Training Your Volunteers

rawpixel-com-196464Volunteers are a vital part of having a successful student ministry. Student pastors cannot effectively run their student ministry on their own. They need a team of committed volunteers who love Jesus and love students. Once a student pastor gets a few of these volunteers on their team they then have to decide how they will go about training and coaching them.

I use to get so overwhelmed with thinking through an effective strategy for training my student ministry volunteers. Part of the problem was in how I was assuming that training had to take place. I assumed the only way to train them was to have weekly or monthly meetings where the training took place. I even tried this during one of my first years in student ministry and found out very quickly how difficult it was to get all my leaders there and to actually make it enjoyable for the ones that did show up. After that I went to the other extreme and pretty much did no training. Both were not good and certainly not healthy for our volunteers or the student ministry. I have now found a decent balance in how I train and coach my volunteers. It involves less consistent meetings (who doesn’t love less meetings) and instead a focus on a few major training events throughout the year, ongoing coaching via social media, and the use of helpful resources. Below are more details on those things.

Two major training events. Instead of meeting consistently throughout the year we hold two major training events. One is called Equipped and happens before the school year program kicks off. The second is a mid-year training (we don’t have a catchy name for that one) that happens in January. Equipped is a half-day training event that involves fellowship (we provide food and time for leaders to connect with one another), worship, training sessions (both live and via video), and of course a bunch of free gifts (we try and shower our volunteers with gifts as a way to say “thank you” in advance for the work they are going to put in during the school year). The mid-year training event is shorter and more about touching base and seeing how everyone is doing. We do this one following Sunday worship services and provide lunch for our volunteers. We debrief the year so far and talk about what’s coming up. We also do one training session that is sometimes live and other times done via video. Doing two major training events has been a huge hit with our volunteers. Many of them have very busy schedules and this allows them to actually be at our training events. It also helps us plan these events out and do our best at making them quality events for our volunteers.

Ongoing social media coaching. A few years ago I created a Facebook group just for our volunteers. One of main reasons I created it was to have a quick way to communicate details about upcoming events and such with my leaders. I’ll be honest, the group tends to be used mostly for just that type of thing still. However, one thing I have done and plan to do more of is use it to coach up my volunteers. I can do this through posting articles and videos that may help them minister to students. I can also post quick notes of encouragement to them throughout the year. There are many ways to use a Facebook group like this for our volunteers.

Helpful resources. It’s hard to come up with new training material yourself. There is almost too many resources out there to even try. In addition to great books (that most or not all of your volunteers will probably never read) there are some great online resources that you can use to train your volunteers. You can use these resources at training events (as we did this year) or as an ongoing thing throughout the year with your leaders. Here are some helpful online resources you can use – Download Youth Ministry (grab a DYM silver or gold memersbip and get access to a library of training videos) DYM University (not free but worth the cost), and LeaderTreks. There is more stuff out there but these are three places I go consistently for resources to use when training my volunteers.

Training and coaching volunteers looks different in every student ministry. Student pastors will do well not to just copy what another ministry does but instead find a plan that works for their ministry and volunteers.

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3 Reasons Why Former Students Make Great Volunteers in Your Ministry

elijah-henderson-48573Some of my best student ministry volunteers are former students. For many years I overlooked former students and never recruited them to come back and be volunteers in our ministry. However, in the past few years I’ve leaned into this group and seen more and more of my former students come back to serve as volunteers.

We do have a policy that former students must be a year removed from high school before they can serve in our high school ministry. Because of this many of my former students start out serving in our middle school ministry.

I’m convinced that former students have the potential to be your best volunteers. Here are three simple reasons why I believe that.

1. You know them. One of the great things about using former students as volunteers is the simple fact that you know them. You have probably spent a few years getting to know them, pouring into them, and seeing them grow. You have a decent grip on their strengths and weaknesses. You know their personality and how they operate. Usually when you recruit a new volunteer you know next to nothing about them. All you know is what they shared in their application or when you met with them a few times. However, former students you know and this will help you put them in the right spot within your ministry.

2. They know you and your ministry. Not only do you know them but they know you. In addition to knowing you they also know your ministry. They probably have a good understanding of what you want your ministry to look like and be about. They know the culture and vibe of your ministry. This will save them much time and energy as they set out to be volunteers in your ministry. Sure there will be some things they don’t know. It will be new for them to be on the “leader side” of the ministry. However, they will know more than the normal new volunteer so that’s a plus.

3. They want to give back. The reason most former students come back to be volunteers is so they can give back to the ministry. Usually these are students who God impacted in huge ways through your ministry. Because of this they want to come back and be a part of God doing that for other students. This is the main reason they make great volunteers – they have experienced God through your ministry and they now want to help other students experience the same thing. That’s awesome!

Don’t overlook your former students when you think about volunteers for your ministry. Reach out to them and get them plugged in. They will make great volunteers in your ministry.

Things to Focus on this Summer

dan-chung-4106If you’re in student ministry the next few weeks brings a major shift for you and your ministry. The school year is coming to a close and your program is probably about to change a bit. In our ministry we take a break from weekly gatherings and just do a handful of events and activities where the priority is building relationships with our students and their friends. With this change of pace brings the opportunity to focus on a few things that may have been pushed to the side during the busy school year. Below are a few things students pastors should focus on this summer. They are broken into two categories: ministry and personal.

In regards to your ministry, focus on…
Getting out of your office and spend time with students. Let’s face it, spending time with students during the school year outside of your programs isn’t easy. Their in school most of the day and your busy writing talks and planning the next big event. Now that summer is here you and your students should be more free to hangout. Take advantage of it. One of things we are doing this summer is having a weekly time for girls to get together and a time for guys to get together. The girls are going to meet at a local park for a picnic and to go hiking while the guys will meet at the church to play basketball. Here is a deeper look into what our ministry looks like during the summer months. Spend less time in the office this summer (be sure you tell your pastor you’re not just sleeping in or taking the summer off) and more time hanging out with students.

Planning for next school year. By now you should have a rough idea of what your student ministry calendar looks like for next school year. The summer is when you want to nail that calendar down. Get dates and major details for your events locked in. In addition to events be sure to plan out your teaching schedule as well. Strive to put together a solid teaching schedule that will get you through the upcoming school year.

Recruiting new leaders. The summer gives you some extra time to find new leaders. You probably will loose some after the school year so every summer comes the challenge of finding a few new ones. Spend time recruiting new leaders and meeting with them. Find out what their skills and passions are. Strive to get them plugged in and ready to go for the upcoming school year. I recently wrote a post about some things to remember when you recruit new volunteers.

In regards to yourself personally, focus on…
Reading. Hopefully you find time to read even during the busy school year. However, the summer months should open up some extra time for reading. As a side note, I put this under the “personal” section but don’t forget reading should be a part of your job as a pastor too. Either way, find some time this summer to read. Read ministry books. Read theology books. Read fiction books. Read biographies. Read books by people you agree with. Read books by people you disagree with. Read for your growth as a follower of Christ. Read for your growth as a leader. Just read as much as you can.

Getting a good vacation. Don’t let the summer go by without getting in a solid vacation. If you have a family, plan a family vacation that allows you and your family time to kick back and relax. You need this more than you probably realize. Wayne Cordeiro says, “Those who’s vocation is all about giving out are wearing out.” As student pastors we “give out” a lot. Throughout the school year we are constantly giving. That’s why we need to take a break and rest. Summer is a great time for this. Be sure to take a summer vacation and get some much needed rest. By the way, take some books on your vacation. Vacation is a great time for reading.

I’d like to end this post with making a statement some may agree with while others may not – your summer months should look different than the months during the school year. That doesn’t mean your job as a student pastors gets easier and you all of a sudden get extra hours you somehow lost during the school year. However, it does mean you don’t have to have a weekly program. You don’t have to be writing talks. You don’t have to be planning event after event. Take a break from the programs and talks. Spend time with students and build relationships. Plan for the upcoming year. Most of all, focus on growing as a person and a leader while getting some extra time to refresh yourself before the busyness hits again in late August.

 

Recruiting Student Ministry Volunteers

For a church to have a healthy student ministry it needs more than just a student pastor or director. A good student ministry should certainly be led by a gifted, passionate pastor or director but that person will need a solid team of volunteers working alongside them. It’s important student pastors understand this and make recruiting volunteers a priority in their ministry.

Recruiting volunteers seems like a never ending task in student ministry. One of the big things I do every summer is recruit new volunteers. It’s part of the job of being in charge of a student ministry. I want to suggest a few tips that have helped me in regards to recruiting volunteers.

Don’t make a desperate call, instead, personally recruit volunteers. The easiest way to recruit volunteers for your ministry is to put something in the bulletin or say something from upfront during announcements. This isn’t the worst thing you can do but it certainly makes it difficult as you will have many people “sign up” and you may have to turn some of them down because they are not a good fit. However, if you’re willing to just let anyone serve in your student ministry you can go this route. I’d caution anyone on this and encourage them instead to personally recruit volunteers rather than just make a massive call. This will allow you to find the right people for your ministry. This takes much more time and energy but I believe it’s the best way to recruit volunteers for your ministry. Before moving on, let me just add this – if you are going to make a call for volunteers (whether that’s online, in the bulletin, or from upfront) be sure to have a application process so you can find the right volunteers. More on this process next.

Have a process. Don’t just let people sign up and become a volunteer without you having them go through a short process. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Our process for bringing new volunteers on board is pretty simple. First, I meet with them one on one to share with them what our ministry looks like and explain to them the areas they can serve. During this meeting I usually try and find out where they best fit within our ministry based on their passions and gifts. Second, they fill out a short application. This allows me to get to know them a bit more and gives them the opportunity to share their faith story. Sometimes people will fill the application out before I meet with them. Third, we background check the potential volunteer. Everyone that serves in our ministry must have a background check. Whatever your process is, please don’t skip this! This is important for your church and for the safety of your students. Once these three steps have happened I bring the volunteer on board and they start to serve.

Look for young and old. Strive to not have a volunteer team that is made up of people of the same age. It’s easy for student pastors to fall into the trap of thinking the best volunteers are college students and young adults. There are many valuable things this age group brings to the table so by all means recruit them! However, realize some of the best student ministry volunteers in your church may be older individuals. Strive to build your volunteer team with people from all age groups and seasons of life. This will bring excitement, balance, and maturity to your team.

This is just a few tips to help you recruit volunteers for your student ministry. Here are a few resources that may help you in this area: Everyone’s Called to Youth Ministry by Darren Sutton, The New Breed by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee, and Youth Pastor (chapter 9) by Houston Heflin.

Guest Post: Love. Preach. Pray. Go.

brian-post-picPastoral Ministry is hard.

For those of us who’ve been called to such a responsibility, such a task, such a race, we understand the calling of “Pastor” is a glorious calling, but difficult; rewarding, but inconvenient; sweet, yet sometimes sour; smooth seas, but sometimes rough currents. Yes, the calling of Pastor is hard, but is glorious.

I have been asked to share a few thoughts on ministry. For Starters, I’m Brian Hancock, and I have had the privilege to serve the Lord as a youth director, Bible teacher, and now Student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. For nearly 11 years now, I’ve worked with the younger generation (from kindergarteners to college level students) to help them know Christ, and to grow in their walk with Him. It has been an incredible journey. Throughout ministry, I have seen agnostics find truth in Christ, drug addicts find hope in Christ, the depressed and lonely and outcast find identity in Christ. I’ve seen parents weep with joy as their son or daughter is baptized, thinking to themselves “I never thought this day would come.” Yes, God has done great things in these 10+ years, to Him be the Glory. Amen.

My current Pastorate, as I mentioned previously, is at Neel Road in NC. God has certainly moved here on Neel Road’s campus. To borrow a quote from our soon to be president, God has blessed “Big League.” I began ministry at Neel Road some 2 ½ years ago, In June 2014. As the months began to pass, our attendance began to increase from an average of 3 to 10 to 15 to an average of 30, present day. Not only did our numbers increase, but God began saving people. In 2016 alone, our student ministry saw 19 salvations, and 9 baptisms. God truly has done something special here, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to have been able to see it.

How did this happen? What strategies of ministry were put in place that God has chosen to honor? Well, I’m going to try and share them below. I want to provide a preface before we continue, however. It is my heart’s desire that God get full glory from what he has done here. Brian Hancock didn’t do this: God did. Read and use these few truths below if you would like, but please understand these aren’t intended to take away from his Glorious grace and mercy. Now with that said, here are some thoughts.

It is my belief that the following truths must be present in order for any student ministry to grow and flourish:

Love. You have to love your kids. Now, I’m not talking merely vocalizing your love for them. Loving your students takes action. It takes sacrifice, of your time and energy. Its answering the phone at 2am instead of putting it on silent. It’s meeting that boy or girl who is suffering from a broken heart at the office on your day off. It’s telling your students the sometimes inconvenient truths from Gods word when you see they are slipping in their walk. Its loving them with action, not just words. At Neel Road Student Ministry, there is a true since of family. We have pushed and pushed and pushed this since day one. With that since of family, comes love: for each other, and for their God. As pastors, we must model what it means to love, regardless of how convenient or inconvenient it sometimes can be. If you resolve to do this, you will see your students respect you, respect each other, and pursue their God on such a deeper, more intimate level. Learn to exemplify your love for them beyond your words.

Preach. I have never met a pastor that disliked preaching. The problem, however, is pastors aren’t preaching anymore. Instead, pastors have traded the pulpit for a soap box OR have used the 20 minutes they have to speak as a self help session or college lecture. Many youth pastors, out of fear of offending or hurting a student’s feelings, will water down messages and avoid certain passages of scripture. DON’T BE THAT GUY. Students don’t need to hear how good they are, because for anyone who has an ounce of Bible education knows that humans are totally depraved. Students need to hear that. They need to hear that we are sinners, and how a loving God came and died for their sin. They need to hear messages that are brought with passion, and boldness. Students need Pastors who aren’t afraid to be REAL. They need to hear that REPENTANCE is still important. Don’t be the pastor who preaches “ear candy” every time you have your students together. Give your students meat from God’s Word. Give them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. If you preach soft, you’ll produce soft sheep, and no pastor wants that. They want students that are bold, and live with conviction. Preach hard and boldly. Preach the Bible fully. Preach with conviction and tears, and watch God work.

Pray. John Piper once said that “Until you know that life is war, you’ll never know what prayer is for.” Prayer is KEY. If you aren’t praying for God to send students and for God to work and bless and keep your ministry established on his Word and truth, your ministry will fall like a house of cards. Ministry is too hard for any man to do it alone, and only through the blessing of God will any effort prosper. Ministry is a war, and the war is life and death. We all want to produce students who are prayer warriors, but don’t expect that if we aren’t constantly hitting our knees. Pray, pray, and pray some more. The more you seek him, not only will your confidence grow through him, but he will honor your prayers. Pray more, and watch what happens.

Go. Any healthy student ministry involves itself in missions and ministry outside of the church building. Local, national, and international missions and ministry opportunities are ways to expose them to practical ways of fulfilling the great commission. I tell my students constantly that we aren’t saved to “sit, saturate and sulk, but to serve, sacrifice, and suffer.” What better way to serve than through missions and ministry. Our students volunteer once a month at the local soup kitchen, we participate in non profit efforts around town throughout the year. On a national level, our students travel to Washington DC for a week of on street evangelism during the summer. Training is throughout the year, and students are required to meet certain criteria to participate. Foreign missions is something we are still working toward. We are giving faithfully to the IMB (International missions board) that goes to support foreign missionaries. Get your students involved in missions and ministries, challenging them to reach a world outside the convenience of the four walls of your church, and watch them grow exponentially for the kingdom.

How are you doing with loving your students? Is your preaching passionate? Do you make prayer time a priority? Is missions and ministry outside of the church building a focus for you in 2017? Take these truths, and consider them. These past 11 years have been great, and I look forward to the next 50. God bless you, may he keep you and your ministry, and may he always seek to serve him for HIS GLORY, and for the JOY of others.

Brian Hancock is the student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. He is a graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, NC. Brian has written a book called “Disciplined: Foundations of a Disciplined Disciple” which are available free of charge. Brian has spoken at several local churches, youth conferences, Bible colleges and Christian schools. Brian may be reached at bhancock@neelroad.org.