The most successful, healthy, and growing ministries depend on teams of high-quality volunteers.
I know that this may not be a shocking or new truth, but what’s hard to hear is that not all of your leaders/volunteers begin with or maintain high quality.
The goal is not just a quantity of more leaders. I truly believe many youth ministers are hung up on not having enough leaders.
The real sauce is quality, and quality teams come from quality coaching (i.e. hard, relational work), of drawing the most out of people. So roll up your flannel sleeves and put on your windbreaker pants and chunky cross-trainers, because we’re considering our roles as pastor-coaches.
High quality comes from high standards and coaching.
If you’re not getting what you want out of your team it is either related to measuring inefficiently/ineffectively (i.e. measuring the wrong results or measuring the wrong way), or a lack in coaching up (i.e. getting the most out of what you already have). And let’s be honest: both scenarios are just implications for more hard work, but before you click away or scroll on, hear me out on how you can move forward.
Not all players are the same.
Coaching would be easier if all the players were the same. But that’s not what makes a healthy and awesome team. Fielding 9 outfielders or 5 centers is going to create an awkward mess of talent without teamwork. As pastor-coach, you need a vision for who is playing where (and not just on the team).
Leading a team of volunteers means that you will encounter a variety of personalities and gifting. That’s a good thing. Work for it! It’s an awesome mixture of blessing and challenge. The really hard work of leadership is pulling those people together and preparing them to give their best.
The diamonds are in the rough.
The funny idiom about undeveloped talent being gem-worthy is true! One of the greatest challenges of organizational/team leadership is coaching up leaders who are almost there. Coaching up is hard work. It’s toil, but it’s where the real shine comes from.
And some of us are guilty for loving the challenge differently; when it is students, we love it (they are growing!). But when it happens with our adult leaders, we get frustrated (they should know better!).
Some of the best talent you have, you have already, it just needs to be drawn out from the people on your team. I promise that you all have at least one adult or a couple of students who are ready for more, they just don’t know what it is, or how to get there. This is why they have you. You love them, want what’s best for them, and hopefully have enough relational trust to see beyond where they are and coach them into more and more of their untapped potential.
See potential beyond personality.
Some of the best people on your team are going to frustrate you. In over 16 years of ministry leadership, one of the things I have found to be true is that some of the best personality leaders (relational, kind, caring) can sometimes be the least prepared (forgot to check the lesson, didn’t check up on the emails). This can be frustrating at times, and yet watching them lead students and care deeply for the vision of your ministry is refreshing.
They love to serve, but we would really love them to be a little more prepared. We can work on that together. How? By asking clarifying questions.
Questions are the number one tool of a pastor-coach. The better the questions the better the pastor-coach.
Create a conversational opportunity to create space for them to ask questions. Usually when there is a gap, it comes from a lack of clarity around expectations. What is the difference between what you expect and what they are doing?
Facilitate their self-discovery.
They may not see it. Don’t be angry for what they didn’t notice; help them ask the questions to see it more clearly. Most of us live in the habits we fall into, and to change takes a hand-hold to step up and out of whatever was our routine. In fact, make learning more and more about their own strengths and weaknesses a regular part of what it means to be on your team. Everyone benefits from when teammates are learning more and more about their challenges and value-adds.
Clarify what’s next best, create helpful steps.
If this is a team effort for your ministry, then do the teamwork together. Help them in practice sessions, so that they can be ready to play. Whether it is a small group leader who needs to be more dynamic during group time, or a leader who needs to commit to one big idea from the lesson instead of trying to cover it all, give them encouraging notes often. Make plain what improvement looks like. If there is enough trust to call someone out, be pastoral enough to point them to the next step and to call them into conversation. Help them see success as much they see what’s lacking.
Point out their strengths.
Like great questions, positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful tools we have in pastor-coaching. It’s the way in which they will remember what they learn. When you celebrate with them and brag on them to others when they are doing a great job, they will continue to run in that direction.
I know you already wear a lot of hats, but for this season when everything feels uncertain, double-down on loving and leading your team. The more you can build up who you already have this season, the better your team will be for next season.
This content was written by Zac Workun. Zac serves as the Student Ministry Training Specialist for Lifeway and is one of the co-founders of Youth Ministry Booster. He has served the local church in various youth ministry roles for over 15 years.