3 keys to keeping your best adult volunteers over the long haul

Greg Stier
Greg Stier

KeysFinding adults who are willing to pour their lives into teenagers is an important part of every youth leader’s job. Effective youth leaders understand that they can’t do it alone. 

But one of the challenges, beside recruiting the right kind of volunteers, is keeping them long term. In the busy business of life, even the best youth ministry volunteer can lose momentum (and eventually interest) if they are not being led effectively.

Here are 3 keys to keeping the best brand of volunteers involved in your youth ministry over the long haul:

1)  Pray for them consistently.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31,32

If most of the disciples were teenagers then Peter was probably the only “adult sponsor” in the group (since he and Jesus were the only ones old enough to pay the temple tax in Matthew 17:24-27.) It’s interesting to me that Jesus pulled Peter aside and warned him that he was about to endure an intense spiritual attack. He then told Peter that he had prayed for him to, not only survive this attack, but come back as an even stronger leader for the younger disciples of Jesus to follow.

The very fact that Jesus was praying for Peter against Satanic attack, should have been a great encouragement for this rugged fisherman. Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies.” Imagine the comfort of knowing that the Son of God was praying for you, which, by the way, he is (Romans 8:34.)

In the same way that Jesus prayed for Peter, one of the most impacting ways to encourage and keep your best volunteers is to pray for them on a consistent basis. Pray for their divine protection. Pray for their spiritual growth. Pray for their family situations. Pray for their ministry impact. Pray for them and let them know you are praying for them. It will help them see that you care for them personally and not just how they can benefit your youth ministry.

 2)  Spend time with them relationally.

 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them….”  John 3:22

I’ll never forget being a youth ministry intern serving under a youth pastor named Kab. One of the first things he did was to gather all of the interns and volunteers together to say, “They are too many teenagers in this youth ministry for me to disciple personally. So I’m going to pour into you and you are going to pour into them. What I do with you, you do with them. What I teach you, you teach them.” 

Sure Kab still taught most of the lessons in the big group meetings, but on a relational level, he invested mostly in us as adults and we invested in the teenagers. This strategy worked in a powerful way in our youth ministry context because it modeled the ministry of Jesus. 

I challenge you to look at your adult volunteers as key to accomplishing the mission God has placed in your heart of reaching and disicpling teenagers. To do this will take getting up close and personal with your adults. You’ll have to shepherd them like you want them to shepherd your teenagers. Howard Hendricks once said, “You can impress from a distance, but you can only impact up close.” 

As you invest in your adults relationally, they will become exponentially more effective at investing in your teenagers. What you model for them, they’ll model for the teens they are ministering to on a regular basis. One of the results will be keeping more of these Grade A volunteers engaged in your ministry long-term.

3)  Invest in them strategically.

“If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.” ~Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

In competitive rowing, up to eight rowers row in a long, slender boat that is about 60 feet long. The key to winning one of these races is all the rowers rowing in the exact same direction at the exact same rhythm for a sustained period of time. The “coxswain” is the leader of the crew in the front of the boat who faces the other rowers and keeps them in rhythm, making sure they are running at maximum capacity.

That’s you! 

You are the “coxswain” of the crew! It’s your job to keep all your adult volunteers in rhythm and rowing in the same direction as you work toward the goal of winning the race hearts, souls and minds of the next generation! 

As the leader of the boat, it is vital to make sure your crew is effectively trained and that you know what the end destination is! That’s why one of the easiest ways to get your adult volunteers trained to row in the same direction is by bringing them to the Dare 2 Share One Day training. This full day training event (held on a Saturday from 9-3:30 to accomodate your volunteers’ schedules) will renew you and your team’s commitment to reaching teenagers. It will give you the training and tools you all need to row in the same direction and win the race!

Although our theme and much of our content is different from last year’s One Day training, one thing hasn’t changed…you and your entire crew will leave with a passion, purpose and plan to build a Gospel Advancing, disicple-multiplying, youth ministry. Click here to find out more about signing up. Space if limited so sign up right away and make an investment in training your team!

Pray for them consistently, spend time with them relationally and, finally, invest in them strategically. If you do these three key things you’ll, not only attract the best volunteers, you’ll keep them long term!


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