I’m reflecting on what my own youth group experience meant to me …
… more than a decade ago.
In retrospect, there’s one element of my youth group that seems more indelible than the rest.
It’s not the programs or the games or the worship or the teaching.
Not even the relationship that I had with my youth pastor, who was excellent and inspirational.
Twelve years later, I realize those adult volunteers made more of an impact than even my youth pastor did.
If you’re one of the hundreds of youth workers who reads SmarterYM, I’ve got a little news flash for you:
This post isn’t for you. It’s for your volunteers.
So go ahead and read through to the end, then share this post with every single one of your volunteers.
My hunch is, they could use the encouragement because they are probably largely unaware of their impact.
If volunteers really understood their impact,
we’d never have trouble finding enough of them.
When I was a teenager, I was cynical, shrewd and probably too smart for my own good. In short, I was like almost every teenager in your youth ministry today.
I enjoyed spending time with my youth pastor, and I liked it when we would play music together or go out to lunch.
I was also clever enough to figure out that when we spent time together, he was “on the clock.” The church reimbursed him for our meals, and when we were hanging out together, he got to call that working.
(There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. That’s what I do in my job today, and for our students, it is definitely impactful.)
But when a volunteer would spend time with me, send me a birthday card or show up at my band concerts, I was also clever enough to figure out that this was a sacrifice of personal time, not a professional responsibility.
As a teenager, that mattered tremendously to me.
As a youth worker, I would claim that ministry is my calling and that I would share Christ’s love with students even if it wasn’t my job …
… but then, I’ve never had to prove it.
But those volunteers who spend a week at JrHi Camp AND have to use a week of vacation to do it?
They proved it to me over and over and over again. Even now, that’s what sticks with me.
Youth ministry volunteers, I can’t possibly thank you enough for the time and energy that you give to the Kingdom, but I can tell you this …
… for some students and in some situations, your impact can be substantially greater than mine.