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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Visit Ministry Downloads

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Ministry can be very time consuming. Between things like planning, meetings, sermon prep, and training volunteers it can be hard to keep all the plates spinning. One of the benefits of doing ministry in our day is that we have access to a ton of resources online to help us when we lack the time and creativity. There are a host of places online to get ministry resources (some better than others) for almost any area of ministry.

Recently Terrace Crawford launched a new site called Ministry Downloads. The resources on this site are tested, ready-to-go, affordable, and totally downloadable.  There’s something for every church\ministry leader, including (but not limited to): senior pastors, youth leaders, children’s leaders, small group leaders, and more! I’m excited to even have a few of my very own recourse on this site – series on Acts, series on dating, marriage, and sex and a sermon on worry. I’d encourage you to visit this site and grab a few resources for you and your ministry.

Click Here to Visit Ministry Downloads

Book Review: Counter Culture by David Platt

41O76wsT0VL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Recently I finished reading David Platt’s new book Counter Culture. I’ve always enjoyed reading Platt’s books and found this one to be my personal favorite. It’s a timely book that speaks about major issues we are facing today as a church and as a culture.

In this book, Platt urges and shows how we as Christians must be counter cultural when it comes to the various issues that are in our world today. The issues Platt hits in this book are poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, sex slavery, marriage, sexual morality, ethnicity, and religious liberty. Platt dedicates a whole chapter to each one of these issues. Within these issues other topics that show up are same-sex marriage, immigration, persecution, and more. Platt bookends these issues with a chapter on how the Gospel is the great offense and calls us to be counter cultural. Then he ends the book with an urgent plea to not loose sight of the unreached world around us. Instead of going into detail about what Platt says about these issues (I’ll let you discover that on your own when you read the book) I want to share five things I really liked about this book. These are just a few of the many reasons I believe this is a “must read” for Christians today.

Boldness and humility. Throughout this book Platt balances boldness and humility well. There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t have one or more bold statements that calls the reader out of complacency and indifference on these important issues. However, Platt’s boldness is balanced by a deep humility. Throughout the book Platt shares how he hasn’t always responded to these issues in the way God expects. He also shares how he doesn’t have all the answers and is seeking answers alongside the reader. Platt’s boldness for the Gospel and his deep humility is clearly seen throughout this book.

Gospel-Centered. If you have ever read anything about or by Platt you know he is a very Gospel-centered leader, writer, and person. It would be easy for anyone to write a book about social issues like these and do so in a way that isn’t Gospel-centered. However, Platt realizes and shares how the only real answer to these issues is the Gospel. That doesn’t mean he ignores the practical and gives us a pass to not take action, in fact, Platt shows us how the Gospel fuels action and demands we live counter culturally as well as doing something about these vital issues. Platt shows how the Gospel is the foundation and key to addressing and fixing these social issues. He also shows how the Gospel itself transforms Christians and how they see and act towards these issues.

Practical. Platt not only tackles these issues with a large dose of Bible and theology, but also shares a lot of practical things the reader can do in response to these issues. At the end of each chapter, Platt shares a list of things the reader can do in response to that particular issue. There is also a helpful website for this book that has more resources on each issue and more.

Focuses on the local church. The call to live counter culturally and respond to these issues is something that is not just given to the individual Christian, but to the church as a whole. The entire body of Christ has been called to counter culture and to respond in a way that God expects when it comes to these social issues. Platt keeps the local church at the center of how we should respond to these issues. He calls the Christian to partner with their local church in doing something about these issues. I believe that’s the way God wants it. God doesn’t want “lone ranger” Christians working their tails off alone against these issues. He wants Christians to work together as a church to counter culture and through the Gospel make a difference in the world around them.

Timely chapters for the American Christian on racism, homosexuality, and religious freedom. I’m not suggesting these issues don’t exists elsewhere in the world or that they are not timely for other countries, but I do believe these are very timely chapters for Christians in America. Our country is facing racial issues, a redefinition of marriage, and freedom of religion becoming less of a reality. Platt takes these issues head on and shows how the Gospel ascends race and breaks down the racial walls. He shows how homosexuality is wrong and against God’s design for marriage. He shows how religious freedom should be given but how we much approach such an issue. These chapters are needed for American Christians today.

As you can probably tell I really liked this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand more about these issues as well as how to respond in a God-honoring way. It’s a powerful book that packs a much needed punch.

Recommended Sites for Youth Ministry Curriculum

3pic.001-001In my last post I shared some things I look for in a good youth ministry curriculum. As I mentioned in that post, there is so much youth ministry curriculum that at times it can be overwhelming  for the youth pastor or youth worker who is trying to find the right curriculum for their ministry. I want to make it somewhat easier by pointing you towards a few places that provide what I believe is some of the best youth ministry curriculum on the market right now.

Simply Youth Ministry. Simply Youth is by far the most popular place to get youth ministry curriculum. The thing I love about there curriculum is that they have something for everyone. Whether you’re look for small group curriculum, large group curriculum, Bible studies, devotionals, leadership training, they have it all!

Youth Ministry 360YM 360 has been my favorite place to get youth ministry curriculum over the past few years. I love the stuff that they have created in the past and excited about the stuff they are currently producing. They always create curriculum that is centered on Scripture and practical application. They also create great graphics, videos, and parent resources that go along with many of their studies. Definitely check out their website and see what resources they have that you can use in your ministry.

Word of Life Local Church Ministries. Word of Life has been around for decades and have been creating church resources for all ages. Over the past few years they have really been raising the bar and creating some incredible curriculum for students. They offer a year long curriculum package that you can use in your ministry year around and also shorter curriculum that you can use for a few weeks within your year. Click here to check out what they have to offer on their online store.

There are the three places I tend to go first when I’m looking for good pre-made curriculum. There are countless other websites and places you van get curriculum, but check out what these three sites have to offer. Where do you go when looking for curriculum for your student ministry?

Choosing the Right Youth Ministry Curriculum

iStock_000012210065SmallEven though our student ministry writes and prepares the majority of our curriculum in house, I’m still a big fan of using pre-made curriculum from time to time. There are some great ministries out there creating great youth ministry curriculum that sometimes works better than if I sit down myself and make my own. However, when a youth pastor starts to research youth ministry curriculum they will easily be overwhelmed with how much there actually is out there. With so many different choices and avenues a youth pastor can go with youth ministry curriculum, how do they know which curriculum is the best? How do they go about finding the right curriculum for them. Let me suggest a few things to look for when your trying to find a good youth ministry curriculum for your ministry.

1. Scripture Content. Obviously the first think you need to look for is Scriptural content. Whether its an expository curriculum that goes through a book of the Bible or a topical curriculum that covers a topical idea, it needs to be based on Scripture. Not only based on Scripture, but Scripture should be the main point and majority of each lesson. I’m not against illustrations and application, but Scripture comes first and is the most important. Don’t settle for a curriculum that doesn’t have a large amount of Scripture. Youth pastors must teach students the Bible and good curriculum will make that possible.

2. Practical Application. Even though a curriculum should be Scriptural, it should also have practical application. A good youth ministry curriculum will balance both Scripture and application. One without the other is not effective. Look for curriculum that has application that flows out of Scripture. Once Scripture is explained and taught, application should follow to help students apply what they have learned from God’s Word.

3. Graphics. Not only will a good youth ministry curriculum have Scriptural content and application, it will also have graphic resources. Not all curriculum will have graphics with them, but the majority of good ones will have them included with the curriculum. Finding curriculum that has good graphics will save you time because you will not have to make them yourself. Most good curriculum now come with backgrounds, posters, countdowns, videos, and much more.

4. Ability to Edit. Even when you find a good curriculum make sure it has the ability to changed and edited based on your ministry. Good curriculum will always come in a format that makes it possible for the youth pastor to edit and use how he sees fit for his ministry and students. Many times you will need to add Scripture, change illustrations, or change the format of the lesson. Having a curriculum that makes this possible is a good thing to look for.

These are the things I look for in good youth ministry curriculum. What are some things you look for when your searching for a youth ministry curriculum?