Adult Volunteer Training: Connecting with Students

By Doug Franklin October 27, 2011

Every fall youth workers want to train their new volunteers to be impactful with students. That starts with volunteers building relationships with students. We understand that if our volunteers are able to build strong relationships with students then students will turn to them to learn truth about Jesus Christ. So we must train our volunteers to build relationships. How? If this relationship building is so important what resources and tools are you giving your volunteers to insure that these key relationships are being built?

Let me share a simple tool we use at LeaderTreks; If you want to build a relationships with students then build it over their favorite subject; themselves. Students love two things; themselves and being discovered. Ever hang-out with students and just listen? Their conversations are just about them – they never ask a question of each other, they just try and one up each other. You can use this to your advantage. First, be honestly interested in who they are and second play a game of discovery we call 100 questions. We teach every one of our staff and interns this “game” that is extremely effective when talking with students. This game is affectionately known as 100 questions. When we play 100 questions you start off by asking a basic question. For example, “Jim, what is something you like to do?” Then after listening to his response we take a bit of information and ask a question about that.

Jim: “I like to listen to music.”

You: “What type of music do you like to listen to?”

Jim: “Black Eyed Peas, Maroon 5, The Fray, Rob Thomas… You know the good stuff (Note take 1 piece of information and ask about it.)

You: “Oh yeah what do you like about Rob Thomas?”

Jim: “Rob Thomas is amazing.”

You: “What is so amazing about Rob Thomas?”

This game starts with questions about what the students is wearing or what their favorite music is but it ends with the questions about where they are with Christ. Each time you ask a question you should take it deeper and deeper until you reach the most important questions about where they are with Christ.

The great thing about this game is that you can truly invest in a relationship and not know a thing about Rob Thomas or Sister Hazel, but you are showing interest in their life and caring; one of the key steps to maximizing relationships.

When training your volunteers in this game; don’t just tell them about it, have them practice it. We have our staff break-up in to groups of two and one person starts asking questions. I give them five minutes to ask as many questions as possible using this formula. Then I yell stitch and the other person starts asking questions. I am always amazed at what people can learn when they are intentional about discovering someone else.
Warning: most people will want to break into someone answer and tell a story. This game is best played when the adult volunteer asks and the student answers. The volunteers should only be asking questions never talking about themselves. (This can be tough)

Give this a try at your next staff meeting. It just takes a few minutes but it could give your volunteers a tool that we help them build a strong relationship with a student.

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