As a student pastor, one of your greatest assets is your volunteer workforce, and as their leader, one of your top priorities should be making sure that they are properly trained, equipped, and motivated toward the task at hand.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind as you move forward with your volunteers…
Effective planning is a necessity for any healthy ministry, and one of the fastest ways to lose credibility with your leaders is poor planning. People are drawn to leaders with a mission, goals, and a winning strategy.
Make sure that you have created a solid plan, that is approved by your staff leadership, long before you put anything in front of your leaders. Think through details such as:
Name – What is the event called?
Theme – What is the theme?
Purpose – Why are you doing the event? (This step may even prove the event unworthy or ill-fitting.)
Date – When are you going to have it? Does it conflict with other calendared events?
Location – Where will you host the event?
Budget – How much do you have to spend?
Speakers – Will you bring in a speaker for the event?
Bands – Will you hire a band for the event?
Food – Will you feed students and/or leaders?
Staff needs – What paid staff workers will you need present at the event? Where will you need them?
Volunteer Needs – What volunteer workers will you need present at the event? Where will you need them?
Volunteer Training – What training needs to take place to prep workers for their jobs?
Promotional Plan and Flow – If you don’t promote, nobody will show up!
Event Flow – Detailed Agenda for the event
Resources Needed – What will you need make the event happen?
Meeting Dates – When will you meet about the event for planning/communication/training?
These are not the only areas that you need to think through for an event, but if you use this as a starting point, you will generate a list of new questions that will further your planning and help to guide your planning process.
One great benefit of this is that when leaders see that you have a thorough plan, understand their role and expectations, and feel well equipped for the task, they will be able to rest in your leadership and take great joy in their service.
Communication, or a lack thereof, can make or break your ministry. Many times, leaders have all of the pieces put together in their mind, but fail to communicate those details to their ministry teams. In failing to communicate, we limit our effectiveness, and leave ourselves and others open to confusion and frustration.
Make sure also that you are communicating often and through various channels. We know that people don’t read entire emails very often, so we can’t just rely on an email to effectively inform everyone. You need to plan to communicate electronically, through meetings, through training, and through print pieces. This may seem like overkill to some, but any gaps in communication will always work against what you are trying to do.
It is important not only that you communicate, but also how and when you communicate. Always think through your communication plan and make sure that your communication is hitting all of the right stops, at the right time, and in the right order. You always want to make sure that you inform your supervising staff first, then your student ministry level staff, volunteer leadership, parents, and finally your students. Any missteps in this process and flow can lead to mistakes and distrust that may potentially damage your ministry efforts.
All great leaders have superb listening skills. The key here is to know who to listen to, and how to ask effective questions that assist you in learning what you need to know to improve. In keeping with our communication flow, the first level of listening after coming up with your initial plan would be with your supervising staff.
Make sure that you listen to your supervising staff as they help guide you through your event planning. They may have valuable insights that can keep you out of trouble, and they will certainly have an opinion about how to best serve the church through your programming. Not listening on this first step can send your whole plan down a dangerous path.
Student Ministry Staff
If you have a paid staff, then like any team leader, you must make communication here a priority. As you move forward with your plan, make sure to listen to your staff team members and work together to take the plan to the next level. My preference at this level is to create the plan from scratch as a team. Doing this will allow all parties to feel involved and valued. Once the plan is created by the team, it is then presented to supervising staff for approval and suggestions. Now you have created a product as a team that everyone is proud of and communication down to the next level will be filled with excitement!
Listening to your volunteers is an important step in your communication with them, but there are some pitfalls that you will want to avoid. Remember, you are the leader! Many times student pastors are overwhelmed by the loud voices on their volunteer teams and their God-given leadership can be muffled. Making sure that you have a plan before you present anything to your leaders can help in this effort.
Realizing that it is important that your leaders feel heard, make sure that you allow them time to ask any questions that they have about the plan. Giving them time to ask questions will allow them to participate in the process, while also helping you to keep a pulse on the dynamic in your volunteer team.
Giving your leaders room to speak into the process is important as well, but you want to make sure and guide this feedback. Protect against negativity (which can be contagious), give specific areas that you want feedback in, and keep the conversation moving. Again, remember that you are the leader! Your volunteers will more often than not give you valuable feedback and suggestions, but ultimately the responsibility is yours to lead the ministry.
This post was written by John Paul Basham, Student Ministry Specialist