student ministry, youth worker, youth ministry

Changing the Perspective of Your Adult Volunteers

By Doug Franklin September 18, 2012

“I’m just the van driver.  That’s my job.”  Bob told me on a recent student leadership retreat.  Bob saw himself as an important member of the team.  He was willing to drive the students around anytime he was needed.  He was taking care of an important logistical need for the youth pastor.  The problem for Bob was that he defined his impact in the youth ministry by the role he filled.  He was missing out on a great opportunity to influence the lives of students because he saw himself as “just the van driver”.

This problem is more prevalent in our youth ministries than most of us would care to admit.  We can all think of those volunteers who are happy to help as long as they can stay in a logistical role.  I once had a mom who volunteered in my youth ministry who saw her role as that of “rule enforcer”.  She was the one who was concerned that kids behave all the time.  This was a role that she picked out for herself because she was scared to develop a meaningful relationship with students.  The students responded to her as you might predict, by keeping her at arm’s length.  Volunteers who fall into this trap rob themselves and the youth ministry of intentional, effective relationships between adults and students.  If you want to help your volunteers become more intentional, you need to challenge the perspective of your volunteers.

Two different perspectives:

Unfortunately many volunteers have an upside down perspective of their place in the youth ministry.  They see themselves as serving the youth pastor and doing the “dirty work” behinds the scenes in the youth program.  Even though they may never state this, their perspective leads them to believe that they help the youth pastor as he or she works with the students.

Because of this perspective many volunteers are unwilling or unable to develop deep, personal relationships with students.  They don’t recognize the strategic role they play in challenging students to grow in Christ and the number of student who are being developed is drastically reduced.  While logistic support is important, it is no substitute for intentional relationships.  The youth worker is limited in their impact as there are only so many students that they can personally disciple.  These volunteers need to be challenged to change their perspective.

Most youth workers have a much different perspective of the role of a volunteer in their ministry.  They realize that an intentional volunteer is their most important asset.  The role of the youth worker is to develop and empower volunteers who can engage students in discipleship relationships.  These youth workers see themselves at the top of the volunteer pyramid focusing their energies to the volunteers below them.  The volunteers, then, understand that their role is to focus their energies on the students in the ministry.  The students, in turn, are able to experience God in a whole new way as they learn from an intentional volunteer mentor.

When volunteers see themselves as a link in the vital chain that leads to the growth and development of a student, they will start to see the ministry from the proper perspective.  This allows them to share the values of the youth pastor as well as see tangible results from their ministry in the lives of students.  They understand the role of the youth minister as well as the role that they are called to.  More students will be attracted to the ministry as the capacity for discipleship and growth increases.  Students will benefit as adults from all walks of life start to invest in them.  Having the proper perspective is the starting place for intentional volunteer ministry.

Creating an army of volunteers with this perspective will allow every student in your youth ministry to find a place.  Your volunteers will be intentional in their relationships with students.  Your students will be known, loved and challenged.  Your ministry will grow as more students will be attracted to these adults.  In short, by helping your volunteers adopt this perspective, you will be on your way to a healthy youth ministry and a strong, vibrant volunteer team.

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