One of the hardest jobs in youth ministry goes to the people that don’t get their picture on the website, don’t get recognized in church, don’t get the credit for a successful event but in reality are the heartbeat of the ministry, the volunteers! There are so many things that need to come together to run a ministry. The main youth leader or youth pastor is usually responsible for all of the planning, speaking, and day to day running of the ministry, but if they were all honest they would acknowledge that the true pulse of the ministry is the volunteers. Volunteers can take a ministry from average to excellent and can definitely have a massive impact on students’ lives. For many students the people they will remember most are not the pastor and the youth pastor but the volunteers that they built relationships with.
While volunteering can have a huge impact it can also be very difficult. Volunteers are not the ones who are seminary trained, read youth ministry books/blogs all day, or eat, sleep, and breathe youth ministry culture. Sometimes, it can feel like you have no clue what to do when you are at youth group, especially if your youth pastor does not communicate what he or she is expecting. So, what does your youth pastor really want from you as a volunteer? Here are a few attributes of an amazing volunteer.
1. Understand the vision
Be on board with the mission, vision, and plan of attack that the ministry has in place. Not just to know the mission or have read it but to honestly understand it so that it becomes the road map for why you do ministry. If the youth pastor has clearly defined where he or she is going and how to get there, there is nothing more encouraging than to have a volunteer completely grasp that vision and come along side him/her on his/her journey. It makes ministry so much easier when the volunteers do the ministry with the vision in mind and are actively involved in thinking of new ways to accomplish the mission and vision.
2. Take initiative
There are many situations that arise in youth ministry and as a volunteer it is difficult to know what to do in certain situations or even if you should do anything or just pass it along to someone more qualified. I understand the concern, you do not want to mess up or do the wrong thing. However, you know more than you think, and trust me no youth pastor will be upset with you for trying to take care of a situation that comes up and not knowing exactly what to do. In my ministry there are many nights that I get through youth group feeling pretty good that there were no situations. As I am talking to my volunteers after the service I find out that there were multiple situations (discipline issues, drama, lost phones, students that needed prayer, etc) but they were all dealt with by my volunteers which allows me to focus on leading and delivering the message. Not saying that you don’t inform the youth pastor of the issue because they do want to know what happened but they don’t want to have to be the one to take care of every little thing that comes up.
I know sometimes it is hard to know your boundaries on what to do or when to do it but your youth pastor is looking for someone to take the initiative without being told whether it is setting up the game, sitting next to a talkative student during the message, or dealing with drama.
3. Interact with and build relationships with students
Youth ministry is a highly relational ministry. People in general, but especially students, don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The sincere conversation that you have with a student at youth group might be the only one they have that week. Volunteers have an incredible opportunity to impact students for the rest of their lives just by building relationships with them. Youth pastors and youth directors will NOT be able to connect to every single student and that is why volunteers are so important when it comes to relational ministry.
Sometimes this means stepping out of your comfort zone and just simply interacting with students. Yes, it can be very awkward sometimes! But the reward is definitely worth it! I know the temptation to just stand in the back and talk with the other adult volunteers, but this is not building meaningful relationships with students and it is more times than not just driving your youth pastor nuts.
4. Be reliable
In youth ministry volunteers play a huge part in making it run. Having reliable volunteers that are there consistently with a servant’s heart is essential to the health of the ministry and the sanity of the youth pastor. He or she wants to use you to your full potential but that means that you need to show up, be on time, and complete the tasks you have been assigned. Youth pastors understand that you as a volunteer are sacrificing your time to be there (and it is definitely appreciated!) but when you are not going to be there please, let us know! Your youth pastor wants to know that you are going to be a reliable volunteer that they can partner with to do great ministry.