Youth ministry, student ministry, youth group, youth pastor, adult volunteers

Train Your Volunteers without Adding Another Meeting

By Guest Contributor August 20, 2014

By Phil Bell

Effective training is better when it is simple, memorable, and practical.

Volunteers only have a few hours a week with each student, so we must teach them to use their limited time wisely. The last thing they need is another meeting. They are already so busy, running everywhere in their lives and hardly slowing down. It’s better to give volunteers small bites to chew on. Over time, these small steps will add up to significant impact. Your volunteers’ time is valuable. Help them make it count. Here are three short periods of time volunteers should consider:

The first 15 minutes: At our youth program, the first few minutes are the most important. The first 15 minutes communicate whether or not we really care about students as they arrive. This is when students are most nervous, walking into a room full of people—or even more distressing, an empty room with just the leaders. First, leaders should avoid getting caught up in conversations with each other as students arrive. Second, we must look out for nervous or introverted students. Remember, first impressions stick with you, and it’s hard to take back a bad welcome.

The last 15 minutes: In the last 15 minutes, students are most open to God’s work in their lives. This is when they will be more comfortable, processing what they have heard from the message or study. But as the evening wraps up, I am already evaluating what happened and conversing with leaders about how things went for them. My time would be better spent seek out students and checking in as they process. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity to hear from their hearts and to minister to them.

The next 15 to 60 minutes: Many volunteers don’t know how to reach students outside of your programs. Or they may think their duties only exist inside the bubble of your weekly program. However, these small but essential times with students make a huge difference. Here are a few ways they can connect with students out of their own limited time:

  • If they have a busy week, they could show up to the last part of a sports game. Make sure the student knows they were there (and their parents, too!). Ask them to take a photo on and tag the student on Facebook.
  • volunteers quoteHave volunteers send a note in the mail. With all the electronic modes of communication, this will stand out. Everyone loves to get mail, and students aren’t an exception.
  • On social media, volunteers can let students know they are praying for them, encouraging them, or just saying “Hi.” These short interactions will go a long way towards communicating that the volunteers care. But ask volunteers to be careful not to make online conversations too deep. That should be reserved for face-to-face time. Also, make sure parents are okay with volunteers communicating with their students this way.
  • Ask volunteers to grab a coke or coffee with students (same sex only).
  • Or if you’re looking for something out of the box, have volunteers take students grocery shopping. Bonus: If they have children, they’ll get free “kid control”!

I am sure you have better ideas than these. It’s not rocket science. But I have found that these are simple yet effective ways to build relationships that lead to faith conversations and beyond. They don’t take much time to implement, and even better, they don’t require an extra meeting for training. A short conversation is all it takes to help volunteers make the most of these crucial times.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

The LeaderTreks Blog is proud to share the hard-earned wisdom of student ministry leaders from many different backgrounds and professions. From time to time, we will feature guest blog posts from writers other than our regular contributors. We include these posts to provide additional perspectives and insight that we’re sure will help develop you and your ministry…  Read More