A ministry friend recently asked me to come in and train their high school teen volunteers to be ministry leaders. She asked me an intriguing question: what topics would you recommend teaching teenagers to be good volunteers?
Coming from a youth ministry background, I have often used high school teenagers as volunteers in my ministry programs. They are a unique breed of volunteers. In many ways, they require special attention from you as the leader.
Because they are so young and lack experience, they need and want more hands on involvement from you. However, because they are so young, they bring a freshness and excitement that we sometimes lose as we become older. I’ve had to learn what works and what doesn’t with teenagers.
And I’ve had to provide lots of training to help them build their potential as leaders.
Here are 3 must teach topics for teen volunteers:
1. Servant Leadership
It is important to teach teenagers that leadership is not about privileges and perks. Teenagers (and even adults) often have a misconception that leadership brings power and freedom. If we are to be good ministry leaders, teenagers must understand that leadership is about serving others. That’s not just true in church. That’s true in business and family.
I like to share with teenagers that when they become a leader, they gain responsibility but lose some rights. What I mean is that when you have to take care of others and lead them, you don’t have the same freedom to do what you want. You are seen as a role model. You are seen as “in charge.” Being in charge means that we must always keep the best interest in mind of those we serve. That sometimes means giving up our own self-interest. That is true servant leadership.
I know you have dealt with volunteers, young or old, that have not followed through on their commitment to you and the ministry. Our society does not teach commitment well. In fact, I sometimes see children raised with no consequences when they fail to follow through on their commitment. The best way to teach teenagers about commitment is by following through on consequences when they don’t do what they say they are going to do. I know a music director who has decided that, if her teen volunteers do not show up to rehearsal, they are not allowed to play or sing at church that Sunday. Sometimes, the consequence might be losing their leadership role in the ministry if they are consistently not following through. Don’t be afraid to give consequences. When they mess up, it has to hurt a little bit. That’s how we learn.
3. Small group facilitation
If a teenager is volunteering in ministry, one of the more practical skills to teach them is to be good facilitators of small groups. Leading discussions and running meetings is an important skill, and it is one that we use often in ministry. One of the best ways to train them to be good facilitators is to role-play. Allow them to practice in a safe environment where you can offer immediate feedback and recommendations.
I think high school volunteers are some of the most fun group of volunteers to work with. Yes, they take more time and energy, but it’s worth it when you see them grow and stay involved in ministry all because you saw their potential and gave them a chance to lead.
Question: Do you use teenagers as volunteers? What skills do you try to teach your teen volunteers?