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.


Freebie: Bible Survey Seminar Presentation

hollybibleA few weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach a Bible survey seminar to some of our community group leaders. I want to share the presentation I used for that seminar with you as a freebie! You can use this different ways, but it makes for a great resource to teach new believers and current volunteers more about the Bible. One of the major things I focused on in this presentation was the central theme of Jesus throughout the Bible. That is, redemption of man is what the Bible is all about. That redemption comes through Jesus who is the hero and central theme of all the Scripture. Throughout the presentation that was the focus. However, I did spend some time on things like inerrancy, how the Bible was written, how to interpret imprecatory Psalms, how to handle Law, and other various issues that arise throughout Scripture. The community group leaders enjoyed this content and I believe this resource could be a great help to your ministry. Below you will find a link to download this presentation. I have included two links. One that is a PowerPoint file and the other which is a Keynote file for Mac users.

Download the Bible Survey Presentation (Keynote)

Download the Bible Survey Presentation (PowerPoint)

5 Things Student Ministry Volunteers MUST DO

5.pngAbout a year ago I wrote a post about three things I believe every student pastor must do in order to be effective in student ministry. In that post I said that one thing a student pastor must do is build and train a team of adult volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of our student ministries. Our student ministry is as only good as our volunteers. So I want to write a few thoughts for volunteers in this post. If your a student pastor than pass these along to your volunteers and if your a volunteer yourself than be encouraged and make an effort to do these five things.

1. Follow the leadership of the student pastor. Even though volunteers are key to an effective student ministry they do not take the place of the student pastor. The student pastor needs to drive the ministry, make the big decisions, and have the final word. I have seen too many student pastors get ran all over by a volunteer. If your a volunteer, please humbly follow the person God has placed over your student ministry. Serve students well under their leadership.

2. Grow in their walk with God. This should be number one because it’s the most important thing on this list. Your cannot take students anywhere that you have not been yourself. If you want to help your students grow spiritually than you need to be growing spiritually. A volunteer will not be truly effective in student ministry if they are not growing spiritually. Awhile back I wrote a post on this subject. Your walk with God is the most important thing in student ministry.

3. Be willing to own part of the ministry. A student ministry volunteer will need to accept responsibility and own part of the ministry. The student pastor cannot do everything. For example, the student pastor cannot lead every small group. That’s an area where volunteers will have to own part of the ministry. They will have their small group and should accept that as their ministry. They must follow the leadership of the student pastor and serve students well in that area. If that’s a small group, than lead that group well! If your an event planner, than plan those events to the best of your ability. Whatever area you serve in within the student ministry, do it well and own it!

4. Don’t over commit. Even though a volunteers are key and will own part of the ministry, they need to be careful not to over commit. I have seen many student ministry volunteers that burn themselves out because they are way too over committed. They serve in multiple areas and sacrifice their time, family, and own well being to the point where it’s not healthy. Volunteers don’t get paid to do what they do. So the expectation shouldn’t be the same as the student pastor. Remember, volunteers are volunteers!

5. Love on students. This should be obvious, but as a student ministry volunteer just love on students. Realize the student pastor cannot relationally touch every student in the ministry, but with your help every one of those students can be touched by an adult that loves and cares for them. I am assuming that if someone is a student ministry volunteer that they already love students, but remember that some of the most powerful stories from teens within student ministries come from their interaction with a volunteer.

I love my volunteers! I am thankful for them and our student ministry wouldn’t be what it is today without them. Pass these thoughts along to your volunteers and encourage them to serve your students well.

How to Have an Effective Leader’s Meeting

00016683_bI believe one of the most important things a student pastor can do is build and equip a team of adult leaders. Once you have this team built, you will need to have regular meetings with them for the purpose of building community, training, and discussing what’s happening in the life’s of the students they work with. You don’t want these meetings to be a waste of time or boring. You want them to be something your leader’s look forward to and something they leave with a renewed excitement to work with students. I honestly love doing leader meetings with my leaders. I’m still not a pro at them, but I have discovered a few things that make for an effective leader’s meeting. Here are a few things I always try and do that may be a help to you as you do meetings with your leaders.

Schedule far in advance. Your leaders are busy. Unlike you, they are not getting paid to do student ministry. They do it as a volunteer. On top of volunteering in your ministry, they most likely have full-time jobs, families, children, and a ton of other things going on. That’s why it’s important to schedule your leader meetings as far out in advance as possible. I would recommend scheduling them a year out. For example, I have leader meetings with my leaders every three months. I have these on the calendar before the year even starts. This way my leaders know that every three months we will have a meeting and they know the dates of those meetings. If you do this, you have far better chance of getting them all there.

Provide food. A great way to build community among your leaders is to share a meal together at your meetings. Spend the first part of your meeting just hanging out and eating together. We always do our meetings on Sunday afternoon following our church services. Our budget usually covers a main dish and then we ask the leaders to bring side dishes to share with everyone. It’s always cool to watch your leaders build community with each other as you have a meal. It’s usually during this “eating time” that I have some of the best conversations with my leaders. Also, it’s usually when they also have the best conversations with each other.

Let them talk. It’s easy for leader meetings to become a time when the student pastor just pours a ton of information into the hands of the leaders. Part of the reason we have leader meetings is to give the leaders a time to talk and share what’s going on with them as it pertains to the student ministry. I do this two ways. First, we always have a time to share “wins.” This is a chance for the leaders to brag about what God is doing in their small group or about something they have seen happen in a students life. Second, we discuss ideas for our ministry. For example, next year we are thinking about changing our small group set up. Instead of making this discussion on my own I wanted to discuss it with my leaders. As a team, we discussed the idea and if it’s a good or bad thing for our ministry. This helps them feel like they are a vital part of the ministry, which they are.

Have a time of training. One of the main reasons you should meet with your leader’s in to train and equip them to do ministry. This is the main objective when I meet with my leaders. The community building is good, the food is great, but the real reason we are there is for me to train and equip them as a team to do effective student ministry. Every time you meet, have some training prepared for them. Don’t throw this together last minute, spend some time preparing training material that will help your leaders minister to your students well. Also, use this time to share with them resources that may help them minister to students.

These are just a few ways I believe you can have an effective leaders meeting. They have worked for us and I think these ideas will help you have a good leader meetings with your team. If you have any additional thoughts about having effective leader meetings feel free to leave them in the comment section below.

Guest Post: How to Plan a Leadership Seminar for Your Leaders

Recently, we had a leadership seminar with my adult leaders. It was a huge success, and we look forward to doing another one in the future. I want to give you a few thoughts on how to plan an effective leadership seminar for your adult leaders.

Schedule a date early– Many adult leaders have families, and it is important and respectful to plan your seminar early so that they can plan on being in attendance. I would recommend at least 6-8 months out of planning.

Decide what topics you would like to train your leaders on– It is important that you have direction in what the purpose of the seminar is going to be. If it is just to inform them of your ministry, I would recommend calling it something different. When your leaders hear the word, seminar, they will think that it is a meeting on what they can do better to become more effective. So, decide the topic(s) that you would like to address, and promote them to the leaders so that they can prep in their mind for the seminar.

Have a gift for the leaders– We did “small group survival kits” for our seminar. We had a pen, pad, nice cup for a drink, “about me” forms for their students, gum, snacks, etc. It is just a little gift to show them that we appreciate them, and it also taught them a bit about their small group in the middle of it as well.

Have food– Food is essential to make these events a success. Your adult leaders love to eat or else they would not be in youth ministry. Have food for them, and cover the cost of the food if possible to show them your appreciation. Also, just a note, do not have pizza, because they are so accustomed to having that with their students.

Always have a Q & A time– This is usually one of our best times. We allow anyone with questions to ask, and we will have some effective discussion.

End with a group event– We did bowling, and it actually went over real well. This is solely for relationship building! It works great to just kick back, relax, and have fun with one another. You can do bowling, putt putt, or any other activity.

I hope that this helps you. We had all but like two leaders at our seminar, and it was a hit! If you would like to know more about leadership seminars, email me at or leave a comment on this post.

Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston-Salem, NC area. Josh is passionate about seeing life change in students and teaching them the Word of God. Josh is an avid blogger, speaker, student pastor, and Duke Blue Devils fan! You can connect further with Josh on his blog, twitter, or send him an email.