Process for initiating leaders into ministry

Well, the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention is over. We’re currently in the rental van making the 10-hour drive back to Dallas. If we arrive around 8:00 PM I’ll have an hour or two to quickly unpack, do laundry, and re-pack before flying to PA at 7:30 tomorrow morning for Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to finally meeting my new niece, visiting old friends, and relaxing after a crazy weekend at NYWC.

As I continually stare at the unending road ahead of us, I’m thinking back to yesterday’s seminar with Doug Fields. He talked about helping students become involved in ministry, which seems to me to revolve more around creating a youth ministry that is conducive for this to take place rather than just finding a student and trying to plug them into something. His S.H.A.P.E. acronym came up when talking about the role of the adults in the process and, although the context of the discussion addressed student leaders, I think the same is true for implementing adult volunteers in ministry. I briefly discussed my general philosophy about this on an earlier blog post and Doug’s S.H.A.P.E. confirms that I’m on the right track. He suggests following this model for exploring the best area in which to utilize a leader.

S – Spiritual Gifts: How has God gifted you?
H – Heart: What do you love?
A – Abilities: What are you good at?
P – Personality: How are you unique?
E – Experience: Where have you been? (especially in reference to pain)

Discussing these areas with a volunteer prior to initiation will allow the ministry leader to utilize their full potential in a specific area, give them an opportunity to effectively serve with their gifts, and thus maximize their impact on people’s lives. Too often volunteer utilization begins with the youth pastor thinking, “What holes in my ministry that this person can fill” or “What can they do that I don’t feel like doing” Instead, youth pastors should think, “How can our ministry edify this believer by filling the servanthood holes in this individual’s life?” The first question focuses on using the volunteer to meet the needs of the ministry whereas the latter focuses on using the ministry to meet the needs of the individual by providing an environment for them to flex their giftedness and passion.

When someone approaches me and says that God is leading them to work with our youth ministry, I hand them our youth volunteer information/application packet, which includes the process we usually follow for introducing new volunteers to the youth ministry. Maybe it can be a help to others. Here’s what it says.

Express Interest: You may have an interest in serving God by loving students, but are unsure as to where you can help. We will help you with this. Most of the time “unlikely people” make the greatest youth workers, so take the next step as you prayerfully consider this ministry.

Initial Contact with Tim: This is an opportunity for us to briefly connect and hear your desire to be involved in ministry. We will also give you a general overview of the ministry and arrange for you to visit and observe our programs.

Receive Youth Ministry Material: Read over all the pages and information in this staff application. This packet gives you the basic information that you will you make decisions about our ministry. We have tried to give you a good idea of what it’s like, but the clear picture happens when you observe a program.

Surf over to and take a cruise of the site: Our youth ministry is not limited only to weekly meetings and periodic events. The Internet is changing the way people work and function, especially for this younger generation. Check out a little bit of how we connect with students and parents on the information highway.

Observe Programs: Before you fill out the application, we encourage you to observe a program or event. This is a good opportunity to get a better feel for the ministry without having expectations and responsibilities placed on you. You will have a chance to meet students, other staff, and write down any questions you may have for our future meeting. It WILL be natural for you to feel uncomfortable while observing a program (students don’t typically go out of their way to make you feel welcome until you get to know them), so keep that in mind.

Complete Application Package: This application package was developed to obtain appropriate information for our screening process. This process not only protects us and our students, but it protects YOU. In the unfortunate case that false accusations are made concerning a staff member’s integrity, we have this process to show that you are creditable and have a clean history. We require that all the pages in this packet be filled out and returned to Tim, as well as two references. You can choose a (1) pastor, (2) close friend, and/or (3) an employer within the last year.

Interview with Tim: This is an opportunity for you to share your thoughts from your observations, describe your spiritual journey, and communicate your gifts and desires for working with the CREW. We will also discuss your application and a more specific job description. (This is when I take the perspective volunteer through the SHAPE discussion.)

Prayerfully Consider your Commitment: We want you to take time to pray and think through your commitment. We encourage you to seek the counsel of family and/or friends regarding your commitment.

Commitment Sheet and Criminal Record Check: Sign the Time to Commit sheet and turn it in to Tim along with the Consent for Criminal Record Search. Your application process does not go any further until your criminal record check is received. Don’t worry; when it comes all your information will be kept securely under strict confidence.

Beginning Ministry: After you turn in the Time to Commit sheet and we have received the criminal background check, we will discuss a beginning date. This date may vary depending on your intended involvement.

Evaluation Meeting: At your two month and four month mark, we will meet to evaluate your feelings and perceptions regarding your involvement with the CREW. We will continue to evaluate throughout the year and adjust your role to better fit your style, personality, and strengths.

Posted on November 21, 2005

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