Team Building

Below is a variety of suggestions for building a solid, stable, and committed team of volunteer youth workers. You can find much more on this subject in our free resource—Help! I’m a Youth Leader.

  • For leaders’ meetings, break into smaller groups. We have found that when we break down our leaders into smaller groups (men at one house and women at another, middle school leaders at one place and high school leaders at another, and so forth), our attendance is better due to the fact that the leaders are noticed more and the intimacy is improved.
  • Send e-mails to the entire group. E-mail is a beautiful thing! This has made the connection between me and my volunteer staff much more effective. I try not to bombard them with e-mails though—just enough to communicate.
  • Take them to lunch. One of the best ways I care for my leaders is to take them to lunch. I try to take two or three at a time so I can meet with them all in one month’s time. I spend time talking to each of them about the students they shepherd and how to take them to the next level spiritually. It is also a time when I ask them about their families and occupations. This is a specific time of caring for them.
  • Throw three big parties a year. We like to celebrate what God has done in our ministry, and I try to make these parties a big deal. Different places other than the church and great food are always musts! Read stories from kids (or bring some in to give testimonies), give outstanding results from the semester, and share what God is doing in the big picture. Most of all, encourage like crazy!
  • Give out t-shirts, key rings, bats, paddles, and so forth. Each year I come up with a theme that I can use to cast vision and have it printed on something. Be creative! This helps each coach feel like a part of the team.
  • Pay your leaders’ way for conventions, camps, and retreats. No money is required from my volunteers; just their time and caring for young people are needed. This is worked into my annual youth ministry budget.
  • Read different books together over time and discuss.
  • Send handwritten personal thank-you notes.
  • Visit your team members where they work and live. We tend to expect leaders to come to where we are; find out instead where they work and live. Get involved in their lives and the lives of their kids as well and you will have strong volunteers for life.
  • Plan an annual youth staff retreat. More can happen in one weekend than in a whole year of Sunday school or adult training meetings. Take your team somewhere to play together, to dream together, and just to let them know how valuable they are.
  • Conduct a “staff infection.” Once a year towards the start of school, do a crazy night to introduce the youth staff. Do all the skits and gags from their high school and college days, as well as make up some new ones. Rehearse three or four times together and just enjoy the lighter side of ministry with your team.
  • Give them training opportunities. If you can budget money in to take your team to a Youth Specialties Convention, to Willow Creek, to Saddleback, or to a similar training environment, the return is well worth the investment. You might also bring someone in to train your volunteers.
  • Empower them and show your loyalty. Give your volunteers a job and let them do it. Be loyal to them in front of others. Let them know they can trust you.
  • Have fun or just hang out. Plan a retreat that has a lot of relationship time built in or make plans for an outing—something such as playing laser tag or an afternoon team building event. Leaders like to play; it’s one of the few times we can be kids again.
  • Train towards specific goals. Leaders want to have a goal to pursue and need training on how to get there. Don’t forget that you live the vision every day; they only see it on Wednesdays and Sundays if that. Keep the vision in front of them often.
  • Reimburse them for taking students to lunch or other ministry contacts.
  • Give them annual covenants to sign. My adult leaders commit to specific assignments for a year at a time. Then I give them tremendous freedom to complete their assignments.
  • Have mandatory participation in a small group that you lead. This is not a time of youth worker training; instead, it is a time when we get honest with each other and develop deep relationships. This has been extremely beneficial.
  • Provide pastoral care. Whenever possible, I make sure that I am the pastor who cares for my youth ministry team’s pastoral needs.
  • Include their families. In some of the picnics, parties, and other outings I do for my leaders, I make sure to include their spouses and children.
  • Remind yourself constantly that you are a leader of leaders. Your first priority needs to be your volunteer leaders. (Check out Exodus 18:17–27; Acts 6:1–4; and Ephesians 4:11–12.)
  • Never ask a volunteer to do you a favor by helping with the ministry. You are doing them a favor by offering them the chance to serve and to be used by God to do an exciting work.
  • Do an appreciation dinner once a year to thank your volunteers.
  • Acknowledge your volunteer leaders in front of the congregation.
  • Don’t be threatened by their success. When some of your students start to look to and depend on a volunteer as their mentor, pat yourself on the back; that’s what is supposed to happen.
  • Don’t be afraid to have high expectations of leaders. Be clear about what you expect up front. Some people may be too busy to be involved. Better to know that first rather than be disappointed later.
  • Have your leaders’ meetings on the same night the students meet, maybe a half hour before. That way your leaders are not giving up an extra night off of their week.
  • Recruit parents to show appreciation to the adult volunteers.

Got an idea for building your volunteer team that you would like to recommend? Drop us an email at iyc@chog.org.