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The One Thing Every Volunteer Wishes You Knew

Hi. I’m Chuck. Or I could be Austin or Kathy or Robert or Rachel. I’m a youth ministry volunteer. I’m not your youth ministry volunteer, but I could move or you could move, and one day, I could be your youth ministry volunteer. If I was, this is what I would want you to know.

I want you to know that I believe in what you’re doing. If I didn’t believe in your ministry, I wouldn’t choose to be a part of it. I’m also pretty sure that you know what you’re doing, so I’m willing to follow you and try the things that you suggest. I can be a pretty excellent follower.

But I also want you to know that I can’t follow you if you don’t lead me. Maybe you’re not as prepared as you’d like, or maybe you just don’t want to seem bossy, but if you don’t tell me what to do, I’m going to have a real difficult time doing it. I guess what I’m saying basically is this:

I need to know very clearly what’s expected of me.

I’m busy. I have a full-time job and a family. I love Jesus and I love teenagers, but I don’t know the ins and outs of youth ministry like you do. If I show up with vague expectations, then I’ll take guesses at what I’m supposed to be doing. Even if I get it right, I won’t know it. That will make me frustrated.

Do you know what will happen when I get frustrated? You might think I’ll be mad at you for not providing clear instructions, but that’s not actually what’s going to happen. I’ll blame myself. Maybe I should place my failures and struggles on you, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll internalize everything, believing that my frustration is a result of my own inadequacies and a total lack of fitness for youth ministry.

If I feel that way, I won’t last long in youth ministry.

I want you to know that you need to be a leader, not for your sake, but for my sake. I want you to know that I can’t read your mind and that I don’t know half of what you know.

Most of all, I want you to know that I need to know what you want me to do. So go ahead, give me a role that matters and tell me how to do it. You’ll be amazed at how much ministry I can do when I know what I’m doing.

Thanks for reading.  

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Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes at Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations—things like leading volunteers, managing money, and communicating effectively. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.