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
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
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
No. 7 – Remember Their Spiritual Needs
We”re all on a faith journey and none of us is the complete package. This side of heaven, we never will be. We are all learning new things all the time and getting closer to God as we do. It”s true for those who run projects, it”s true for young people and it”s true for volunteers. Especially for young adults who might be in the process of returning to the Church and for whom getting involved in youth ministry might represent a tentative step in that process.
For your volunteers, their time working with you won”t be just a matter of dispensing what they have. Rather it will be a part of their journey. It will be part of the process by which they themselves encounter Christ, and we need to remember that in how we deal with them. The great saints of the teaching and youth ministry world were always quick to stress that an encounter with young people evangelise them as well as the young person! Read more
No. 6 – Be Well Organised
In the last post we talked about the need to be consistent and to not change information and arrangements in an over-reactive way. I have to admit that sometimes when I run programmes I do this to my volunteers. I let them know what”s going to happen, and then I change it. I don”t do this a lot, but usually when I do it”s for a very simple reason… because I failed to organise myself properly and missed something important.
Let”s be honest, we”re all disorganised and a bit last-minute from time to time. It”s human. And when it”s just us, we can usually get away with it. When we”re responsible for other people though, it”s unfair. If other people are relying on us being prepared then we have to make sure it happens because they need the confidence of knowing that they”re part of something that”s being run in the right way. Read more
No. 5 – Stick To What You Brief
Following on from the last post about briefing people properly is the need to be consistent and to stick to what you brief. I worked for a leader once who would give you a task and then change it numerous times before it was complete. Eventually, those of us who worked for her got into the habit of turning our phones off when we were out-and-about doing something, because we just knew that she would phone us with new instructions. Sometimes more than once!
Occasionally upheaval is unavoidable. Sometimes a group is forced to change because of situations beyond its control (Lourdes, anyone?) but a lot of the time when things change it”s because the co-ordinator is either too reactive or poorly prepared. Read more
No. 4 – Brief them properly
Whenever I go into something new I like to know exactly what”s going on. I get as much information as I can so that I can anticipate problems and be as useful as possible, and so I find things out: What”s the aim of this? Who are the key players? What exactly is my role? What do I need to know to do my job? What problems am I likely to encounter? What have those who have done this before learned from their experiences? Who do I go to if I need such-and-such? What do I do if such-and-such happens/ goes wrong/ doesn”t turn up etc? Read more
It”s easy for us battle-hardened old timers to forget how difficult it was when we first started out. I remember well the first time that I took a small group by myself. It was scary. These days, I could do it in a heartbeat, but back then it was something I really feared. Luckily though, it worked out well. Mostly because I had been properly trained.
When you”re dealing with a new volunteer, remember how you felt when you started out. Don”t just say hello and throw them straight in when they turn up for the first youth group evening or whatever.
No. 2 – Don”t overload them
One thing I loved about my recent trip to Lourdes was being able to focus almost entirely on one pilgrim for a whole day. It was a fantastic exercise in presence and incarnation – in other words, in ministering – and it showed me what I should be able to do on youth work projects I work. More importantly, it showed me what I should make sure my team members are able to do on projects I run.
It made me realise that on most projects I work I am furiously overloaded. It”s rare that I”m not leading these days, but when I”m working under other co-ordinators I usually have a small group plus at least a few general responsibilities. It wasn”t until this Lourdes experience that I realised just how badly overloaded I had been in the past and just how much I had been overloading others. Read more
I”ve been wanting to write something for a while about how to look after your volunteers in youth ministry. It”s a subject close to my heart, because I know how essential it is to making good youth ministry happen and also because I”ve seen up close how much pain can be caused when volunteers aren”t looked after properly. I”ve put together a series of thoughts, which will appear every day or so for the next few weeks. They”re not in any particular order, and I”ll post them all together in one article at the end.
No. 1 – Show them you appreciate them
The first thing you need to know is this: volunteers are simply amazing people. You need to know it, you need to hold on to it, and you need to let it show in every action and decision that has anything to do with them whatsoever. Read more