Raising The Level Of The YTH Volunteer

Leadership is about team-work and preparation

Leadership is about team-work and preparation

While reading an article by Dan Reiland, the leadership guru, I was struck by his comments that if we are going to enlist volunteers at any level of leadership - we have to listen to them. Reiland speaks of the wealth of knowledge that our volunteers can give us if we would simply listen to them.

So, I want to deal with several statements that I have heard from YTH volunteers over the years. Listening to your leaders can give you an organic read on the culture of your ministry or organization.

Read through these real life statements and see if you can avoid some of the mistakes that I have made along the way:

"I never knew exactly what they wanted me to do" Clarity breeds production

As leaders we must understand that asking someone to 'set up the chairs' is really setting them up for failure. Because we haven’t given them directions on where to set chairs, how many chairs to set up, what time to have them set, or to enlist others to help. 

PRAX – Identify a chain of command so people know who to speak with, create your own Job Description for tasks and make sure that everyone understands the task to be assigned, and then have the volunteers re-write the JD after 6 months (They will have a better view at the JD after working for a while at their role).

The second volunteer statement is about the lack of leadership development.

"There was no training"Training removes ceilings

One of the qualities of a great YTH leader is equipping the people around them. This might include leadership modeling by the leader, personal mentoring of key people, small group training of teams, or even corporate teaching several times a year to the whole YTH ministry on involvement and leadership.

Make sure that everyone is functioning in their gift. Skill-set placement is critical to volunteers being in their ‘sweet spot’.

PRAX - Regular YTH Leadership Team meetings, evaluation process along the way, feedback from leaders monthly, competency testing, and self-evaluation can be a great mid-course correction on any team project.

The statement that I struggled with the most with my volunteers is a quick culture-maker.

"No one ever said thanks" Gratitude creates work-ethic

Relationship will build team more than assignments and meetings and manuals. People are motivated by relational leaders. A finely placed 'thank you' could energize a tired worker.

My wife used to place a pack of 20 Thank You cards on my desk each month. It was my responsibility to catch people on our YTH Leadership team doing something positive. And then to write them a note.

PRAX - Try thank you cards, private/public thanks, catch people doing specific acts that you can thank them for. when people notice that you are watching, it motivates them to do more in your organization.

Jesus is the perfect model for the next principle that will help us deal with the following management statement by our volunteers.

"They seem like they are continually disorganized" – Simplicity creates success

Learn the value of simplicity and stay away from complexity in programming and personal and corporate schedules. Too often YTH Leaders have been characterized as unorganized.

Arguably, the greatest miracle that Jesus ever did was the feeding of the 5,000. The story is found in Mark 6. We have heard about the provision of God through the small lunch of the little boy near the crowd. But, there is one statement in the story that I believe was as important to that miracle as the lunch.

Jesus asked the disciples to "sit the people in companies of 50". What was He doing? He was assuring a successful operation of a miracle. With the gift of Administration(organization). 

PRAX – Cut out anything that isn’t working until you can get someone to manage it right, use the gift of administration and administrators, and get people working in their strengths.

If there is one issue in every organization that creates concern, it is communication. The next volunteer statement is a common one.

"There was a serious breakdown of communication" – Repetition creates consistency

There will always be a lack of communication in every organization. But two things will help our communication.

First, we must ENCOURAGE communication on a regular basis. Weekly meetings with key YTH leaders (Promo team) helps the spread of vision. And these leaders can become the promotion and marketing of your philosophy to the rest of the tribe that you cannot get to on a regular basis.

Secondly, we must ENHANCE communication through any means possible. This can be done through regular meetings, personal contacts, banners and posters, and even social media.

Remember, in order for our vision to stick, we have to say it, say it again, and say it one more time. Communication is cyclical.

Another statement that volunteers make that can create burn-out is concerning shared vision.

"It seemed like it was all about achieving the YTH leader's personal goals" – Sharing creates ownership

Make sure that people feel they are more important than the programs. That systems are not celebrated above the managers of them. If we want each person on our YTH leadership team contributing at a greater level, we must value their input and use their ideas.

PRAX – Listen to volunteers (beyond being in the room – let them be heard), a 'Super-friends' mentality and not a 'Superman' mentality will remove weakness in any YTH organization, and MISSION is greater than the MAN!

The last volunteer statement is another great culture-shaper.

"It wasn't any fun" – Laughter creates a working culture

The atmosphere of the YTH ministry is key to young people. They are drawn to setting. Here are my top 5 culture-builders for a YTH organization:

MAKE IT FUN with variety. For instance, in a youth service or at a youth event, don't do the same thing every time. Create excitement and return with change.

MAKE IT FUN with laughter. Encourage humor and a casual demeanor. Make fun of yourself and not others.

MAKE IT FUN with mystery. Bring pizza in for a youth leadership meeting or a special guest to speak at your next leadership meeting. Have students come to your next leadership meeting and address the leaders.

MAKE IT FUN with love. I have told my YTH Leaders how much I love them and how much I value their work. Love will cause everyone to fall over each other to serve. Make sure that on a regular basis you are modeling time with the students and not just the leaders.

MAKE IT FUN with free stuff. Buy t-shirts, hats, or key chains for your leaders. Pay for their registration or fees for events. When your leaders see that you are willing to use resources for them in a creative way, that kind of giving can be contagious. and take the pressure of finances off of them also.

Use these practical ways to encourage the leaders around you. If your organization is going to be a success, you must solve the unspoken concerns that are floating around in the minds of our volunteers. Listening to volunteers is critical to organizational success,


Jeff Grenell