Why Your Ministers Leave

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I get a little sad when I think back to my early years of youth ministry, and realize that only a few of the ministers who joined me that first year are still around.  If it hadn’t been for some of the volunteers that I had my first, second and third year of ministry I’m sure I would have burned out long ago.  They were there to pick me up, challenge me and remind me that God was the reason behind all of this.

Sadly, some had to move on because life happened.  Some had to move on because they felt called to a different ministry.  It’s hard saying goodbye to a volunteer, especially if there was nothing you could do about the situation.  You just have to embrace God’s plan for them, and your ministry.

Then there are the volunteers who walk away for reasons that could have been prevented.  And, because of something avoidable they left upset and disappointed.  While it hurts to say goodbye to any minister, the ones who’s departure you could have prevented are the worst.  All you had to do was change, and maybe they would have stuck around.  So why did they leave?  Probably because you didn’t:

  • Release Control: It’s easy to feel like you are delegating when in reality you are only undermining a volunteers effort.  You might say, “Do this.”; however, once you see them in action, doubt creeps in and you take away the reigns.  If you want ministers to stick around then you need to allow them to own pieces of your ministry.
  • Set Clear Expectations: People can’t read your mind; therefore, you need to clarify (Repeatedly) what’s going through it.  If you give an instruction once, do not be afraid to give it again.  Make sure you explain the reasoning, give vision behind it and follow up to make sure they understood what it is you want them to do.
  • Provide Feedback: It can be very frustrating to have a job where you are not given feedback.  Negative or positive it’s always important to know how you are doing and where you need to improve.  Even though you do not pay your ministers, you need to treat them like employees.  Give them the feedback to improve.
  • Encourage And Support: You know ministry is hard.  The long hours, the crazy teens and the angry parents.  Guess what?  You aren’t the only one in the trenches, your volunteers are there too.  Maybe not as much; however, they are facing some of the same battles; therefore, need just as much affirmation and cheerleading as you do.  Make sure you take the time to thank them and love them.
If I knew of a quick and easy way of recruiting ministers I would share it with you.  Because growing your team takes time, it’s important that you focus your attention on nurturing the ones you do have.  In the end they will be advocates for the ministry.  They will help bring in new people because of their stories.  Just let them know how much you value them by giving them goals, and challenging them to go deeper in their faith.

How do you keep ministers around for the long haul?  How do you live out the four points mentioned above?

Plan The Best Orientation For New Leaders

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It’s that time of year when you are busily recruiting new leaders, plugging them in and getting them ready for their first year of ministry.  You make the announcements at church, send out emails to parents and encourage your current volunteers to invite their friends.
You find that your recruiting effort is working, people are calling and inquiring about getting involved.  Now that you have their interest you need to not only keep it; but, make sure they are comfortable getting started.  Your solution?  Is to plan an informational meeting or an orientation.  So, where does one start?  How do you create an informational meeting where new leaders feel equipped and ready to serve?  You get them ready by making sure your orientation:

  • Simulates The Program – If they are new they probably have little to no clue what your ministry looks and feels like.  If you are holding a meeting for small group leaders, make the meeting space look like your small group room.  If you are hosting a parents meeting, take them through a format similar to the one you use with the teens.  By simulating the program you allow them to get a taste before they jump in.
  • Builds Community – Chances are that most of them are nervous about plugging into ministry.  Just as you would host an icebreaker for new students in your ministry, try doing that for new leaders.  Make sure the meeting has time for community building and sharing.  Don’t just hold a lecture, include some interaction.
  • Starts And Finishes On Time – It’s not only rude to go over, but it’s also a sign of disorganization and lack of preparation.  When you give people a start time and an end time you are making a promise.  In order to keep within the time you’ll need to practice and make sure you have your materials readily available. 
  • Gives Them Clear Action Steps – In an orientation you are building up emotions, and setting expectations.  If you don’t have an action step for your participants that fire will go out quickly.  Make them simple and communicate them clearly, the idea is to keep the participants moving forward.

If this is an overwhelming idea, share the burden with a coworker or trustworthy volunteer.  You want orientation for new leaders to be a fun and memorable experience.  If you are only focused on recruiting and not orienting you’ll find yourself having plenty of turnover before your season of ministry even begins.  Build leaders who will last by giving them a memorable beginning to their journey.

What do you do to make orientation for new leaders engaging and memorable?

Plan A Trip Without Chaperones

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When I started out in ministry I stressed out greatly when it came to planning trips. While there were many aspects of trip planning that stressed me out, the one that got to me the most was recruiting chaperones.  The problem wasn’t finding people to ask, it was not feeling guilty about it.  I felt like I was asking them to be a part of an event where they needed to babysit a group of teenagers.

This past Friday our ministry planned a trip to Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley.  It’s a trip we done several times before, but what was amazing about this trip was the fact that the majority of our chaperones were current small group leaders in our student ministry.  And because this trip was mostly driven by small groups it was an event filled with:
  • HIGH ATTENDANCE – It’s a pain to collect dozens of permission forms on your own and to make sure that everyone got the reminder text, email, or smoke signal.  You can put the responsibility on your small group leaders to recruit their 6-8 teens and collect the necessary paperwork.  In the end it makes planning a whole lot easier. 
  • TRUST – Parents should know their teens small group leader, so they trust the adults overseeing their teens.  You trust them because you know that they will step-up and fill in the holes you miss.  Teens will enjoy the fact that they know someone (even if it’s an adult) so the awkwardness of going alone won’t be there.  When the trust is there it makes it a whole lot easier to rally and organize the group.
  • CONSTANT ATTENTION – The teens become numbers when you just recruit chaperones.  While bonding may occur on the trip, you can only go so deep.  Because the relationships have already been established you allow the experience to go deeper.  Even if a teen is new or this event is an evangelization tool, your small group leaders know how to plug in the new guy.
  • FOLLOW-UP – When you just have chaperones you might form a connection between an adult and a teen; however, when the experience is over, so could the relationship.  When you have small group leaders work with you on a trip, you can guarantee that every student has the opportunity for follow up.  Even if the teen is new, they could connect with a leader and later join that person’s small group.
To use small group leaders as your chaperones is a long term plan and that’s why you can also use trips as a way of recruiting future small group leaders.  It’s about being intentional with who you ask and clear that what they are doing is more than just babysitting; it’s about building relationships.  So, start recruiting by asking God for His guidance and words so that you can get rid of chaperones and plan your trips with leaders.
How do you recruit leaders for trips and events?

How To Recruit Quality Volunteers

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In my second year of student ministry our church embarked on a huge event that required many different volunteers to step up and help us around the office.  One day I was showing one of the volunteers how to assemble some booklets for the event.  As I showed her how to put it together I sensed frustration, grumbling and sarcasm.  After a few minutes I stopped and said, “You know you don’t have to volunteer if you don’t want to.”  She apologized to me and lets just say that was the last time I asked her to help me with anything.
As a youth minister you desperately need volunteers because doing ministry on your own is impossible.  Without volunteers you won’t have anyone to lead small groups, set-up the food or chaperone the work camp you have planned in three weeks.  You need volunteers but you can’t just go out and recruit anybody.  You want a team player who will step-up when you need them to and grow with the team.  So how do you recruit quality volunteers?

  • Make Your Values Known – High quality ministry attracts high quality people.  A high quality ministry is one where people are showing up on time, prepared and enthusiastic.  Could you imagine interviewing at a place where people are complaining and disorganized? No, of course not, you want to work at a place where people are motivated and moving.  Make your values known and you will attract valuable ministers.
  • Give Them A Taste – You explain to them the whole program; however, they still aren’t sure.  Your next step is to have them give it a try.  Let them get a feel for your ministry, meet the other volunteers and teens.  On top of giving them a feel, you get the opportunity to see them in action.  If you catch any red flags it won’t be as awkward not to invite them back.  
  • Interview Them – This might take some time; however, if you want to make sure you have the right people on your team, sit down and find out.  If you are desperate it’s easy to say, “Yes.” to an adult who wants to get involved; however, you need to know if they will fit.  If you connect, then no problem, if you don’t, then move along.
  • Trust God – God wants your ministry to grow; therefore, He’ll provide you with the right people.  Trust that God will create the opportunities for you to interact with potential candidates.  Trust that He will give you the words for the best invitation.  But, don’t just expect them to appear out of thin air.  You need to pray specifically and then act on it, God will provide.

Not all your volunteers will work out.  You might feel that someone is great for the job only to find out a few months later that it’s a total flop.  You might meet someone who is perfect for your ministry; however, personal and family circumstances indicate that this isn’t the right time.  In the end trust that God wants your ministry to grow, trust that He will give you the opportunities where all you need to do is ask.

How do you recruit quality volunteers?

Your Most Important Relationships: Part 5 The Ministers

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The relationships we have in ministry will inspire, challenge, shape and even hurt us.  Some of those relationships we think will last forever while others will just be a moment in time.  Without ministers you really can only do so much.  If you want to grow your capacity you need to grow the number of ministers that you have serving in your ministry.  While there are many ways to recruit ministers there really isn’t huge secret, you just need to ask people.  Whether the announcement comes from the pulpit, through a well crafted email or an airplane flying a banner over the town the real question isn’t, “How do I recruit them?” it’s “How do I retain them?” 
Naturally adults will leave your ministry because of life change; however, you want to make sure that’s the only reason.  When a minister leaves because they are disengaged, or overwhelmed you need to look at how it is you are interacting, growing and relating to them.  Again, they are the hands and feet to your ministry, in order to strengthen the relationship you have with your team you need to:

  • Invest In Their Lives – You might not know every single one on your team personally; however, you want to create an atmosphere where people feel like they are important.  A great step to retaining ministers is by just spending time with them.  It might be doing something they love or inviting them to do something you love.  Introduce them to your family, make sure your spouse and kids are familiar with them, if anything don’t treat them like a once a week acquaintance.  If you want them for the long haul, you need to build relationships to last for the long haul.  
  • Understand Their Commitment – It’s easy to treat our ministers like full time employees because of how badly we need them.  Understand that they need to be able to say, “No” and have limits surrounding their commitment.  There are going to be seasons when showing up once a week will be easy and then others when they need a season off.  Do not hold it against them or set expectations that are unreasonable.  Check in with them, ask them how life is going, how their families are doing and show them that you are their to work with them.
  • Be Crystal Clear – One of the most frustrating things in any relationship is a lack of communication.  If you want ministers to step up to the plate and own a part of your ministry you need to make sure clear and consistent communication is a priority on your plate.  Make sure you provide for them multiple mediums of communication, don’t just leave it to email or a post on a group page.  When you communicate clearly and consistently they’ll feel a part of the loop, which will help them feel a part of the team.

By investing in your ministers and working to keep them around you will create natural advocates to recruit the next crop of volunteers.  If you are constantly turning over minister after minister it will create an instable environment and it doesn’t matter how hard you work to recruit people, no one will want to stay.  Build the teams, love on your people and show them how much you care and see how they will pour back into you.

How do you pour into your ministry team?