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Help the Help!

It could have been any gathering of adults that worked with teens. I found myself sitting in such a meeting when the announcement was made: we desperately need help with a teen event in a couple of weeks. I weighed my busy schedule against my desire to help out; I decided I could squeeze out one hour to help. I signed my name on the sign-up sheet.

The day of the event arrived, and although I hadn’t received any more information, I was committed to being at the event because desperate help was needed. Upon arrival, like any good volunteer, I immediately headed for the leader and asked where I could be most helpful. The response? There really isn’t anything for you to do.

Can you guess my reaction? While I was willing to help in a time of desperate need, I was livid that my precious time was wasted because there wasn’t anything I was needed for—other than being a warm body over the age of 18. It made me think that we often do the same thing with our adult volunteers; we really do need them, but we aren’t doing great follow through. Here a few things I took away from my experience:

  • Do not say you are desperate for volunteers unless you really are in dire need.
  • If someone volunteers, follow up with them about when to show up, where to be, and any other information they need before the event.
  • Give each person a specific job. Be creative. Make sure no one feels like they are un-needed.
  • Make sure each person knows what to do during the time they are present. Don’t assume they can fill in the gaps and figure it out on their own.

As youth ministers, we know that doing relational ministry is time well spent, but for a new or untrained Core Member, this can be difficult to grasp. Do not just think saying “talk to some young people” will be enough. Looking back at my years of youth ministry, I am guilty of not giving my team and adult volunteers clear directions—especially if the job was relational ministry.

Train your Core Members in relational ministry:

  • Help them understand the purpose of relational ministry and why we pour so much time into it.
  • Give them ideas and tools of how they can actually do this:
    • What should they talk about?
    • Whom do they talk with?
    • What should they be asking?
    • What should they do when a young person gives them a cold shoulder?
  • Model it for them.
  • Give them opportunities to practice.
  • Realize that it will look different for different people.

While you may think that adults can fill in the gaps, don’t assume. Provide them all the information and details they need to succeed as an adult volunteer. Whatever the case, don’t leave adult volunteers and Core Members out in the cold –like I was—standing outside at an event feeling lost and unappreciated. Help your adult volunteers and Core Members by giving clear instructions and directions about what is needed to make your event, Edge Night, or Life Night a success!

About the Author

Angela Hamrick

I only first went to youth group in high school because my mother made me. Little did I know that the Lord's plan for my life would be directly related to that one Wednesday evening. I don't eat bananas, seafood, or the white sauce that comes with chips and salsa.

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