Handling volunteers who are too busy for kids

Another great question showed up in my Inbox last week. The author wishes to remain anonymous, but would love to have your feedback.

I am in my first year of Youth Ministry…. My biggest headache has been that all of my volunteers including my wife are super busy and they don’t have much time to really invest in these kids. We don’t have a huge youth group (20 or so) but I can’t invest in them all or I’ll just be another statistic. Some have said, “If your volunteers don’t have time then they shouldn’t be youth leaders.” But if I do that then I won’t have anybody. I have kids that are excited about the Lord and ready to go, but my people don’t have the time to do that well. I can do it with some but not all. Do you have some thoughts?

You have a couple options:

1. You can try to do it all yourself and burn out faster than belly button lint in a forest fire.
2. You can continue trying to suck more time out of your volunteers.
3. You can invest into a couple kids on your own knowing that it’s better to impact a few than none at all.

Your message indicates that you’re wise enough not to do #1 and you’ve already figured out that #2 doesn’t work, so it sounds like #3 is the best option you have left. If you don’t have enough leaders to be able to invest into every student individually, then you’ll have to start with a couple yourself and pour your life into them. Don’t worry about the critics who accuse you of playing favorites. Read about that here.

As you set the example and invest into a couple students on your own, here are some suggestions that might help the other adults come on board with their priorities and commitments:

1. Share stories with the other leaders about your time with the students.
Tell them about the life-change you see taking place, show them how excited you are, talk about the ways God has rewarded you and stretched you through it. In essence, make them feel like they’re missing out on a HUGE opportunity — because they are. The opportunity to change lives for Christ.

2. Hold the standard high for your volunteers.
Nothing communicates to a student “you’re not that important to me” more than showing them that “I don’t have time for you.” For the sake of your kids, don’t let adults do that to them if you have the authority to prevent it. For adults who commit to the higher standard, hold them to it. It’s better to have one or two committed adults than 10 half-committed ones.

3. Pray for God to raise adult leaders in your community.
And don’t just pray with the same passion most people equate with standing in line at the DMV. Beg God for leaders, plead with Him. Present your case in prayer and desperately ask God to supply role models to partner with you. But in the meantime, be willing to accept His answer of, “Right now I just want to use you in this community of students even though you’re outnumbered like Gideon.”

4. Lovingly challenge their priorities.
Only you know if you have a relationship with the adults that will permit you to do that, and even if you do, make sure you talk with your Sr. Pastor or supervisor first. Seek their advice on how to best approach this.

Posted on March 4, 2008

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