Analytics (part 2): The Valuation Of Volunteers In Youth Ministry

Analytics. The systematic evaluation and measurement of facts. Something that we talked about in a personal leadership way last week. This week we are looking at the valuation or the analytics  of the Volunteer in Youth Ministry.

In the middle of this Teen Decade, we are evaluating Youth Ministry. We look last week at personal leadership and 5 dangerous questions. Now, we turn the focus upon the Youth Volunteer. If we are going to build a great Youth movement in the Church, it will take many people to do that. Aside from Pastors and Leaders in the Church, we need para-Church leaders, NGO leaders (non-governmental organizations), and other community or business youth leadership to effectively work with this generation. Because the Church is the largest volunteer organization on the planet, it will require Youth Leaders to train volunteers in these settings to build the young people of America.

Analyzing Volunteer Feedback
While reading an article recently by Dan Reiland, the leadership guru, I was struck by his comments that if we are going to enlist volunteers at any level of leadership we have to listen to them. Reiland speaks of the wealth of knowledge that our volunteers can give us if we would simply listen to them. So, using the Reiland article and my years of work with volunteers, I want to give you several real life statements from disgruntled volunteers. Read through these real life statements and see if you can avoid some of the mistakes that I have made along the way:

"I never knew exactly what they wanted me to do" - Clarity breeds production. As Youth Leaders we must understand that asking someone to 'set up the chairs' is really setting them up for failure. Because we have not given them directions on where to set the chairs, how many chairs to set up, or what time to have them set up. This is a task that leaders should be delegating.

Identify a chain of command so that Volunteers know who to talk with in case they need questions answered. Create your own Job Description for tasks and make sure that everyone understands the task to be assigned.

"There was no training" - One of the qualities of a great Youth Leader is equipping the people around them. This might include leadership modeling by the leader, personal mentoring of key people, small group training of teams, or even team teaching monthly to the whole Youth Ministry on the responsibilities of the leaders. Another thing that should be done often is conversation. Ask questions and listen to the volunteers.

Take every opportunity to mentor and train leaders in life and small group settings. Along with this, don't forget the evaluation process along the way. Feedback can be a great mid-course correction on any team project.

"No one ever said thanks" - Gratitude and relationship will build team more than assignments and meetings and manuals. A finely placed 'thank you' could energize a tired worker. My wife used to place a pack of 20 Thank You cards on my desk each month. It was my responsibility to catch people on our Youth Leadership team doing something positive. And then to write them a note. This brought our team together like few things I had done over the years. Try writing thank you notes this week with someone you work with or a volunteer on your team.

If you can determine the Love Language of your volunteers, you will increase the relationship and ultimately the output of each person. You can find these 5 unique ways of relational response by reading the book by Gary Chapman. People respond in different ways to all kinds of relational stimuli. Knowing how each of your volunteers respond to their relationships is vital to volunteer health.

"They seem like they are continually disorganized" - Simplify. Learn the value of simplicity and stay away from complexity in programming, format, responsibility, and schedules. Stay focused upon your vision and don't confuse the ministry with secondary tasks. Too often Youth Leaders have been characterized as unorganized for events, unprepared for the Youth Service, and indecisive and uncommitted when it comes to philosophy and style of ministry.

Organize around the mission of the gospel and forget about what everyone else is doing. Arguably, the greatest miracle that Jesus ever did was the feeding of the 5,000. We have heard about the provision of God in that moment through the small lunch of the little boy near the crowd. But, there is one statement in the story that I believe was as important to that miracle as the lunch. In John 6, Jesus asked the disciples to 'sit the people in companies of 50'. What was He doing? I believe He was simplifying and using the gift of administration so that He could do something that everyone has talked about for centuries.

"There was a serious breakdown of communication" - There will always be a lack of communication in every organization. But, we still have to limit the breaks. Here are two things that will help our communication.

First, we must ENCOURAGE communication on a regular basis. Weekly meetings with key volunteers can bring constancy to the vision. And these leaders can become the promotion and marketing of your philosophy to the rest of the tribe that you cannot get to on a regular basis. These correspondents become an extension of your leadership. The encouragement must be continual and have a plan. Say it, say it again, and say it one more time to every level of your team.

Secondly, we must ENHANCE communication through any means possible. This can be done through regular meetings, personal contacts, a promotional team, banners and posters, group sites/apps with your team, and even social media. Go beyond verbal communication on a Wednesday night or Sunday morning. Remember, in order for our vision to stick, we cannot be the only one talking about it.

"It seemed like it was all about achieving the Youth Leader's personal goals" - Creating ownership with everyone is a must. Make sure that people feel they are more important than the programs. That systems are not celebrated above the managers of them. If we want each person on our Youth Leadership team contributing at a greater level, we must value their input and use their ideas. A volunteer whose ideas are not heard and valued will not last long.

Creating a 'Super-friends' mentality and not a 'Superman' mentality will remove weakness in any youth organization. This is best done through servant-leadership from the top that gets the focus off the Leader and onto everyone in the organization and onto the mission. Also, giving private and public praise will inspire volunteers to invest because the private praise makes them feel valued from the Leader and the public praise makes them feel like they will have leverage and authority with the students.

"It wasn't any fun" - The atmosphere of the Youth Ministry is key to young people. They are drawn to setting. Here are my top 5 culture-builders for a Youth organization:

MAKE IT FUN with variety. For instance, in a Youth Service or at a Youth Event, don't do the same thing every time. Listen to students and implement some of the ideas they have for the ministry. Create excitement and return with change and variety.

MAKE IT FUN with laughter. Encourage humor and a casual demeanor. Words are very important. There should be no room for negative talk. Make fun of yourself and not others. Don't take yourself or others too seriously. Learn to pray and play.

MAKE IT FUN with mystery. Bring pizza in for a Youth Leadership meeting or a special guest to speak at your next leadership meeting. Have students come to your next leadership meeting and address the leaders. Change the Youth room around if you are able. Format the Youth Service differently so that the students do not get in a familiar rut.

MAKE IT FUN with love. Have you told your Youth Leaders how much you love them and how much you value their work? Love will cause everyone to fall over each other to serve. Make sure that on a regular basis you are modeling time with the students and not just the leaders. The leaders may grow more in love with the students as they watch you spending time at schools or just talking with them before and after the Youth Service.

MAKE IT FUN with free stuff. Buy volunteers t-shirts, hats, or key chains. When your leaders see that you are willing to use resources for them in a creative way, that kind of giving can be contagious. The Church must be seen as givers and not always takers. Set aside budget for monthly giveaways and be generous.

By using these analytics, you can measure and assess volunteer and overall Youth Ministry effectiveness. Use these practical ways to encourage the volunteers around you. If your organization is going to be a success, you must solve the unspoken concerns that are floating around in the minds of our volunteers.