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It’s now two months into the ministry year, and I have a good problem. I need more leaders. Students are coming and bringing friends, which is good. The problem is we currently don’t have enough leaders to meaningfully engage with all of them. And, I don’t think I’m the only youth worker with this problem. Now, before you go out and ask just anyone to volunteer, I’d like to encourage you to think about who you are looking for and what you are asking them to do first. Because, not all volunteers are created equal…

For example, one of the biggest mistakes volunteers can make is treating your youth room like a playground and youth group nights like recess (more on that later…).

So, just stop for a second. Take a minute and think about what kind of volunteers you want serving with you. Because, what you really need is…

A team of people around you who love Jesus and teenagers as much as you do (or more).

A team of people who can see the potential in teenagers and not just focus on their problems.

A team of people who serve with grace and truth and not whistle-blowing rule enforcers.

A team of people who are willing to walk alongside students and not just watch them.

A team of people who are willing to make investments in students even when they’re not on the “clock.”

A team of people who are willing to serve no matter how hard or messy it gets.

What you really need is a team of mentors…not a team of playground duties.


Playground duties…

You know who I’m talking about. Playground duties roam school playgrounds during recess with whistles around their necks. They watch kids and wait for problems to happen or rules to be broken. They blow whistles and enforce rules. They hang out on the playground during recess and then disappear. (I could keep going, but I’m beginning to have flashbacks to my own grade school playgrounds…) The point is you don’t want your volunteers to be like playground duties. You don’t want people who “clock in” for a couple of hours at youth group, and then “clock out” and go home. You don’t want chaperones or whistle blowers. You want mentors.

So, think again about your volunteer team for a second. What kind of volunteers do you have? What kind of volunteers do you want to have?  (Perhaps this would be a good time to write down some qualities that you want to look for in potential volunteers). And, how do you know if a volunteer is more like a playground duty or a mentor? (One good question to ask them might be “Why do you want to volunteer working with students?”)

It’s a good problem to need more volunteers, but don’t make it a bad problem by filling your volunteer team with the wrong people.  Take the time to find (and invest in) people who are willing to mentor your students.

-Jason Matthews

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