Stumbling through Life in Student Ministry’s list of 63 youth ministry issues others should cover, I came upon one that seemed to go with my theme here, and decided I’d give it a go. Especially since its what I have unfortunately experienced for a good majority of my 5.5 years of working with youth.
How to lead a youth group when you’re the only volunteer
I frequent about 12-15 Youth Ministry web sites every day, and many times I read articles or watch videos on them and get these great ideas for different things Id love to try in my own ministry (that or I just get super jealous that IM not in that youth ministry).
Unfortunately, a lot of times, these ideas fail to ever result to anything beyond my brain, more often than not, because I dont have the time to formulize my thoughts to create anything past the idea. Between visiting with kids, preparing lessons, planning events, or even having to be the guy to formulize the ideas of my Sr. Pastor, etc. etc., or as Youth Pastors know it, the daily grind of Life in Ministry.
This may be for the best. If every youth pastor acted upon every great idea he/she has ever had, I think we would a lot of inneffective approaches to youth ministry.
This may be a bad thing. A lot of trial and error goes into an effective ministry, and without new ideas, we have nothing to put into trial and error.
So what does this have to do with leading a Youth Group when your the only volunteer?
What I have found to be true is that we should be Purposeful in everything we do (I think I read that in a book once, IDK) and that extends much farther beyond the events we plan.
For the years/months/weeks where I knew I was showing up to a youth service as the only person above the age of 18, I knew I had better schedule out my entire week to be purposeful. It takes a lot to be a Youth Pastor, it takes a whole heck of a lot more to do it alone. And though those hours of doing administration can be a drag, use them to their fullest. Here are some helpful tips from my experience:
– Most likely, if your the only volunteer/leader, your group isn’t pushing 100. You still operate with a group that you SHOULD know everyone on a first name basis. No need to worry about really trying to track who was there and who wasn’t, unless your a church who hands out report cards at the end of the year. You can consolidate a lot of time by not feeling the need to enter in everyone’s attendance into a database. Instead, take a mental note of who’s missing, and when you get home that night, send them a quick text or write on their wall that you missed them and hope to see them next time. Extra Bonus – saves you money if you are wanting to use a paid service like youthtracker.
– Keep tabs on your calendar of who and when you connect with youth outside of services. Plan out your week, and determine “I need to visit these 4 or 5 kids this week so that everyone will have been connected with this month.” Keeping it on your calendar also voids the need for a flashy tracking database, you have records for the year right there! And be purposeful about who and when you connect. Going to Jason’s soccer game? Take Brendan with you. During the game, your connecting with Brendan, and give Jason a ride home and grab a snack on the way.
– Make a Schedule for your service preparation time. You dont have anyone else to help write the lesson, give announcements, make bulletins/flyers, plan games, lead games, etc. etc. etc. Make a schedule that Lesson will be done on this day, bulletins/powerpoint of lesson done by this day, games planned and preapared for this day. You get the point. The day of the service, show up early. Make sure powerpoint is ready to go and ask a kid to hit slides for you if needed. Have everything ready for the games where you need it, dont have to go tracking it down in between games.
– You mean your church didnt hire a Youth Worship leader for you? Well then, might as well close shop huh? Not musically talented and none of your kids are, but you still want to worship? No problem. Take a laptop and hook it up to a tv/projector, search on youtube for a few songs and bam! Worship set. Most of the worship songs on YouTube have subtitles on them, so you and the kids can follow along. And I highly doubt Hillsong United or Chris Tomlin will be upset that your using their videos to praise God with students, though if your really conflicted about that, just buy the DVD of their concerts.
I’m sure there are plenty of other tips that could come in handy, and I also am sure that if your like me, you read this post and said “gee thanks, tell me something I dont know” but quite honestly, Leading a Youth group can be boiled down to one word whether your the only volunteer/leader, or your one of a hundred in your ministry context; Organization.
You can have a smooth running service for youth with 1 volunteer if you are organized. Without it, it will be chaotic. In the same way, having 50 volunteers wont do anything if its not organized. So remember that this coming week as you prepare for your next Youth Service.