student ministry, youth ministry, adult volunteers, fears of adult volunteers

10 Reasons Adults Don’t Connect With Students

By Doug Franklin April 25, 2017

Fear keeps us from lots of things – deeper relationships, meaningful conversations and implementing risky ideas. Fear is also what keeps most adults from volunteering to serve in the youth ministry and connecting with students. When I was I youth pastor, I chose to tackle these fears head on. I made a presentation to name the most common fears of my adult volunteers and then began conversations about each one. Here’s my list:

Top Ten Fears of Adult Volunteers
10. I’m too old.
9. I’m not hip.
8. I don’t speak their language.
7. I’m too smart for this.
6. I don’t know what to say.
5. I don’t look the part.
4. I don’t know enough about the Bible.
3. I don’t want to tell students what I did in the past.
2. I can’t relate.
1. Students won’t like me.

In my presentation, I would always put a funny picture next to each fear; it served to release tension and gave me an easy opening into a somewhat challenging discussion. Remember, these fears are powerful and gripping to youth ministry volunteers, and they won’t find our quick quips or silly stories incredibly helpful. Instead, we need to to communicate our own fears and give adults a chance to see themselves as students actually see them. We can do this in four ways:

1. Take volunteers back to their high school days. Ask them to think about an adult who had influence in their lives and remind them of the power of this relationship. Challenge them to think of how it shaped and molded them, whether positively or negatively. Then connect the dots for them and encourage them to be a positive influence in a student’s life.

2. Describe how a student thinks. As adults we tend to think that students see us as equals, but, for the most part, they don’t. Students see us as larger than life, as people who have all the answers and are worry free. (Little do they know.) But what this means is that a positive and upbeat adult will always attract students. They want to know what they think we know.

“A positive and upbeat adult will always attract students. They want to know what they think we know.”

3. Bring in a ringer. Invite someone who has had success to tell their story. Consider asking a member of your current team or someone from the congregation to come and share one of their fears and how God helped them overcome it. These personal ministry stories can be powerful for people on the front lines of ministry.

4. Focus on the results. I often find that people who are in a fight to reach a mountain top don’t end up making it because they never look up. They see the problems, but they never see the results. Ask a student to share how a relationship with an adult has made a difference, or challenge a student to communicate how they view their adult leaders. You might even share results based on what you’ve seen and heard.

As you consider going about this process, here’s one final word of caution: people don’t like to talk about their fears. If you think this isn’t a problem for your volunteers because you have never heard them talk about it, think again. Try this model of teaching at your next staff meeting and watch your volunteers’ reactions and the discussion that follows. Don’t let your fear of doing something new or different keep them from confronting their fears about serving in the youth ministry.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More