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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Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01It’s a new month so that means it’s time to look back at the games we played last month in our student ministry. As you will see, many of our games come from Download Youth Ministry so do yourself a favor and save some time by using the awesome games on their site. Be sure to click the game titles to download the game content or graphic.

Puking Rainbows or Not
How it Works: Students love the feature on Snapchat that allows them to take pictures of themselves (or their friends) puking rainbows. You can also puke other things on Snapchat as well. In this game, a picture will be shown and your students (you can play it as a stage game with a few contestants or as a crowd game where everyone plays) must if the next picture will have them puking rainbows or something else.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Whip and Fish
How it Works: This is a simple game that is fun for the contestants playing on stage as well as the crowd that is watching. Each contestant gets a plate full of Whip Cream. Buried in that Whip Cream is ten Swedish Fish that the contestants must get out without using their hands. They can only use their mouths. First contestant to get all ten Swedish Fish out wins.
Supplies: Whip Cream and Swedish Fish

Poop Deck
How it Works: This is a classic game that is always a hit. Divide the room up into three parts: low deck, mid deck, and poop deck. Everyone starts in one of the decks and must run to whatever deck the game leader calls out. Last person into that deck is out. You continue until there is one person left. You can also throw in “man overboard,” which means everyone must go touch a wall and “hit the deck,” which means everyone must drop to the floor and lay on their stomachs.
Supplies: Something to divide the room into three decks. We just tape down lines on the floor.

Lady, Knights, and Horse
How it Works: Students split up into groups of two. They each start on separate sides of the room and when the game leader calls out one of the three positions they must get in that position with their partner. “Lady” means one must jump into the arms of the other. “Knights” means one must get on one knee while the other sits on their knee. “Horses” means one must get on both hands and knees while the other sits on their back. Last group to get into position is out and the game continues until there is one group left.
Supplies: None!

What’re Those?
How it Works: One of the most popular viral videos among students is the “What’re Those?” video. It all started with one simple vine. Go here to see it if you haven’t. In this game students will see a zoomed in picture of a shoe and they must guess what brand of shoe it is.
Supplies: Game content from DYM

Plunger Push
How it Works: If you’re looking for a fun relay style game to try with your students you should try this one. Students must sit on a skateboard and then push themselves across the room using a plunger. We did this with two teams going head to head in a relay. You can do whatever variation you think works best with your group.
Supplies: Skateboards and plungers

The Last Time the Cleveland Browns Won It All
How it Works: If you’re a youth worker in northeast Ohio or have football fans in your group than give this game a shot. It’s pretty comical and will make you realize just how bad the Browns are. It’s a trivia style game where students must guess things that have happened since the last time the Browns won a championship (which was before the Super Bowl era).
Supplies: Game content from DYM

Scatterball
How It Works: Basically dodgeball but their are no sides and you can only take 3 steps with the ball. If you get hit you’re out. If you catch the ball the person who threw it is out. Once it gets down to a few people you can take the limited number steps away and let them run as much as they want. Can also throw in extra balls to speed the game up a bit.
Supplies: Dodgeballs (I suggest using Rhino Skin balls).

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Finding good games for your student ministry can be a very time consuming thing. In order to help other youth workers save time in this area I want to share the games we played this past month in our student ministry. All of these games went pretty well and were fun for our students. Be sure to click the game title to download the game graphic or purchase the game content. As a side note, you will notice many of these games come from Download Youth Ministry. I love DYM and the amazing content they are providing for youth workers. If you find yourself using their stuff often you should look into getting a DYM membership. You get tons of member only content as well as $20 store credit monthly for games and other content! One of the games we did this month that isn’t listed below was a game that was only available to DYM members. So become a member and get cool member only stuff too! Now to the games. Here are the games we played last month.

Whip or Nae Nae
How it Works:
All your students know the song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” They probably also know the dance moves to go along with it. This is a simple game where the crowd must pick a move – the whip or the nae nae. The game content comes with a video that will have both moves rotating and then when you are ready you can stop it by clicking which move you want it to stay on. Whoever picks that move is in (or out depending on how you want it to work). The games continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Poop Deck
How it Works: This is a classic game that is always a hit. Divide the room up into three parts: low deck, mid deck, and poop deck. Everyone starts in one of the decks and must run to whatever deck the game leader calls out. Last person into that deck is out. You continue until there is one person left. You can also throw in “man overboard,” which means everyone must go touch a wall and “hit the deck,” which means everyone must drop to the floor and lay on their stomachs.
Supplies: Something to divide the room into three decks. We just tape down lines on the floor.

Lady, Knights, and Horse
How it Works: Students split up into groups of two. They each start on separate sides of the room and when the game leader calls out one of the three positions they must get in that position with their partner. “Lady” means one must jump into the arms of the other. “Knights” means one must get on one knee while the other sits on their knee. “Horses” means one must get on both hands and knees while the other sits on their back. Last group to get into position is out and the game continues until there is one group left.
Supplies: None!

Ninja, Gun, Gorilla
How it Works: This a twist to the classic game paper rock scissors. Students find an opponent and must stand back to back. When they turn around they must pick one of the three things: Ninja (get into a ninja stance), Gun (make a hand gun), or Gorilla (beat their chest). When someone wins they find other winner to play. Game continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: None!

Turkey Bowling
How it Works: We did this at our Thanksgiving night with our high school students. We put down two rolls of painters plastic to act as “lanes.” We then used 2 liter soda bottles for the pins. We decided the group up by girls and guys and had them bowl with frozen turkey breasts. It was awesome!
Supplies: Painters plastic, 2 liter soda bottles or real bowling pins, and frozen turkey breasts or turkeys.

Cell Phone Shootout: Truth or Dare
How it Works: This is one of my favorite games from DYM! It has a few different versions and this truth or dare version was my favorite so far. The game content comes with a video that has a various truths and dares that rotate very fast. Your contestants must use their cell phone to snap a picture of the video screen. After they snap a picture look at their phone and find out what truth or dare they took a picture of. They then have to either answer the truth question or perform the dare.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Love them or hate them, games are a part of student ministry. It’s easy to spend way too much time searching for good games to play with your students. In order to help other youth workers save some time in this area I want to share the games we played last month in our student ministry. Below are all the games we played during our weekly program during the month of October. Sometimes we play the same game multiple times a year so any games we played last month that we already played during a previous month I will not include in this post (click here to see the games we played in September). Below are the games we played in October. Be sure to click the title of the game to download the graphic or purchase the game content.

Headbangers Bop
How It Works: Bring a few contestants up front and give them each a headband that has a pedometer attached to it. Explain to them that when the music (which works best if it’s some heavy metal music) starts they will have one minute to “headbang” as fast as they can to see how many steps they can get on the pedometer. The one with the highest number of steps wins. We played a few head to head rounds with the winner of each round advancing to the final round.
Supplies: Headbands, pedometers, and heavy metal playlist.

Jump The River
How It Works: This is a super simple game I many of use played in some form or another on the playground as kids. Tape a line down on the floor and then make another line with something that can be moved. The two lines should form a small gap. The point of the game is to jump from the first line and make it past the other one. If you don’t make it or hit the lines with your feet you’re out. If you clear the gap you’re in and advance to the next round. Each round the second line should be moved further and further until there is only one student one clears it.
Supplies: Tape and something to make another line that can be moved easily (we used a rope and had two leaders hold it on the ground with their feet).

Epic Battles
How It Works: This is a simple but fun game from Download Youth Ministry. The game includes short video clips of two things going head to head in a boxing ring. Students have a few seconds to pick who they think will win and then the videos has the two fighting until one comes out as the winner. When you download the game from DYM you get all the video files and things you need to play this game. brought two students up front for each round and had them pick (with the crowds help of course) who they thought would win. We gave the winner of each round a free item from the snack bar.
Supplies: Epic Battles game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Speedball
How It Works: Have everyone start on one side of the room. When you say “go” have someone throw out a bucket of tennis balls. Throw out a few less balls then you have students playing. The goal of the game if for everyone to run and grab a ball. If you don’t get a ball you’re out but if you get one you advance to the next round. Continue doing this until there are two students left but only one ball. If you have a large crowd you can simply speed the game up by making sure their are 5-10 less balls than students playing each round. How many balls you take out will determine how fast or slow this game goes.
Supplies: Tennis balls

Trump or Animal
How It Works:
With Donald Trump being so popular right now this game was a hit. It’s another simple but fun game from DYM. The point of the game is to guess if a zoomed up picture of hair is Donal Trump’s hair or hair of an animal. You’ll be surprised at how hard it really is. When you download the game you will get all the slides you need to play this game. I brought two students up front and had them play head to head.
Supplies: Trump or Animal game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Mountain Dew Plunge
How It Works: We played this game for our Halloween themed night. It’s basically bobbing applies but instead of in water you have them do it in Mountain Dew. What student (especially middle school student) doesn’t want to stick their face into a pool of Mountain Dew? We did this up front with a few students so everyone else could watch. Also, we had them do it in a clear bin so people could see what was happening through the bin.
Supplies: Clear bin (we got one from the storage bin section at Wal-Mart), Mountain Dew, apples.

The Purge Meets the Walking Dead
How it Works: Last year for our Halloween night we played a game called The Purge. It was a hit so we decided to bring it back this year but with a twist. Everyone starts by getting a ballon (have these already blown up before you hand them out). Have everyone spread out in the room with their balloon. When you say “go” the goal of the game is to be the last one standing with your balloon in hand and not popped. If your balloon gets popped you’re out. The only rules are everyone must stay in the room and you cannot physical hurt someone. Students will try to not only protect their balloon but will want to pop other peoples balloons. We also there out a box of “supplies” (rope, duct tape, small balls, straws) that students could use to aid in their popping of balloons. All of this is the Purge part of the game. We added the Walking Dead element by releasing all the students who were out (dead=zombies) back into the game to try and pop the balloons of the students still in the game with their balloons. We waited until there were about 10-15 students left before we released those who were out. We had the lights down very low and had music playing from The Purge movie soundtrack.
Supplies: Balloons (we bought red balloons and had enough for everyone to play two rounds), box of radon supplies (be sure there is nothing sharp students could hurt each other with).

Bare Knuckles Fistacuffs
How it Works: Our intern ran this game and I actually wasn’t there so here is how it is explained by Youth Group Collective: “Have everyone find a partner. Each person stands with both feet together, facing each other, arms length apart. The object of the game is to get the other person to lose balance. This can only be achieved by pushing your opponent’s hands. Hands do not have to maintain contact. Often times a player will act as if he is about to push another player’s hands and then immediately pull away so as to cause his opponent to lose balance.After every pair has decided a winner and a loser, have those who lost sit and the winners stand. Then have each winner find a new partner. Rinse and Repeat.”
Supplies: None!

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01I am always looking for new game ideas for our student ministry. I know I’m not the only youth worker who spends time each week looking for games. We all do it. To help others out I want to start sharing here on my site the games we played during the previous month in our student ministry. As you will quickly see I rarely come up with my own original games. I’m not that creative. I’m grateful for sites like Download Youth Ministry, Youth Group Collective, Youthmin.org, Youth Leader Stash, and Fun Ninja that offer incredible game ideas as well as other great content.Most of the games we do in our student ministry come from those sites so I will always be linking you back to them to buy the game content or download the original graphic. So with all that said, lets get started. Here are the games we played during the month of September.

Be sure to click the title of the game to download the graphic or purchase the game content!

Beard Cheese
How It Works: Bring a few contestants up front and have them split up into even pairs. One of them will cover their face with shaving cream while the other will be given a bowl of cheese puffs. When you say “go” the student with the cheese puffs must throw them at their partner and try to stick them onto their shaving cream covered faces. Set a time limit and the team with the most cheese puffs on their face wins.
Supplies: Cans of shaving cream and cheese puffs.

Scatterball
How It Works: Basically dodgeball but their are no sides and you can only take 3 steps with the ball. If you get hit you’re out. If you catch the ball the person who threw it is out. Once it gets down to a few people you can take the limited number steps away and let them run as much as they want. Can also throw in extra balls to speed the game up a bit.
Supplies: Dodgeballs (I suggest using Rhino Skin balls).

Ninja Foot
How it Works: Everyone starts in pairs of two. They place their hands on the others shoulders and when you say “go” they must try to step on each others feet. Once someone steps on their opponents foot they win. When you loose you sit down. When you win you keep going by finding another winner to face. This keeps going until there are two people left to dual it out.
Supplies: None!

Dizzy Kick
How it Works: Pick a few contestants for this game. Have each contestant spin around with their heads on a bat and then attempt to kick a football. We did this inside so we judged the best kick by length. We also used foam footballs so we didn’t break anything.
Supplies: Football, baseball bat.

Dance Your Hat and Gloves Off
How it Works: Just like it sounds. Bring a few students up front, play some music (we played Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” of course), and have them try and dance a pair of gloves and a beanie off.
Supplies: Rubber cleaning gloves and a beanie for each contestant.

Everybody’s It
How it Works: This game is basically the traditional game of tag but backwards. Everyone starts at “it.” If you tag someone they are out. If you get tagged you are out. Keep playing until there is only one person left.
Supplies: None!

Don’t Forget the Lyrics
How it Works: This is a great game from DYM. When you purchase the game you get all the graphics and audio files. Basically you bring a few contestants up and play a song for them while showing them the lyrics on the screen. The music will stop and their will be blanks for the lyrics. The contestant must finish the lyric. We made them sing it.
Supplies: Game content from DYM.

Dr. Suess Rap
How it Works: Bring a few students up front and hand them a Dr. Suess book. Tell them when the music starts playing they must attempt to rap the Dr. Suess book. We made them each rap at least for 30 seconds. Some students killed it and did amazing. Some not so much. We used Spotify to play some hip-hop beats for the students to rap to.
Supplies: Dr. Suess books and hip-hop beats.

Spoon Fed
How it Works: Bring a few students up front and have them split into pairs of two. One student will be the feeder and the other will be the eater. The feeder is given a broomstick with a spoon taped to the end of it. You place a bowl of something (we used chocolate pudding) in front of them and have them use their giant spoons to feed their partner. Set a time limit and the team who eats the most wins.
Supplies: Broomsticks, plastic spoons (we used large serving sized spoons), chocolate pudding or some other type of food.

King of the Circle
How it Works: Tape a circle (or square) on the floor. Everyone starts in the circle and must put their hands in their pockets or behind their backs. When you say “go” students must attempt to push each other out of the circle. If you go out of the circle you are out. Keep going until their is only one person left in the circle.
Supplies: Tape.

Dethrone the King
How it Works: Everyone gets a Burger King crown and spreads out across the room. When you say “go” students must attempt to knock others students crowns off. If your crown gets knocked off you are out. If your crown falls off while running or dodging others you are out. Students cannot hold their crown on their heads. We provided balls that students could use during the game to knock others crowns off. This game is a tweaked version of game from Fun Ninja called Crown the King.
Supplies: Burger King crowns (we went to two Burger King’s and asked for crowns and ended up with more than we needed).