I have had the pleasure of revamping our volunteer youth group leader program. I can’t tell you enough how awesome it has been dreaming about how to make our weekend youth group services more relational. Now, I know that youth group volunteer leaders are nothing new. Probably every youth group has some form of adult volunteers serving in their youth ministry. I definitely applaud and commend any adult who takes on the task of being a leader in youth ministry. It can be tough at times, as students can be everything but friendly and open.
When I first begin this process I looked at our current program and kind of surveyed a few other ministries. I really felt like we were all in the same boat in terms of expectations and the actual duties of the youth group leader. The model consisted more about the leader being comfortable, present and available. Leaders were asked to do the setting up and the labor of the youth group more so than the connecting with students.
So I had an idea to challenge our leaders to be proactive in connecting with students. Instead of them waiting for students to approach them, they would approach students. I definitely understand how hard it is so I basically trained them on how to approach new and core students. I created a simple four step model for them to use. The four steps are greet, meet, connect and pray.
- Greet – We want to greet students. We will greet students instead of wait in a corner for them to come to us. We will reach out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to us.
- Meet – We want to make sure that we genuinely meet them. Refer to the hand out “Hand Shake Hi to a Hug Goodbye/”. I also had them refer to this handout I created to help them really connect with the students “Conversation tactics for youth workers“.
- Connect – We want to make sure that we are intentional about our conversation with students. We want to look for ways in the conversation to suggest a next step. For new students we want to guide them towards community. That could range from life groups to serving opportunities within the ministry or summer camp. You can even suggest grabbing coffee, lunch or ice cream with them sometime. For students who are already in life groups, you can suggest serving in a ministry, missions or summer camp. We want to make sure students are getting connected.
- Pray – We want to pray for students. While you are connecting through conversations, once an area of struggle, pain, disappointment, hardship and trial appears offer prayer. We want to avoid saying “I’ll be praying for you”. Pray for the student right there on the spot. Even pray for the core students you already know that have been met, greeted and connected. Go deeper in conversation and pray for them. Just because they are a part of our core students doesn’t mean they have everything together. Every situation will be different but when the opportunity presents itself feel free to pray.
I also added a small after service snacks to slow students down so that we could have a chance to connect with them. I explained to our leaders that success would be just getting to greet the students. So if you walked away from your service and all you were able to do is say hi to students then I consider your time at service successful. Never underestimate the power of hi and a smile when the intention is to show God’s love to someone. The great thing about it is that most of the students will be back the next week. So now you can build relationships with those students who you have already greeted. If the leaders have the privilege to move on to the next 3 steps then I would consider that a bonus.
Yes, this definitely stretched our volunteers so it’s important that you stress the difference between what success is and what’s the added bonus. Success being the hi and a smile, and the bonus being meeting, connecting and praying for students. We launched this last weekend and it was a great success. Our leaders rose to the challenge and did an awesome job. The very site of leaders proactively greeting, meeting, connecting and praying for students was super encouraging.
I believe the key to volunteer leaders being able to really move forward in the 4 steps with confidence is making sure they feel and students know they are fully apart of leadership. We are doing 2 things to make that happen.
- Our leaders were introduced from stage so students would know that they exist and would understand their purpose. This gives the leaders license and confidence to speak into the lives of the students and spiritually lead them.
- They will also have the opportunity to be a part of the service (could be a video, announcement or handling communion). We want students to know that they are a part of the student ministry leadership team and getting to know them is just like getting to know staff.
How does your weekend leaders differ or resemble this process?
Hope it helps!