Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the first post in this series be sure to go back and read it. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Laura Dudones.
“God’s timing is so perfect. This fact is the biggest thing I saw during my week in Honduras. I have seen how much I have grow, and the way God used everything I have been through to help me serve Him. On the second day, I was challenged to share my testimony in front of some team members I didn’t know very well, and a few strangers from a different team who was there, and it was one of the most difficult things for me to do, but I knew I could do it, and I knew there was a reason I had been challenged. This lead to forming deeper relationships with my team members, and even lead to an amazing opportunity to share with one of my team members who is going through some very similar issues as I did. God put it in her heart to share a bit of her life that she was struggling with, and placed me exactly where he needed me to be at that time (physically and mentally). God showed me the love and joy He gives to those who follow Him, and all the wonderful things He is capable of doing with ordinary people. I saw God overcome language barriers through love, and I saw the amazing work He is doing in Honduras at La Providencia. Our team faced many challenges and struggles as the week went on, and it became very difficult to keep spirits up, but we pushed through and found joy and strength in each other. This team truly loved each other deeply, and we knew how to come together and focus on serving God. We prayed before everything, and we spent quality time having intentional conversations about God and our devotionals. The way God can move through a group of kids from an average town in Ohio, showed how truly powerful He is. I feel eternally blessed to have experienced this amazing week with a team of people I can honestly call my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that God placed me on this team for a reason, and I know that He has big plans for the people in my team. I cannot wait to see all He has planned for my future, and to watch His perfect timing in action.”
Some 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.
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.
The Christ-Centered Expositor by Tony Merida. This is by far one of the best preaching books I have ever read. From the title of the book it’s pretty easy to catch what Merida is passionate – expository preaching that is Christ-centered. The goal of this helpful books is to help preachers (even though others could benefit from this book but his main audience is preachers) understand how they can better preach Christ-centered expository sermons. It serves as a handbook to do just that. What I love about this book is how Merida spends the first half talking about the preachers heart. These are challenging chapters that will cause preachers to evaluate their life, doctrine, prayer life, and more. These early chapters help the preacher see that who is plays into what he preaches. The second half of the book is extremely practical. These chapters lay out a five step process to writing Christ-centered expository sermons. I’d recommend this book to those who have been preaching for a long time as well as those who may be in seminary preparing for pastoral ministry. It’s also helpful for those in between who are early in their ministry career.
Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth Institute. The Churches Engaging Young People project studied churches who were effectively engaging 15-29 year olds (click here to read more about their research). From their research they found out there are six essential strategies that churches use to engage teenagers and young adults. This book helps churches understand how they too can practice these essential strategies in their context. I really enjoyed the depth of this book and the extent of the research. In addition, the book also gives many practical steps for churches to follow if they want to effectively reach teenagers and young adults. I also really liked how they included many stories of churches doing this well. I came away with some great ideas but also with some fresh inspiration for reaching teenagers and young adults in the context of the local church. I would recommend this book to anyone who serves in a local church, especially those who work with teenagers and young adults.
Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In this book Alcorn helps the reader understand money in light of God’s Word. There is almost too much in this book to even be able to write a short review. It’s packed with challenging chapters on tithing, giving, debt, savings, materialism, church finances, and money in light of eternity. Alcorn is both extremely Biblical and practical. He doesn’t hold back in sharing with the reader what God says about money and goes to great lengths to provide practical things for the reader to do in regards to their money. I’d recommend this book to every believer who wants to better understand God’s view of money and how they should handle it.
Up next on my reading list is On Preaching by H.B. Charles and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.
Social media is a vital part of doing ministry in our world. A ministry that isn’t leveraging social media is missing, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways of communicating with people in our culture. Everyone seems to be using at least one social media network and most people are using multiple ones. So how can we in ministry take advantage of this?
I want to suggest a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Some of these suggestions are things we are currently doing in our ministry while some of them are things we are not doing but other ministries are.
Event Promotion. This is by far the easiest and most popular way ministries are using social media. However, this can be overdone. People want to see more than event promos on your social media accounts. More than likely if all they see is promos for your next event they may stop looking at your account all together or glance over it in the future. So promote your events but do so wisely.
Event Pictures. It’s easy to post promo stuff about your event but it’s another thing to intentionally get good photos from your events to post. People both at the event and not at the event will enjoy seeing pictures. This is also a great way to show people on the outside what your ministry looks like. Be sure to capture good photos. Have someone who is gifted in this area take photos at your events and post them on your social media accounts.
Sermon Quotes. This is a creative way many churches are using social media. It’s also a great way to get the sermon out of the pulpit and into the minds of people throughout the week. Take quotes from the sermon and post them throughout the week. This allows people to be reminded of what they heard but also share God’s Word with other people via social media.
Worship Set. This is another creative thing many churches are doing. Simply post the songs your worship band did on social media. This is a great way to communicate the songs you sang with your people since many of them may love the songs you sing but not know the title. I’d encourage you to search #worshipset and #sundaysetlist on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to see some examples of churches doing this kind of thing.
Highlight Volunteers. Volunteers are vital to any ministry. We should always be looking for creative ways to brag on them and a way to say “thank you.” Social media is a great place to do just that. It allows us to publicly thank them and brag on them for a bit. Some churches do a “Volunteer of the Week” type thing. They pick a volunteer every week that serves in their ministry and they post a picture and some thoughts about them. They usually highlight where they serve in their ministry and then give them a public “thank you” for all to see. One of the churches that is doing this very well on a weekly basis is Collide Church. Jump over to their Instagram page to see their “Volunteer of the Week” posts.
These are just a few simple ways you can use social media in your ministry. Be creative and be looking for ways to leverage the power of social media for your ministry.
Suggested Books: Going Social by Terrace Crawford and Social Media Guide for Ministry by Nils Smith (both of these books are a few years old so they may be outdated in some areas in regards to social media).