Protecting Volunteer Youth Leaders

Just last week we had our yearly White Elephant Christmas Party with my volunteers and their spouses. I am so blessed to have some brilliant volunteers who I love doing ministry with! They are fun, diverse, and integral to reaching and connecting with our students. Therefore, it’s imperative that I make a personal investment to train and invest these great people!

Not only is it my goal to invest in leaders and equip them for ministry, it’s also paramount that I protect them from many of the “joy stealer’s” that often come up in our ministries. Here are some of the “joy stealer’s” we often see:

– Church politics:  It happens in most churches, let’s face it. Don’t allow your volunteers to get sucked into this. When volunteers get involved with politics, remind them the example we need to be to students and remind them to rise above gossip and negative discussions. Most of all, remind yourself…

– Mistakes: Mistakes will happen. Anytime a leader makes an honest mistake it is my job to take the hit, not them. After all, they lead under my leadership. Anytime they make a mistake, I have to make sure I have a teachable moment with the leader, but make sure I emphasize my ownership of the mishap.

– Negativity: There will always be more we can do, and there will always be someone complaining about the ministry. It’s imperative that we shoulder the responsibility for getting the ministry on track and don’t allow volunteers to be burdened by negative comments. There will always be students, parents, and church leaders who have an opinion about your ministry. No one really knows how much is involved until they are in the trenches of your ministry. There are always a few short-sighted people in churches who think they know all the answers. When they come with their “answers”, ensure that you protect your volunteers from these joy stealing conversations.

– Appropriate Contact: Even though this can be awkward to talk about, it is my job to equip and train my leaders to know what is appropriate and what is not. We have a leaders manual that I revisit with my leaders once a year, (and with all new leaders). This outlines how to talk and counsel students without putting themselves in potentially challenging situations. Boundaries about giving students car rides, talking to students in public view, appropriate Facebook and texting contact… The list goes on and on, but it’s important to protect leaders and students from insinuations as well as potentially inappropriate contact. Sometimes leaders have such a huge heart for students that they do not always consider how to protect themselves and the students.

– Burnout: Most volunteers I know love what they do! Most of them work hard and have families to consider. One of the biggest challenges I see is the burnout factor. Too often they will give and give until something breaks… It’s important that I help them do ministry in healthy ways and give them grace to put their family first. This will mean that I a) Create a healthy ministry schedule. b) Insist constantly that family comes first. c) Model healthy boundaries myself. d) Give them grace to miss when they really need the night off. (More to come in a later post…)

– Help Them Laugh And Celebrate: One the best ways to protect volunteers is to help them laugh and celebrate what they are doing. There will always be challenges and struggles when we work with students, so it’s imperative that we focus on celebrating the victories and find ways to laugh as a team. Our volunteer meetings always begin with celebrating how we have seen God working, while we also have 2-3 social get togethers throughout the year to laugh and have fun together as a team. Most of all, I have to realize that laughter happens more when I learn to laugh first, laugh the loudest, and laugh at myself the most! I set the example, therefore I must live a life of laughter and celebration…

How do you protect your volunteers? If you are a volunteer, how does your leader protect you? What do volunteers need protection from? 

Phil <><

8 Responses to Protecting Volunteer Youth Leaders

  1. Darren Sutton December 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Excellent – as usual.

  2. Doug Franklin December 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Love your point on “mistakes” so true

    Keep up the good words Phil, really appreciate your ministry

  3. Mr Bill December 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Kuddos Phil Man!~

  4. Phil Bell December 13, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Thanks Gents!

  5. Jeremy Smith December 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    I love this post Phil! I think that every one of these is necessary. Last weekend, I took my volunteers out for “training” at Olive Garden. Did enough talking to call it training for 15 minutes and the other hour and 45 minutes we simply chatted about life, laughed, and loved simply being in the moments.

  6. Phil Bell December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    Jeremy, that is brilliant! When volunteers can get to know us and laugh with us, it helps so much when the challenging moments come. They know they can trust us, and they know that we care about them more than just someone who volunteers for us. Great stuff mate!

  7. Jon Bach December 15, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Phil,
    Awesome writing and reminder of the importance of protecting those who serve under our leadership.. You are a rock star… Thanks for writting

  8. Phil Bell December 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Thanks Jon! Your middle name is Barnabas, right? Thanks for your encouragement mate!

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