Wow!!! I thought the first week of April gave the site a lot of traffic, but last week we had even more visitors! I will continue to assume it is because you are getting to hear voices other than youth ministers. This week we will continue that trend. We need a lot of volunteers in youth ministry and this week we have two open up and share their thoughts on what they want youth ministers to know. Enjoy their wisdom and take it to heart……
“What do you want youth ministers to know?”
Katy King lives with her husband, Adam, and their dog, Scout, in Goodlettsville, TN. She works in an elementary school as a Speech-Language Pathologist with students from kindergarten to third grade. Katy has a passion for youth ministry that has led to work with organizations like Passport Camps, Inc. in several capacities and being an active youth volunteer at her church.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to be a volunteer with several different youth ministries. Thankfully, through them I’ve learned a great deal, developed my own sense of call, and fostered valuable relationships. I love youth ministry; the fun and silly activities, the deep conversations, the opportunities to teach and help youth to experience new things, find their place in the church, and establish a deeper connection with those around them and most importantly, with God.
Sometimes volunteers may be viewed as something you have to put up with, but are necessary in order for events to be successful. Regardless, I actually want to help. I volunteer to help the youth ministry; it’s important to me and so are the youth. The best way for me to provide support is to work well with the youth minister, youth director, or whoever is in charge.
One of the most helpful things a youth minister or worker can do for volunteers is to be honest. When asked to chaperone or assist with an activity, I am more likely to actually be helpful when I know what I’m being asked to do. I know there are times when you just need a body for crowd control, or when you need someone to follow your instructions in a specific way, or even to lead. All of those are perfectly acceptable to me; I just need to know what you are asking.
As a volunteer, sometimes I have other commitments that force me to miss out on some youth ministry things. An activity may not fit into my schedule, or be something I’m equipped to do well, or even be something that sparks my interest. My inability to be there for everything doesn’t mean that I am not committed to the ministry, or that I am trying to put the ministry in a bind. While volunteering with the youth is a priority for me, God hasn’t necessarily called me to youth ministry as a vocation. So, I have to balance it with other commitments…trust me, I know that youth ministers and workers have lives outside of the church but they have been called to make it part or all of their professional lives.
Most importantly, we’re on the same team. If you know me, you know that I’m more than willing to voice my opinion when asked. I’m not trying to be adversarial. I’m simply offering my thoughts. It’s completely fine to disagree, but we have to work together. The youth ministry is better and healthier when we can all work together for the youth and for their role in the church at large. As a volunteer, I honestly do want to help.
Steve McClain attends Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown, KY where he volunteers with the youth. He works as the Director of Communications at the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities. He is married to Sara Cocanougher McClain and has a daughter named Julia who is in the youth.
Fresh out of college, some *cough* 25 *cough* years ago, I was fortunate to have landed a dream job for a new graduate as a sports editor in Richmond, Ky.
But I was also looking to put down some roots in my adopted college hometown, and was fortunate to find a spot at Red House Baptist Church and some welcoming members who took me under their wings. They quickly had me (and later my girlfriend then fiancé then wife) volunteering and working with a youth group of nearly 50 students, led by the Rev. Wayne Spivey.
It was a great time of growth personally and spiritually for me as I watched those kids grow and mature. I realized how valuable a strong, vibrant youth ministry could help the church as a whole be a vibrant, beacon to the community and grown.
When I left Richmond and found a new church home wherever I landed, I quickly tried to plug in to volunteering with the youth ministry.
That’s when I started getting asked one of the most frustrating questions I have ever been asked – “Why do you want to work with the youth? You don’t have any kids in the group.”
I had to bite my tongue from snapping back with “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize there were restrictions on who could help?”
In fact, most of the volunteer help at Red House was singles or young couples fresh out of college. In a way, it made sense….we didn’t have families so we could go on youth retreats or missions trips (some of my fondest memories today are from those trips). We served as mentors for those youth. Many of us were teachers or worked with the schools in some capacity so we built relationships with them outside the church walls.
As I have continued working with youth groups in various ways, I still firmly believe that the youth and church must be connected to each other. Not just financially. Not just when somebody wants something done.
But really get your feet and your hands dirty with them.
Parents, volunteer for these trips. I have been, multiple times. Some of the greatest memories we will have with our daughter is going to Passport her sophomore year and watching her mature into an independent person preparing for her own future.
Other adults in the church, volunteer for these opportunities. Get to see these young people as something besides a line-item in the budget. Learn their interests. Some of you may have experience in what they want to do for their future. What better gift could you give as a Christian than to guide a young mind?
Youth ministers – cultivate these relationships with parents and members of the church. It isn’t easy. The one thing that distresses me is the seemingly lack of interest adults have in working with their youth group. It will take you as the youth minister to get folks interested and stepping out of their pews and getting their hands and feet dirty with the youth.
But if they do it one time, they may find they want to continue doing it.