03: Savannah Rogers on Recruiting Adult Leaders and Tapping Into an Often Overlooked Resource

Making Sense of Ministry podcast guest Savannah Rogers on the often overlooked resource


In this episode, Savannah Rogers discusses the often overlooked resource in our churches and how she has recruited adult leaders. She also shares the way that she cares for and trains her unique adult leaders.

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Ashley: (00:01)
Welcome to the making sense of ministry podcast presented to you by the youth ministry Institute, a podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. Here’s your host, Brian Lawson

Brian Lawson – Host: (00:14)
friends and welcome back to another episode of the making sense of ministry podcast. This is episode number three. If you’re somebody who’s in a church and you struggle to find leaders for your ministry, you think you’ve looked everywhere, you’ve asked everyone you know and you can’t find any more volunteers than friends. This is the episode for you. Our guest today, Savannah Rogers brings some great insight into a population that often is overlooked by those of us leaders in ministry. Savannah is a youth minister in central Florida. She went to Florida Southern college and received a degree in religion with a concentration youth ministry. She’s now a, why am I student soon to be, why am I graduate? And although I don’t know for sure, I would guess that she’s a number seven Enneagram and I think you’ll hear through my interview with her that she is very good at seeing potential in people that may be others easily over. Look Savannah, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for being here. Thank you for having me. So you’re currently youth ministry Institute students and you’ll be graduating in may. It’s been about a year and a half that you’ve been at women. So what are some ways you’ve seen yourself grow in that year and a half?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (01:24)
I think a lot of my ideas of what youth ministry should be or has to look like or needs to look like have like grown and it isn’t just the stereotypical cookie cutter thing that I would think of or a lot of people would think that youth ministry has to be. And it’s just, yeah.

Brian Lawson – Host: (01:44)
What was that like? What is something you thought of that was before?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (01:48)
Um, the typical, you have to meet on a Wednesday or a Sunday night or you have to have young people always in your ministry as volunteers or that you have to play Dodge ball or Foursquare or things like that. Um, that sometimes we do, but also that’s not the big things that define what we do or how we do ministry.

Brian Lawson – Host: (02:12)
What would you say it is now? So we know it’s not those things, right? It’s not just for square Dodge ball. What is it to you now though?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (02:22)
Um, I think ministry to me now is really just focusing on seeing and hearing and loving our students. Um, and all the walks that they come to us in and walking alongside them as they discover their faith and put their faith into action as they grow up and to be coming young adults.

Brian Lawson – Host: (02:39)
That’s excellent. So shifting gears just a little bit, so you serve I think in the rural context, right? So can you tell us a little bit about your church, the community, kind of demographics? What, what’s your setting like?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (02:51)
So I serve in a rural Southern, um, church and Florida. It’s an agricultural community. I’m very known for the citrus. Um, and all the oranges, there are some families who have wealth. And then there’s, for the most part, a majority of our population would be somewhere around the poverty line, either just above, right at or a little bit underneath. Um, and so there is some wealth in areas, but there’s also a lot of poverty in areas. And so it kind of is a mixed bag of everything, you know. Um, but also it’s very small community, very tight knit. I would say religion and especially Christianity is important in the community. Whether or not church attendance is always happening is remains to be seen. But the idea of being a Christian or having a faith life is something that is important to a majority of the community.

Brian Lawson – Host: (03:50)
So how do you balance out, cause you’ve got a population, you said that’s fairly wealthy or well-off and the population that’s not, how do you balance that out? I mean, when you do events or you go to activities, like how do you balance out those who can pay for it and those who struggle?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (04:06)
Right. Um, so a lot of it is, um, kind of needs based, um, because we do have some families who can outright just pay for things and they do outright pay for things as well as we do have a lot of students who cannot. And that would be the number one thing that would inhibit them from participating in a lot of things. And I just think that money shouldn’t keep you from participating in ways to reach Jesus or find the Lord. Um, and so it, it kind of depends on a case by case basis of, um, what it is. But we overall as a entire ministry tried to curb it. So like expense isn’t something that has to be a worry because a lot of our younger families who are in our youth ministry would be, uh, more on the poorer side. And a lot of the older families in our church are on the wealthier side. Um, and so like, they see that as well. And so they’re very, um, giving thankfully to our ministry and help include that because they also don’t want students to be barred from something, um, because of money.

Brian Lawson – Host: (05:10)
Yeah. So is your congregation mostly older congregation? Is it younger? Is it kind of a mixed, what would you say?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (05:15)
I would say it’s mostly older. Um, I would say maybe there’s a 15% that’s younger.

Brian Lawson – Host: (05:21)
All right. Tends to be a trend. Right, right. We see that a lot. Yeah. So what are some of the challenges you face serving in youth ministry in a congregation that tends to be older?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (05:29)
I think the biggest challenge right away, um, was the fact that there were really no young adults or young people. And so finding volunteers because a lot of older adults didn’t think they could volunteer or that they were able to or, um, were even confident in themselves to volunteer. And so I think that was the most challenging thing to begin with is because they recognize that ministry is important, but they also didn’t recognize where they have a place in it.

Brian Lawson – Host: (06:02)
And so most of your volunteers are older, right? Yes. So what’s your volunteer team like? Can you describe a little bit, how many do you have? What’s the general age, do you think? Those kind of,

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (06:10)
right. Um, so I have a solid team of about six regular people who come weekly and then, um, but in my overall team about 10 to 15 volunteers who at least come once a quarter to volunteer. Um, and the average age I would say for the majority of my volunteers would be mid to late sixties.

Brian Lawson – Host: (06:35)
Really? Wow. So how did you get somebody who’s 65, probably retired or newly retired? How do you get them to volunteer in youth ministry? Cause it’s not typical, right? I mean that’s not what they usually do.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (06:50)
That is not typical. No. Um, so I just looked a lot for people that I just thought were really warm and encouraging and loving and caring, um, which I would think the majority of our congregants at our church are wonderful at. And so just finding those people as well as people who had those qualities but also really saw interest in youth and really saw the importance of youth ministry, whether or not they thought they could fit into that. And I just kind of lapped onto that. Um, I had this one volunteer, she had just retired and two days after she retired, I called her up and I said, I hear you have a lot of free time on your hands now, would you like to be a mentor for our confirmation class? Um, and she was one of our church leaders. She knew a fair amount about Methodism as a whole, as well as our church as a whole.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (07:39)
And she said, you know, sure why not. And she has since volunteered as a mentor for confirmation. She leads a middle school girls, small group for me weekly now. Um, she also helps out weekly with our youth group, has been on a mission trip for the first time in her entire life. And she also went on a weekend retreat with us. And so she has been absolutely awesome and amazing. And she was one of those people who would’ve originally never thought like this was for me. Um, and she just is, I couldn’t imagine having ministry without her.

Brian Lawson – Host: (08:15)
Wow. That’s cool. So what did she retire from?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (08:17)
She worked in the medical industry. She worked in the labs where they do blood work and stuff like that. And so she’d kind of does have a medical background, but she was a supervisor in one of the labs.

Brian Lawson – Host: (08:28)
So she wasn’t like a teacher. She wasn’t like, she hadn’t worked with teenagers probably really all that often. Nope. And you brought her in two days after she retires and says, Hey, come join us. Right? Yes. Wow. So what are the benefits you think of having a volunteer who is 60 plus?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (08:44)
I think there’s tons of benefits. I think they have a lot of depth because they’ve just lived so much more life then your students may have, then you may have, they have a maturity to them. Um, that a lot of times younger adults don’t have. They see things that you may miss just because maybe you haven’t had kids.

Brian Lawson – Host: (09:05)
Do you have a like a situation you can think of that one of those adults saw something,

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (09:11)
right? Yeah. They’re just, they have a lot more caution, um, probably than I do in the sense of like they think of all the factors of, Oh, we’re a little close to the pavement right now. We might have to move a little bit further so we’re in the grass more. Um, and like think those things throughout. When you’re like playing with students you don’t always pay attention to where is the concrete, are we getting too close to the sidewalk or do we need to move 10 feet over more? So we’re more in the grass and like kind of monitoring like, Hey we need to watch this line so that like there aren’t injuries or just looking around and seeing things that need to be picked up here and there that might drop at the wayside. Cause on our list of to do things, they’re at the very, very bottom. I have an adult volunteer who comes in and cleans wash rags for me every, at least every two weeks. And that’s on like the bottom of the to do list that would never get done. But she sees it and so she’s like, that needs to get done. So they notice the little thing and they notice the little things and sometimes it’s the things that you would never think to think of too. Yeah.

Brian Lawson – Host: (10:16)
How does a student receive a 65 year old retiree? Never worked with teenagers. How does a student receive them? Do you think there’s caution on the student’s side? Are they wondering why that person’s here or do you think that they’re excited to have that person there?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (10:35)
I think it’s a little bit of both. I think though our adults who haven’t worked with students for a while are a little bit more cautious than our students are just because they, it’s been awhile if their kids are grown or if they’re not around their grandkids all the time since they’ve worked with young people or been around young people. And so they’re a little bit more cautious because they realize how different it is. But I think my students receive it super well. Um, they love our older adults because it’s kind of like they’re a form of grandparents for them that are right then. And there and they know our older adults care about them and love them and always want to see them and they always want to go talk to them and they share their life with them and they absolutely adore it.

Brian Lawson – Host: (11:18)
Was it intimidating for you being in your twenties to say, I need to figure out how to train or support somebody who is significantly older than me? Was that it was that intimidating for you? What was that like and how did you go about deciding you were going to train them?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (11:36)
Yeah, absolutely. Because I just come from a of a place of I am an, I’m in my twenties and I’m an adult, but I am not like six years old. You have 40 years of experience on me. You’ve probably had kids of your own. I don’t have any. Um, you’ve probably been through this once, maybe twice even. Who knows, especially if you have grandkids. And so it’s like I’m teaching you how to work with students even though you probably could write a book for me of how to learn these things. Um, but I also think my adult volunteers have just been so receptive and so loving and understanding of this as a team effort and we all have something to bring to the table. Um, I never ask my volunteers to be anything other than themselves. I don’t expect them to have like my kind of energy or my kind of personality. So I don’t expect them to move at a different pace. Um, I understand they’re a little bit older. They might move out a little bit of a slower pace, but they’re not expected to be the high energy, the one who’s doing cartwheels down the room, anything like that. If that is who they are, then they absolutely can do that. But that’s not expected of them because that’s not what’s needed. What’s needed is sometimes this slower pace, the calm in the room, the someone you can just go and talk to for a minute kind of adult.

Brian Lawson – Host: (12:56)
Yeah. So you mentioned that they might be able to slow her pace, which makes me think of that there might be some challenges to having a team that’s a little bit older. So what are some of those challenges?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (13:07)
So I would think some of the challenges with working with older adults is it’s kind of, it’s not a concern, but you also have to be aware of am are we doing too much also on them as well as the students, you know, making sure if you’re on a long trip or a mission trip, you know, when you’re checking, is everyone drinking water? Are your older adults also getting a little bit hotter and the sun and kind of paying attention to that? Or do they need to sit and take a rest break too? Cause like, like we said earlier, I’m in my twenties and so I don’t need to rest as much as someone who’s in their sixties and who’s worked their entire life needs to rest. And so kind of paying attention to those things. But I think overall the, the struggles or the challenges really aren’t that bad because it just builds community. Um, we have some older adults who walk a little bit slower and I notice kids who will say on back and slow their pace just so they can walk with them. And keep stride with them. And like, to me that just says so much and worth and value, um, as well as the community that we’re building together.

Brian Lawson – Host: (14:11)
Yeah. The senior adults have shown so much love for the teenagers that the teenagers are now returning it. Right. What a great picture that is too. Yeah. And I wonder, so we know that’s doing a lot in the lives of the students, but also wonder what that’s doing in the lives of the adults. Right. You know, how is that transforming them and that experience having a team like you’ve described, what does that taught you about leadership or about ministry or about students, whatever it was that taught you personally?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (14:39)
I think it’s taught me that there is no one person that fits a certain mold that has to be in ministry. Before I worked with a lot of older adults, I probably never would have done it except it was a necessity. And now that I have, I’m like, why don’t more people do this? And like, why did anyone think like they shouldn’t do it? Um, they’re like the largest untapped resource we probably have in our church of people with free time. Um, and who want to spend time with people and still stay active but have the ability to do it. And so it’s taught me that, but it’s also taught me that different people have different gifts and also at no point in your life are you really done serving, um, and continuing your faith and all those different things. Like you’re always doing that. And so we have to continually ask people to serve and to look for those people who are wanting to reach out.

Brian Lawson – Host: (15:39)
Yeah. So if we have a listener who’s thinking, okay, I’m struggling with adult leaders, I don’t have enough, my carnations older, how would you say they should go about trying to get leaders who are retirees?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (15:53)
Okay. I would first number one is just be really observant when you’re in worship times or just fellowship times at large areas in groups, um, with congregants. Cause sometimes there will be people who will stick out to you who are maybe those greeters or you see someone who’s playing with some kids who they’re not their kids or something like that. Or those people who just interact really well and kind of just be really observant to all those who are around you and kind of think to yourself, would that be something we need for our ministry? Would this be something that would be great? Um, as well as talking to senior members of either staff or in your church leaders of who do we have. That’s really great of what you’re looking for. Like if you’re looking for someone who can welcome students on Wednesday night, who do we know that’s really welcoming, that has time, that maybe needs something to do cause they don’t have anything to do yet and would be great to fill this role and ask them, like personally ask them and if they say, Oh I’m too old, or I don’t know, um, you know, talk to them about it.

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (17:03)
Encourage them about it. Say I’ve seen you on Sunday mornings welcoming everyone, so I know you can do this and our kids need to be welcomed just the way our older adults need to be welcomed. And I know you could do that. Um, so I’d really love if you partnered with us and doing this.

Brian Lawson – Host: (17:20)
Yeah, that’s excellent. I love that you say you see them and you observe. Because what I would do is I would have a running list on my whiteboard in my office of potential leaders and I would watch them for a few months. And then what was nice is I could go to them and say, Hey John, I’ve had you on my whiteboard for a few months now and I’ve been thinking about you and I’ve been watching you and I see this in you that like you said, you’re welcoming and it, it’d be so for you to bring that to our students. And I know you might be scared or intimidated or might not be something you’d normally sign up for, but would you consider it right? Cause when you have their name on there, you’ve been watching them, you’re showing that you value them already and they’re not even on the team yet. Yeah. Yeah. So they really respond well to that. Yeah. To somebody who is maybe a little confused about their ministry right now, they’re tired, they’re not sure they have enough health. I don’t know what else to do. What kind of encouragement would you give to that person?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (18:22)
I would say it always gets better. I had a person once tell me, um, you can’t quit on a Wednesday. You just can’t. Um, and you can’t quit on a Thursday or Friday or a Saturday or Sunday or Monday or even a Tuesday. You just can’t quit. It’ll get better. Um, it comes in seasons. There are seasons where it is a rock star feeling and everything is clicking. And then there are seasons where you feel like it is an absolute dumpster fire and you are wondering why you’ve even decided this and are you really called? But you are. And it does get better and it gets so much better when you have people around you to help you. And to encourage you and to also carry that burden or the joys that come with it. And when you have those people around you that you can confide in and your team to say like, how can we do this better?

Savannah Rogers – Guest: (19:16)
Where can we improve? Um, that just makes ministry so much easier. Even if it’s one person, you don’t need a team of 80 people, even if it’s just one person that you can say, how can we do better next week and talk to that makes it so much easier. I know for myself, I personally think youth group goes so much worse than my adult volunteers would think. And there’ll be like, today was an awesome lesson and I’d be like, really? Cause like so-and-so talked and this happened and you know, a kid licked a plate and they would be like, yeah, but the lesson was really great. And then the other 15 kids were paying attention while those three kids were doing whatever those three kids were doing. And at the end of the day it was a really great day. Um, and sometimes having those people to remind you of those things when you’re thinking, Oh my gosh, this is a little rough right now are absolutely amazing and lifesaving.

Brian Lawson – Host: (20:08)
You know, the thing that strikes me about Savannah’s interview is that she seems to have personally grown from the leadership that she and her students have received from her volunteers that lots of people would have written off. And then the reality is, I’ve had a similar experience at some of my greatest leaders have been 60 plus years old as Savannah suggested. Spend time looking around when you’re in service, when you’re at a coffee fellowship time or a church event, just watch people and look for the qualities that you need and that your students need. Do not let age be something that holds you back from recruiting what could potentially be the best leader for your team and for your ministry. And now friends, we’re in our quick wins segment, the segment where we provide you with a tip that will help you gain a quick win leader covenants.

Brian Lawson – Host: (21:04)
I wonder, do you have a leader covenant or something that you and your leadership team, your adult leaders in your ministry sign to agree on how you’ll support one another, how you’ll support the ministry and how you’ll focus together? These leadership covenants are something that you sign every year and one of the things that I have included on my leadership covenants in the past is that every adult leader will make a valid attempt to recruit one new leader in the next school year. Having this in your leadership covenant will not only help your leadership team take more ownership of the group, but it will also expand the audience of people that you could pull from to be a part of your team while friends. That’s the end of this episode. Episode number three of the making sense of ministry podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please subscribe, share it with your friends and leave us a rating. Help us out as we seek to help you and help others make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Ashley: (22:05)
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