The key to any effective youth ministry is volunteers who help us lead. Without them there is no way we can effectively let every student in our ministry know they are valued, they are gifted, and they are loved, and we definitely cannot pull off the many programs and events on our calendar.
I am sure you are aware of how difficult it can be to recruit and train great leaders, so once they are there you want to make sure that they stay plugged in. With that in mind, here are three ways that you can encourage your leaders to make sure they stay committed for the long haul. Do not worry. These are not difficult or even that costly as we have found the same way we work to keep our kids plugged in works with leaders as well.
- Let them know they are valued.
When a leader shows up tell them you appreciate it. Be specific about thanking them for the role that they play. Whether it is running the snack shack, leading a small group, or handling check-in, let them know specifically how much you appreciate the role they play and how that affects the ministry. For example,”Thank you for doing our check-in. Your organizational abilities make this run smoother than I ever dreamed. And your smiling face is the first thing students see when they walk in and a huge reason they keep coming back and hearing the Gospel.” Just an example but you get the idea. Be specific about what they do and why it matters. This is best-done face to face but if you want to add a little extra a social media shout out can be a nice addition as well.
2. Let them know they are gifted.
I alluded to this in the previous point, but let your leaders know that not only are they playing an important part in your youth ministry and they are a valuable youth ministry resource, but that they have unique gifts that makes them the perfect person for the job. Them knowing they are not easily replaced will help them stick out difficult times.
But also let them know they are uniquely gifted so they do not have to be someone else. If they are not goofy tell them how their non-goofiness is a valuable gift. If they are high energy tell them they do not need to tone it down. So many people think youth leaders have to fit a stereotype and that is not the case. I am fairly quiet, chill, and do not get into rough housing. That is not what people would think would work with teenage guys. But every year God places me with a group of guys that match me. And I have learned to be me and not fake it so that I can fit the mold of a “youth leader”. Make sure your leaders no they can do the same.
3. Let me know they are loved.
You care about your leaders beyond the youth room but do they know that? This can be difficult in the middle of an event so you may have to text or make a phone call later in the week. But take time to ask leaders how college is going, family life, work, etc. If they are in crisis reach out for prayer and how you can support. Let your leaders know you truly love them as brothers and sisters in Christ and not just volunteers that fill a roll.
BONUS: Your leaders are unique.
Not every leader feels valued and loved the same way. I encourage you if you never have to look up the 5 Love Languages and think through how to best connect with each leader. Maybe even send out a survey to get a feel for this. Because I can tell you my wife prefers words of encouragement while I would rather go out for lunch or coffee and get quality time and talk youth ministry strategy. Some people just want a gift card. So just like you would not treat all students the same, do not treat all leaders the same either.
The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. So make sure your leaders know they are valued, gifted, and loved before you run out of fellow laborers.