Working with Volunteers, part 3

This is the last of the series about volunteers. This blog will take a look at a couple of “good” problems that we encounter with volunteers.

Problem 5: The Highly Equipped, Highly Educated One

For several years at my ministry at Messiah, the leader of our high school Bible Study on Wednesday night was a seminary grad who had a lot of former experience in teaching, youth ministry, and theology. This teacher was able to teach, challeng,e and encourage the students in incredible ways. I was confident in his ability to teach and lead and could usually count on he and his wife to help chaperone and lead events and know that they would go well. As volunteers, I couldn’t have asked for much better. However, this volunteer and his wife moved earlier this school year and for a while, there was a bit of a “volunteer vacuum” in his absence.

Having highly equipped and highly educated volunteers is a great thing. But how do you create sustainability?

Solution: Mentoring

When you have a good leader, it can be easy to take them for granted and assume that they’ll always be there, or always be able to lead. This isn’t always the case and in some circumstances, the highly equipped, highly educated volunteer becomes the highly overworked, highly burnt-out volunteer or the highly equipped, highly educated leader becomes the highly transient moving about the country volunteer. One of things that have helped our ministry (and our church) is the implementation of teams. Instead of having one volunteer plan all of VBS, we have a team of volunteers that divide up duties and plan it together. Other churches utilize team teaching for Sunday school or other Bible Studies (something we have done in the past and are starting again this summer).These volunteers are ones that you want others to learn from and emulate. Set up circumstances where these volunteers can work one on one with other volunteers to help make them highly equipped and highly educated. By working together and creating a culture where people are sharing their strengths, volunteers can learn and grow from each other.

Problem 6: Taking Charge or Taking Over?

It’s cliché, but people often fall into two categories: the doers and the watchers. While a little simplistic, I think the same is true in youth ministry. There are volunteers who would rather watch and assist and there are volunteers who would rather do first and take charge. It’s important to have both types. Sometimes, those that are used to taking charge in places outside of the church (work, sports, etc.) find it easy to step into that same position in youth ministry. There are lots of things that are great about these types of volunteers: 1) they often fill a perceived need without asking, 2) they get the job done well, 3) they are self-sufficient. There are also some things that can be challenging about these types of volunteers: 1) they will sometimes fill a “need” that doesn’t need to be filled, 2) the job that is done that shouldn’t be done,
3) they unintentionally usurp the authority of those in charge.

Solution: Balance and Direction

Take charge volunteers are great, but helping them find a balance between doing and doing too much can be tricky. To some extent, recognize that “Take Charge”
attitude will always be part of the person. The job of youth workers is to find a way for it to benefit the youth and other adult volunteers while building up that leader as well (Easy, right?!). If you know that you have such a leader attending an event, giving them specific responsibilities before or during the event can help them find their place and purpose. Meeting before hand to talk about what their role is will help them have a clear idea of where they fit and how they can best help support the ministry.

That’s all for this series folks! Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to leave ideas and suggestions in the comments.