News & Blog

Looking After Volunteers #16: Don”t Get Annoyed If They Can”t Give Even More

No. 16 – Don”t Get Annoyed If They Can”t Give Even More

There is a rather unpleasant tendency in the modern age of asking for charity from those who are already giving. I used to support a particular charity and I gave a certain amount of money every month. Every so often they wrote to me with creative attempts to get me to give even more. This ticked me off rather a lot. I felt as though my generosity was being taken as a license to ask for even more, and I also felt that they probably weren”t making anywhere near as much effort to target the people who weren”t already giving as those who were!

To be fair, I can see why charities do this, even though I still have my issues with it. And it usually works, but it still just seems a little unsavoury. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #15: Tell The Wider Community What The Volunteers Are Doing

No. 15 – Tell The Wider Community What The Volunteers Are Doing

In a lot of Catholic parishes there are lots of people doing lots of different ”jobs,” and more often than not only the priests and a few key people really have any sort of overview of what everybody is doing. Few people in the pews actually know about, much less appreciate, what those few volunteers are doing on behalf of the community.

And that last bit, by the way, is key for me. Even if a parishioner has no interest in youth ministry whatsoever, the youth project is still working on their behalf, and probably working quite hard. Luckily though, I really think that most people do take an interest an do actually want to know. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #14: Let People Laugh!

No. 14 – Let People Laugh!

In my last (day) job I was sitting around in the office one day with a few other people and we were sharing a rather silly joke. I can”t remember exactly what it was but I remember that it was one of those silly ritual in-jokes that so many communities have; the sort of thing which, even if I could remember it, could probably make almost no sense to anybody else.

As we were sitting there being generally quite silly, another team member walked through the office and commented on what a ”silly” community we had. She was being affectionate and playful, not critical and so I responded by saying ”yeah, but a silly community is a happy community.” Read more

Looking After Volunteers #13: Take Time To Bond Away From Work

No. 13 – Take Time To Bond Away From Work

The best teams know each other well. They know how to work with each other and they are well bonded as people. Whenever I work with a group of people who I don”t really know away from the project, I always suggest that we go out for a meal or go to the pub for a few drinks after the first meeting, or something like that.

The great Benet Conroy taught me that ministry arises out of the atmosphere of love, support and prayer that is created within a community. The community is a key building of Christian faith, and so much of ministry flows out of that. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #12: If You Have To Criticise, Get It Right!

No. 12 – If You Have To Criticise, Get It Right!

If you manage volunteers a lot there will come a time when you have to tell them things they might not want to hear. This might be a fairly minor constructive criticism or it might mean tackling a larger problem connected with something the volunteer has done, or failed to do. This is always really hard to get right. It”s hard with paid staff. It”s harder still with volunteers who have generously given their time to your project.

On two distinct occasions in my career I have witnessed volunteers being criticised in ways which were frankly brutal. Those volunteers went away dejected and in real pain, having suffered what I sincerely feel was a grave injustice. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #11: Debrief and Evaluate Properly

No. 11 – Debrief and Evaluate Properly

The need to evaluate projects is well established in youth ministry. In fact, it”s a well established part of the very dynamic by which modern youth work lives and breathes (Kolb”s learning cycle and all that!)

In the school where I work (the day job) we use a system called WWW/EBI. It stands for What Went Well (or what”s going well) and Even Better If, and it”s a culture we”ve adopted for everything we do. It comes into every lesson with the students and it comes into our own planning and reflection both as individuals and as departments and other teams. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #10: Get The Balance Right Between Supervision and Delegation

No. 10 – Get The Balance Right Between Supervision and Delegation

Those of you who are parents will be familiar with the scenario of teaching your kids to ride a bike. Eventually the stabilisers come off and there comes that scary/ brilliant point where you have to let go and let your child ride unaided! I”m not a parent, and I can”t say I remember learning to ride a bike myself, but I do remember the day I passed my driving test. I was heading out that evening and my parents suggested I take the car. They stood by the window and watched as I drove away and when I returned that evening they did me the kindness of actually not making a big deal out of it! They acted as though it was the norm, and that gave me a great sense of independence and trust.

The youth ministry analogy is fairly obvious. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #9: Listen To Their Ideas

No. 9 – Listen To Their Ideas

When you finally reached the dizzy heights of managing a project, the first thing that happens – if you”re like me, anyway – is you get ideas-crazy. You have spent years having ideas that you never got to actually do because your co-ordinator didn”t listen to you and let you run with things. Now though, you actually get to give life to your ideas and make them happen. It”s actually a lovely feeling, and it”s more than okay to have tonnes of ideas. Just make sure that you don”t do what your co-ordinators did to you and ignore the ideas of those beneath you.

When you have ideas, take them to your volunteers and ask them what they think. Be prepared to respond generously to what they say. Let them know too that they are allowed to have ideas. And if they have good ones, don”t be afraid to run with them. Leadership, after all, isn”t about having the best ideas; it”s about knowing who does. If your volunteers know that their ideas will be listened to and taken seriously then they will feel affirmed, valued and liked. They will take the project to heart in a bigger way and invest more of themselves in it. Read more

Looking After Volunteers #9: Listen To Their Ideas

No. 9 – Listen To Their Ideas

When you finally reached the dizzy heights of managing a project, the first thing that happens – if you’re like me, anyway – is you get ideas-crazy. You have spent years having ideas that you never got to actually do because your co-ordinator didn’t listen to you and let you run with things. Now though, you actually get to give life to your ideas and make them happen. It’s actually a lovely feeling, and it’s more than okay to have tonnes of ideas. Just make sure that you don’t do what your co-ordinators did to you and ignore the ideas of those beneath you. Read more