I have a deep heart for the hurting youth worker. So many times, that pain comes from different things that they simply cannot control: a student killed by a drunk driver, a volunteer that has to step down for good, or a budget that has been slashed to a small fraction of what it once was. I seek these people out and love on them!
But a growing trend is coming in of youth workers getting hurt in situations that result from a lack of saying no. We find it everywhere.
- Can you take over the sound system on Sundays until we find a volunteer who can do it again?
- Would you be willing to take on the college age students on another day of the week?
- Can you stop visiting the teens at school and instead do my hospital visits for me?
- Can you clean up the church after the adult Bible school is over?
- Can you turn water into wine?
Okay, maybe that last one was too much and I am a bit bitter, but I see so many youth pastors absorb tasks that are not in their job description and eventually get fired or quit because of burnout or poor youth ministry numbers. How much sacrifice of ourselves and ministry is okay before it crosses a line?
For most of us, that line is actually quite clear, but in the heat of an argument or the scariness of a crisis, we forget where to look. For the new youth worker and the seasoned one, for the volunteer youth worker in a small church or a pastor of a mega church, here are four tips about your job description to improve your working conditions, find out where that line is, and ultimately save your ministry and home life.
1. Ensure All Staff Understand Your Job Desciption (And Get One If You Do Not Have One)
A job description is intended not only to be a measuring stick to evaluate how well you are doing, but also to be a vey firm line in what is not to be expected of you. Volunteer youth workers, you should not be exempt. This document is designed to be clear about how you will be spending your time during the week, define what is ultimately most important, and the one and only excuse you need to say no. A great job description names every thing you need to do with the number of hours you expect to work and avoids all vague phrases like “And supports the senior pastor in every endevour he takes on.” (Again, sarcasm but not far off reality) If your job description is not ideal or completely non-existent, fight for it and use what leverage you can.
2. Know That There Will Be Seasons
It will happen, people will quit volunteering and someone needs to fill the gap and usually that is the low person on the roster, the youth worker. Sometime situations are extreme, other times they are not, but to the person asking you, it always seems like an emergency. Never agree to something that is not urgent and take time to see if it can fit into your schedule. If it is not ministry ending work, say no and if need be explain at length why. For those times that it is an emergency, be clear and up front that you will step in but only for a predetermined amount of time and then hold them to it.
3. Do The Same For Youth Volunteers
Your volunteers may be in a similar position, feeling that they are not doing what they agreed to anymore. Take the time to write out a specific volunteer position’s job description (not specific to the person, only to the job) and let them know they can call you out when you step over that line. This shows them you value them, their talents, and their time. Of course they can do more, but a clear cut description protects them.
4. Be Vigilant About Your Schedule
Let every single staff person at your church, every elder, and your spouse and kids know exactly what your job description says. If you do it right, your family will call you out when you do too much, your pastor already knows the answer to if you can take yet another job as the worship coordinator and won’t ask, and the elders who control your salary will fully understand what you do (and may just give you a raise).
What does your current job description look like and what actions can you take to better secure yourself for your family’s sake as well as your ministry?