Tapping the Volunteer Well

When working in youth ministry, or any ministry, it is not wise to “go at it alone.” Time and time again we see an eager and qualified youth leader take on the ministry on their own. They feel stressed and as a result, burnt out. Just because we are called to serve the Church doesn’t mean we have to carry the load all on our own. Avoid unnecessary stress by utilizing the great resources of volunteers. Here are three tips to working with volunteers:

1) Invite Well: Often, when speaking with parish youth ministers, I hear that they struggle with not only finding quality/qualified volunteers, but they cannot find ANY volunteers at all. My belief is that all parishes have adults who would be willing to be a part of the ministry. Most of the time they don’t come forward for one simple reason: we do not invite well. Consider how Jesus called the Apostles (Mk 2:13-17 and Mt 4:18-22). He didn’t put an ad in the Synagogue bulletin with classy clip art. He didn’t ask for followers after the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus called them individually, by name. He saw what was special about them and brought them into the fold.

Why don’t we do the same and invite people by name? Speak to your pastor first and make a list of who can be a valuable member of your team. Approach them individually and tell them how you envision their role.

2) Supporting Well: Some people do not volunteer because they feel under qualified to engage young people in growing their faith. That may or not be true. How can you as a youth minister help train them so they feel prepared to help you?

Can you lead a session locally at your parish for parents (yes, I said parents) and others who might be interested? Does your diocese sponsor training days or workshops? Can you attend a national conference? If you are searching for resources to support your team, look at Thrive – an online community of youth ministers from around the world. Here you are empowered and equipped to train your volunteers.  It might be what they need to feel prepared to serve.

3) Thanking Well: When a meeting, training, or program ends, how do we acknowledge who served? Is their time and talent taken for granted? Do we truly show adequate appreciation for what our volunteers have done? If you want people to feel like their time is valued, give back to them. Acknowledge them on a big scale, like volunteer dinners or getaways or on a smaller scale like a Christmas card or a group email on a birthday or other life event. The key is to make your team not feel like a “number” but like a valued contributor to the mission of the Church to reach young hearts.

The key is to remember we are not alone. There are people within the community who are willing to participate. Let us welcome others into a partnership of loving the teens of our community. If Jesus didn’t want to minister to others by himself, why should we?

Paul Morisi

A native of Queens, NY, Paul has been serving the young Church in the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2010. In 2013 he completed his MA in Historical Theology from St. John's University. Paul and his wife Alison welcomed their first child James Anthony last April and they couldn't be more excited.

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