For as long as I can remember I have been a part of team sports. I grew up playing many sports but the one that captured my heart was baseball. To me baseball was amazing, and I took my love for playing baseball all the way through college ball and even navigating professional offers after college. There I learned the importance of a strong team. I was fortunate enough to play for extremely strong teams during my college years where we won our league 3 times and even made an appearance at the college world series. I attribute our success to the fact that we were a strong team. Sure, we had players with talent but so did every other team. In fact, we faced many teams who had players more talented than us but we came out victorious. What set us apart was the fact that we were a team that knew how to work together well, and we had a coach that led us well and used our strengths.
This same concept of a strong team is so important in ministry as well. You can be an amazing pastor who can do it all but eventually if you do not build a strong team you will no longer be able to sustain it. If your team is lacking your ministry will lack. There is a point where it is not possible for you to do everything, especially if you expect to do everything well. You are essentially only as strong as the team around you. So, how do you build a strong team within your youth ministry? Here are a few tips to help with the process of building a ministry team.
Teams in ministry can mean anything from adult leaders, to student leaders, to a support team that doesn’t actually do hands on ministry with you. Each team is important and one of the biggest ways you build a strong team, whatever team it is, is to do a good job of recruiting. This can be very difficult and as we all know the blanket announcement from the front of “we need help, come volunteer with us” doesn’t always work out so well. So, how do you recruit? The same way a college sports team might do it. They don’t just announce “hey who wants to play for our team?” they personally invite people to be a part of their team. Trust me a personal conversation with someone asking them to help out in the ministry can be exactly what that person needs to step up and become an amazing youth worker. Your first response may be “yea but we just don’t have a ton of young people” and guess what, that is okay. Your focus on recruiting shouldn’t be just to get as many young 20 somethings as possible, it should be to build the best team possible and that is going to be done by finding people whose hearts are in the right place. (check this post out about this “When is a youth worker too old?”) If you are going to build a good, strong team, you first need to recruit well.
Train and lead well
The common denominator between every strong team that I have been a part of, sports and ministry, is not the players that are on them. Those are always changing. Rather It is the coach. Not the same coach, but the same type of coach. A strong coach who prepares the team well, focuses them on the goal, and keeps them motivated. If you are leading a team whether it is students, or adults you NEED to train them. Can you imagine if a college coach recruited players and then said “we aren’t going to practice, or sharpen your skills but let’s do this! It’s game time!”? You would say that is crazy, but most youth ministries do just that. They recruit leaders and then just throw them in blind with no training at all. Have training meetings, bring in speakers, find leader training videos that you can show and discuss, send them blog posts or articles. Do something to train and prepare your team.
As the leader of the team it is also your job to point them in the right direction by setting a strong mission, vision, and plan of attack. (if you need help with this check out this eBook here) Remind them often of the mission and vision and help them make it a part of how they do ministry. Keep them excited about the mission and continue helping them find ways they can fulfill that mission.
Use them well
If the team is going to be the strongest it can be you must use the team members where they are their best. Can you imagine if someone took over a football team and decided that everyone on the team was going to be a running back? That would be nuts! That is not what everyone is made for. Can you picture a 350 pound lineman running and juking people? Yea, exactly my point. In youth ministry too often we do not take the time to find out the strengths of our team members and use them where they will best serve the team. We just tell everyone to do the same thing. (Check out this post “why your leaders are like surfboards”)
Part of using your team well is respecting them. That means trusting them. When you assign them tasks don’t go behind them and “fix” what they do wrong, I admit this one is hard for me! Respecting them also means valuing them. I had someone suggest changing the terms you use when referring to your leaders to give them the value that they deserve. They suggested changing “chaperone” because it carries the idea that they are just there to watch and not be involved, or the term “volunteer” because it implies that they are just temporary and dispensable. Do whatever it takes for you to make your leaders feel valued and keep them encouraged.
As leaders it is important to build strong teams because it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t do it on your own. If you are not constantly striving to build strong teams whether it is students, or adults you are not living up to your calling as a leader.
Blog post topic submitted by Josh Hudson, youth pastor in Madison, AL.
If you would like to submit a topic or idea email Stokedonyouthministry@gmail.com