches, who in turn, meet with their assigned leaders. Also make sure you are regularly connecting for fun too both in smaller groups and with the entire team.
If possible, try to pair volunteers with mentors who have experience in the area they will be serving. For example, if your new leader has never led a small group before, consider pairing them up with a very experienced small group leader, so they can learn from them. This is a great way to build trust and strengthen the team quickly while providing them opportunities for growth.
Correct when Necessary
It is also important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, even you! Do not be afraid of admitting when something has gone wrong or things did not turn out as planned. This is the only way for your team members to learn what needs to change in order for them to have a successful event next time. When this happens, though, help your leaders think through the process of what could be improved upon, rather than just pointing out where it went wrong. (Important bonus tip: Be sure to also admit when you make a mistake.)
Do not be afraid of letting your volunteers do their jobs, even if you are new in their leadership position at your church. They may make some mistakes (see above), but this is how they learn too! You want them to have freedom to “fail” but not like they are all alone in it. It is important you also provide positive feedback when someone does something well so that they know that it was noticed. You don’t want to be the one who is only pointing out where they messed up.
Acknowledge Publicly and Privately
If you have volunteers who go above and beyond, consider letting them know that their efforts are noticed. For example, if someone submits an idea to redo your student welcome night but it doesn’t happen until next year because of other events coming up this year, send out an email thanking them for thinking ahead! You may even want to do something special like having lunch together at church or inviting them over for dinner one evening so you can get to know more about them personally and encourage them in that way. Also, remember to thank everyone regularly for their work throughout the year instead of just saying “thank you” during a designated appreciation event.
Be sure that everyone on the volunteer team knows what their role is and how it fits into the larger goals of student ministry at your church so they can see how crucial it is too. They will feel valued if they know exactly where they fit within everything going on around them. Also, make sure each person feels like he/she has some input over decisions being made by asking questions about upcoming events or programs. Some volunteers may want more responsibility or opportunities to help with things besides small group leading.
Set the Example
Finally, be sure that you model a positive attitude yourself. If your attitudes are negative and you complain all the time, it is going to rub off on everyone else who serves with you! Be enthusiastic about what God has planned next in student ministry even if there have been some setbacks over previous events. The more of a positive environment you create, the more your team will be excited to serve, make an impact, and invite others to join them in the journey! So set the example!
I hope you found these tips helpful as you lead your team. Remember that we cannot do this alone! God wants to use you to form a team of passionate youth workers to multiply the efforts of reaching your community for Christ.
Please consider sharing these tips with another youth worker. Also if you have other things that have helped you manage your team, please share them in the comments, so others can benefit!