|Courtesy of james.thompson/Creative Commons License|
The first year you own a house is usually the hardest. No matter how new it feels like when one thing breaks the whole world is crashing around you. It doesn’t matter if the ceiling caves in or a toilet overflows, you think to yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” But after time you settle down you recognize not everything needs to be repaired immediately. You create a priority list, you know where to prevent future repairs and you build confidence.
Leading a small group for the first time is like buying a house. For many of our ministers we paint a vision that’s attractive and engaging. Excited, big eyed and bushy tail they walk in thinking:
- They’ll meet with 6-8 teens.
- They’ll be partnered up with another adult.
- They’ll receive your questions/curriculum beforehand
But, then that doesn’t quite happen, in fact the unexpected happens. Like:
- Only one teen shows up for group.
- Your partner is a no show or quits.
- You don’t get the curriculum beforehand.
- A teen in your group has a crisis.
Panic sets in because you haven’t prepared them for this. Some of it is preventable, while some of it is just life. If not addressed you can lose the leader, build an unneeded reputation and find that your ministry is a turnstile for volunteers.
In order to set up our volunteers for a successful first year in ministry we need to:
- Partner Them Up With A Veteran: Make sure it’s someone who has served in at least two years in ministry. Someone who is reliable and knows how to role with the punches should a situation become difficult.
- Address The Ups And Downs: You don’t want to freak out your team; however, you want to give them a healthy picture. They need to know if only one teen shows up that ministry still needs to be done. It’s an opportunity from God for you to pour into that one teen. It might be a sign that they need to reach out to their teens outside of the ministry. Either way they need to be prepared for it.
- Set Them Up For Success: Get materials to them early. Tell them they can always reach you with questions. Be consistent. If a minister walks in feeling unprepared because of you, they’ll feel like you are either tripping them up or not valuing their time.
- Build Community: If your leaders feel a part of a larger community, they’ll have the confidence to lean into tough times. They’ll know who to go to when they face a certain issue, which takes pressure off of you. As youth minister you won’t always be available, you need community to increase your capacity.
I’m nowhere near perfect in this avenue of youth ministry. To help me I’ve found a team to help me build community and distribute materials. Vision can never be overstated, if anything it should be leaking from your pours. If you can help the new ministers do more than survive their first year chances are they’ll stick around.
How do you acclimate new ministers to your ministry?