Most youth workers spend their time on programming and relationship building. Both are very good things. But are they the most effective use of your time? Is there a better way to grow students spiritually and grow your youth ministry? I personally believe there is. Investing time in your adult volunteer leaders can give you the best bang for your buck. You can have a transformational relationship with about three to five students at a time, if you’re Superman. If you invest your time into 10 adult volunteer leaders, they can have transformational relationships with about 30-50 students at a time. So here is the real problem; most youth workers don’t know how to train their adult volunteers on how to disciple a student. I know that is a bold statement, but it’s true. Ask any youth workers what their strategy for developing adult volunteers is and they don’t have an answer. So let me help get you stated; here are five skills every adult volunteer leader should be working on.
1. Teaching for Transformation
The first skill our adult volunteer leaders need to have is the ability to teach for transformation. They need to be able to deliver content in a way that makes students want to listen, and allows their passion for Christ to shine through. Most adult volunteer leaders are trying to survive the night. They might even say to the students, “Just let me get through this material and then you can have fun.” Teachers must know how to internalize the Bible story and bring it to life through stories of their own life. This will let their passion through and allow students to see how the biblical truth can be applied to one’s life.
2. Lead a Discussion
Leading a student discussion on the Bible can be one of the hardest things an adult will ever do. They must open discussion to a group of people who often don’t want to discuss or want to discuss too much. Students don’t have the maturity often to know what is appropriate to share. So the adult volunteer leaders must carefully give freedom while keeping their eyes on healthy boundaries all at the same time. Always remember to ask open-ended questions and don’t allow students to give one word answers. If you think a student has more to share, ask them to take the answer deeper or to drill down a bit. This invitation will let students know it’s OK to share. Also, always respond when a student gives you an answer. Say something like “great thought” or “good insight.” These encouraging words will also indicate to the students that it’s a safe environment to share.
3. Be Experiential
Students don’t learn much from hearing you talk. In fact, they learn very little. Bring the lesson to life by allowing the students to do an activity that gets them thinking about the theme of the lesson. Be creative and outside the box. For example, a friend was teaching on heaven. He gave the students a commercial roll of toilet paper and challenged them to unroll it without breaking it. The students unrolled it through the church, out the door, across the parking lot and down one block. When the students had finished the challenge, there was a great shout of joy! Then my friend called them over to the end of the roll and placed a dot on the end of the paper with a pen. He explained to the students that the dot represented the first 100 years they would spend in heaven. The students all understood “eternity” from that lesson. When we make experiences with memories, we help students to learn.
4. Challenge Students to Apply
We must challenge students to make applications from God’s word. If we just read stories from the Bible and call it a day, then our students will leave the church as soon as they get out of high school. Students must apply scripture in order for them to make it their own. You can’t ask students to own their faith without asking them to own the ministry. A good application has a who, what, when and where to it. This makes it measurable. When a student makes an application like, “I want to love my brother more,” you can bet he won’t do it. If he says, “I will care for my brother on Monday when he gets home from school by making him his favorite snack,” there is a good chance he will do that. Make sure students are making measurable applications, otherwise you are wasting their time.
5. Find a Replacement
We should all be mentoring someone to take our place. If we are doing any ministry, part of our job description should be to develop someone who can take our leadership role. If we were to do this, then our churches would never run out of leaders and the kingdom of God would grow.
Train your adults volunteers to develop these skills and your youth ministry will deepen and grow.