Counting the Cost
It is also important to make taking care of your volunteers a priority in your ministry, which is often reflected in how you organize and prioritize your resources—including budget. I would recommend setting aside a portion of your youth budget specifically for recruiting, training, and sustaining adult volunteers. Here are a few ideas (that can vary in expense) of things you can purchase for your adult volunteers.
Do you remember what it felt like for you to get your first team uniform? You were officially part of the team! No turning back! Itʼs the same with your youth ministry team of adults. I make sure to get volunteers some kind of apparel with the youth ministry logo on it as soon as possible. T-shirts, wristbands, cuff links (depending on how high brow your youth ministry is!) can help adult volunteers feel connected and start seeing themselves as part of the team…and to identify themselves with the DNA of your ministry.
Books, websites, and information packets are truly gifts, especially to those adult volunteers who are new and feel ill-equipped to do what God has called (and you have asked) them to do. I will do another post at some point with a Top 10 Resources list.
Probably the one expression that was, sadly, left out of the 5 Love Languages list! Food is a gesture that transcends generations and cultures. Whether you have a 25 year-old small group leader or a 75 year-old Sunday school teacher, food communicates and connects with everyone. If you love to bake, whether it be cookies at your next leader meeting or a cake on your leaderʼs birthday, you will make a friend for life with giving the gift of food.
Usually connected with Food is what I would call experiences that build community through fun and fellowship. No youth or kids. No responsibility. Just an opportunity for your adult leaders to simply be with one another can build a sense of team and a sense of being part of something worth committing to long-term. Every year, I have a Leader Potluck Cookout at my house where I cook burgers and the adult volunteers bring sides and desserts. Itʼs a wonderful way to celebrate the year, and get buy-in and commitment for the year to come! Also, taking leaders to coffee or lunch is a great individual (or smaller group) way to connect as well.
The first year I lead the Confirmation program at our church, I gave the mentors a Japanese Maple tree. I chose the Japanese Maple because it was a symbol of growth and investment of time and nurture…plus they were on sale at the nursery down the street from my house! But seriously, it was a powerful representation of the work that God had done and would continue to do in the lives of the youth to whom they ministered. I said: “As you plant and water and watch this little tree grow, always remember your little Confirmand and the spiritual growth that is happening in their life because of your investment in them for the sake of Christ.” I still have people tell me about how their tree is doing and how meaningful that symbol was to them.