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 Things for Student Pastors to Focus on This Summer

summer-beach-ball-summer-associate-event-contestLike many student ministries, we take a break from our normal programing structure during the summer. We don’t have mid-week meetings, small groups, or retreats. Instead, we always do mission trips (one for middle school and one for high school) and we have a few house parties scattered throughout the summer. I enjoy the change and benefit much from it. If you change things up in the summer for your ministry as well, let me suggest you make an effort to focus on three things.

Build relationships with students. One of the huge benefits of not doing a weekly program in the summer is the time and energy you can put fully to building relationships with students. You don’t have to spend hours writing a talk or planning for that weeks mid-week program, you can get out of the office and hangout with students. Don’t think to hard about how to do this, just text some students and meet up somewhere. You don’t need a huge plan or a program in place, just spend time with your students. Also, make an effort to connect with students in your community that may never step foot in your youth room during the school year. One way I do this each summer is I meet up weekly with some of the high school guys to play basketball at a local park. It’s a great way to do something I enjoy with my students as well a way to meet new students that may be at the park playing basketball as well. Bottom line is this, students are out of school and they are looking for something to do. Make an effort to hangout with them and don’t overlook the opportunity to do real, life on life relational ministry this summer.

Give volunteers a break and recruit new volunteers. One of the things I try to do during the summer is give my volunteers a break from our ministry. At the end of the school year we do an appreciation lunch and at that lunch I tell them “thank you” for serving during the school year and that they are off the hook for the summer. I usually give them a date near the end of summer that stands as a deadline for them to let me know if they are coming back to volunteer for the new school year. Not only do I give my volunteers a break, but I use the summer to look for new volunteers. It’s hard to recruit and plug-in new volunteers in the middle of the school year because small groups are in full swing and the program is running strong, so I usually try to recruit and plug new volunteers in at the start of the new year. This is not to say I will avoid recruiting and plugging in new volunteers during the school year, but I have found it more beneficial to do this near the end of the summer so they can jump on board when the school year starts up.

Focus on planning for the next year. Even though you may take a break from your normal program in the summer, don’t neglect planning and staying on top of being ready for the next school year. If your Fall/Spring calendar is not done by August you are probably not working far enough ahead. Look over the next school year (even next summer if you can) and plan out your events, retreats, and other things that you want to do during the next school year. Once you have everything laid out, start making a good calendar you can give to your parents before the school year kicks off (click here to view some great calendar resources you can use from YouthMin.org). We always do a parent meeting a week or two before the school year kicks off to go over the year and get calendars in the hands of our parents.

Focusing on those three things will help you stay on track this summer with ministering to your students as well as getting ready for the next school year of ministry.

Bullying and Student Ministry

Upset Teenage Girl With Friends Gossiping In BackgroundBullying is a form of child abuse and 4 out of 10 children will drop out of high school this year because they are being bullied at school or abused at home. When students going to school, one out of every four of them will be bullied. Also, one out of five students admit to being the bully themselves. Bullying has been and is still a major issue within teen culture. Not only is this an issue within the walls of a middle school or high school, but with the rise of new technology it’s an issue online as well.

As a student pastor I rub shoulders with students every week who are being bullied as well as being a bully themselves. I encounter students who hate going to school and will possibly think about taking their life if the bullying doesn’t stop. Not only this, but I see bullying creeping it’s way into our student ministry as well. I’m not alone in this, student pastors and youth workers every where encounter these same situations and students. So what are we to do? What can student ministries do to help bring a decline in bullying? Here are a few things I believe we as student pastors and youth workers can do.

Educate our students. Use this issue to educate your students about bullying. Show them the devastating reality of what bullying does to students. Doing this will help your students are are being bullied have a voice and feel comfortable knowing you are trying to stop this thing. Also, this is a way to show the bullies what they are actually doing. When appropriate, use films such as Bully to educate your students.

Show your students from the Bible bullying is a sin. Call bullying what it is-sin. There is no way around it, bullying is never a good thing and from God’s Word be called a sin. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Bullying always involves talking in a negative way towards someone. Even when the bullying is physically, it usually involves words. The Bible makes it clear our speech, our words, should be for building up and should offer grace to the hearer. Does bullying do that? The Bible expects us to treat others with respect and dignity as image bearers of God and students need to know bullying as no place in our life’s. Don’t be afraid to show students from the Bible why bullying is wrong.

Partner with parents. Many times parents are unaware of bullying that may be going on at school or online. If you catch it before the parents do, make sure and have a conversation with the parents. You may talk with the student or students, but realize our job is to equip and partner with the parents. Don’t leave them out of this. Also, share resources with parents to help them understand this issue. One resource you can share is Covenant Eye’s eBook called A Parents Guide to Cyberbullying.

Don’t allow bullying in your ministry. Your student ministry must be a safe place for students. Don’t allow bullying to gain an inch in your ministry. If you see it happening, stop it and don’t be afraid to set tough boundaries. Students should never feel unsafe at our ministry because of bullying. Also, students should realize bullying has no place whatsoever in our ministry.

These are just a few ways I believe student ministries can help when it comes to this major issue of bullying. What are some ways you and your ministry are fighting against bullying?

3 Ways to Be Spiritually Healthy in Student Ministry

heart-beat

Awhile back I wrote post
 where I explained that the most important part of student ministry
is student pastor or student ministry volunteer’s own relationship
with God. Everything we do in student ministry is second to our
relationship with God. The most important thing a student pastor or
 volunteer can do is make sure their own relationship with God is
 healthy.

A few weeks ago we did a training day for all of our
student ministry volunteers across all of our campuses. In my
session on being faithful to God, I said, “The effectiveness of
your ministry to students depends on the health of your
relationship with God.” I believe that in order for student pastors
and volunteers to be effective in student ministry they must have a
growing healthy relationship with God. In his book Your
 First
 Two Years in Youth Ministry, Doug Fields says,
“Without spiritual health, you won’t make it in student
ministry. Don’t misunderstand: you don’t need the knowledge of a
 Bible scholar or the spiritual disciplines of a monk, but you do
need a heart that’s tender toward God and open to His leading. You
 need to be in love with Jesus.”

So how can a student 
pastor or volunteer make sure they maintain a healthy relationship
with God? In the busyness of life and ministry what can we do to
make sure we are growing and walking with our Savior? Here are
three things I believe every student pastor and volunteer must do
in order to maintain a healthy relationship with God while doing
 student ministry.

1. Love Christ
 Supremely. Many times our relationship with God
 starts to become unhealthy because we love ministry more than Him. We believe we have a healthy relationship with God because we are
serving faithfully in student ministry and giving all our time and
energy to ministering to students. However, when student ministry
starts to become the thing that you love most and all your time,
 energy, and passion goes towards it than it’s probably an idol.
 It’s coming before God and starting to take the place of Him. We 
must always keep our love and passion for Jesus first. It must come
 before everything, including student ministry. Doug Field says,
“Don’t allow increasing ministry to decrease your
 intimacy, and don’t let your service exceed your 
worship.” The best thing you can do for your
 students and ministry is to love Jesus more than both of them.

2. Spend time with God daily in His Word and
 prayer. The second thing we must do to maintain
a healthy relationship with God in student ministry is committing to 
daily Bible reading and time in prayer. These are two spiritual
 disciplines we cannot afford to live and serve without. I’m always
 amazed at how many student pastors and volunteers neglect having a
personal time with God on a daily basis. In order to be consistent
in these two disciplines you will need to find two things. First,
 you need a good place. Set aside a consistent time and place where
 you can read God’s Word and pray. This may be in the morning, it
 may be at lunch, or may be at night. Find the time and place that
works best for you. Second, you need a good tool. I encourage our
volunteers to use an ESV Study Bible and Word of Life’s Online QuietTime. Get what you need to make spending time with God
each day a priority (click
 here to read more about having a consistent time with God 
each day).

3. Be a part of the local church
 community. Lastly, student pastors and volunteers 
must be a part of the community of their local church. I encourage
 my volunteers to be faithful to three things regarding community.
 First, they need to be faithful to weekend worship services. I
 talked to one volunteer from another church who hasn’t sat in a 
worship service for over 3 years! Serving in the student ministry
 was always taking the place of being in a worship serve. Second, 
they need to be a part of a community group. If your church does
 Sunday school, than they need to be in a class. Whatever your
church does to provide deeper community outside worship services,
 volunteers, and student pastors, need to be a part of it. Third, they need to have accountability. These are three things student
 pastors and volunteers must commit to in order to maintain a
healthy relationship with God in student ministry. What are some
other ways you stay healthy spiritually as you serve in student
 ministry?

How Student Pastor Can Partner With Parents

parent_teen_relationshipPartnering with parents should be one of the jobs of a student pastor. When I look at my personal philosophy of student ministry I see three major objectives that I feel I have been called to do: Biblical teaching, training leaders, and equipping parents. Student pastors need to remember that God has called us to not just minister to students, but to their parents as well. Their parents are the ones who are responsible for their child’s spiritual growth and we need to equip and partner with them in pointing their student to Jesus. But practically speaking, how does a student pastor partner with parents? It sounds good and all, but how do we do that? Here are a few practical ways student pastors can partner with parents:

Communication. I’ve heard it said that the main thing parents expect and want from their students student pastor is communication. Parents don’t like to be left in the dark. They want to know what your teaching, when the next event is, or how much something is going to cost. I strive to over communicate to our parents. Most of them probably get tired of my emails, but I want them to be overly informed in what is going on in our ministry. During the school year I send out a weekly parent email that covers what we are teaching that week, what events are coming up, and a parent resource (more on that later). However you decide to do it, communicate clearly and effectively to your parents.

Build Relationships. Don’t just send emails to your parents, get to know them! Take them out to lunch or dinner from time to time. Don’t wait until their student screws up and you need to talk about it, take them out just for the enjoyment of getting to know them better. One of my favorite things to do in student ministry is hanging out with my students parents. My students probably think this is weird because to them parents are old and boring, but I love it!

Resource Them. Be intentional about finding resources for your parents. Point them to websites such as CPYU, Homeward, and Plugged In. Share with them books about parenting that you have ran across online or at conferences. Hold parent seminars that share with parents vital information about things in youth culture. Most parents don’t know where to find good resources on parenting so help them out.

Serve There Student Well. As I said above, parents are the ones responsible for their child’s spiritual growth. As student pastors we get to partner with them in the journey of pointing their student to Jesus. Don’t take this task lightly, work hard and strive to serve their student well. Teach their student God’s Word, help them apply it to their lives, give them opportunities to serve, and train them to be missionaries in their culture. Partner with parents by being the best student pastor you can be!

These are just a few practical ways student pastors can partner with parents. On a side note, if you are a young student pastor don’t let partnering with parents scare you. They may think your too young to be a “real pastor,” but show parents your serious about this and this is God’s calling on your life. I’ve shared a few thoughts in a past post about how young student pastors can partner with parents (click here to view that post).