Volunteers are a vital part to youth ministry, to any ministry for that matter. If we aren’t careful we can turn a valuable volunteer away by not properly training them, by not delegating to them and by not empowering them.
Now, I know that each of us may be operating on a different level of ministry right now but whether you have a ministry with 100 volunteers or a ministry with 2 volunteers, training them and empowering them will be vital to the future growth of your ministry.
5 Ways to Empower your Volunteers:
1. Always encourage your volunteers.
Encourage them during your program or event. Take a few minutes to recognize what they are doing. Simply tell them good job. Encourage them after the night is over. Be sure to thank them and always pray for the rest of their week.
But it shouldn’t stop there. 1 to 2 days after they served send them a thank you email, text or even a postcard. Praise them on Facebook or Twitter.
Never forget that they don’t have to be there, they don’t have to volunteer, they are choosing to. They are choosing to give up their weekend or weeknight. They are choosing to give up time with family, time to rest etc. to serve and help your ministry.
As you encourage your volunteers be sure to be intentional. That means you’ll need to be mindful of how each individual is performing.
Hearing or reading, “You are an amazing volunteer.” is great. Hearing you’re a great volunteer because of the specific areas in which you serve is even better. It means what they specifically are doing is important and has value. Not only to you but to others as well.
2. Be sure to coach your volunteers.
If someone on your team is doing something wrong, don’t just go behind them and fix it. Train them to do it right.
We’ve all heard the adage:
1. I do, You watch.
2. I do. You help.
3. You do, I help.
4. You do.
We have to clearly communicate and show how we want something done. Then we have to watch as they do. Then we need to let go.
As a side note, if a volunteer just isn’t getting it. They probably aren’t serving where they should be. Find a place where they can embrace their unique talents.
3. Don’t assign someone to an area and then just do it yourself.
If you have a volunteer scheduled for a specific area and they show up and it’s already done, they will feel devalued. They will feel unneeded and might consider serving somewhere else where they are needed.
4. Let them find their own methods and groove.
We each have our own way of doing things but as leaders we need to be able to embrace how other people do things. It is okay if it’s done differently, as long as it still has the same affect. If a volunteer is doing something differently than you would do it, let them give it a whirl. Don’t squelch their innovation or creativity. If it doesn’t work out tell them to try it the way you do it. If it does work out, that’s awesome and creates a deeper sense of ownership. It may also help that area run more efficiently.
5. Be mindful to not do everything yourself.
We have teams of volunteers and students for a reason. There will be a season when we have to do everything ourselves and there will come a season when we no longer have too. As your ministry grows and more volunteers are helping out, you need to be ready to let go of what you previously did out of necessity and give it over to someone who can probably do it 100x better than you. You need to get to a point where you can delegate your weaknesses in order to empower somebody elses strengths.
In his book “Next Generation Leader”, Andy Stanley states,
“Everybody in your organization benefits when you delegate responsibilities that fall outside your core competency. Thoughtful delegation will allow someone else in your organization to shine. Your weakness is someone’s opportunity.”
When we have others around us, hungry to serve, we need to make sure we aren’t holding them back by holding on to everything. All the while reminding ourselves that we also can’t lead by just sitting around and expecting everyone else to do the work. Leaders who lead from the trenches, lead stronger and have more committed followers than leaders who sit on the sidelines. A good leader also knows that they can’t always be in the trenches.
Embrace what you’ve been called to do and allow others to do the same. Find a healthy balance of doing and letting your team do. Work from your strengths and help empower your volunteers to work from theirs. As you do you will see and experience growth within your ministry but also within your volunteers.