Onboarding Volunteers in Ministry: Insights and Strategies to Enhance A New Volunteer’s Experience | Season 5: Episode 7

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How do you onboard a new volunteer? We know that if you don’t welcome and guide a new volunteer in your Youth Ministry or Children’s Ministry well, they will likely not last. So if it’s time for you to up your onboarding skills, then give this episode a listen.

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Brian Lawson: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute original podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast, the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson, back again with Kirsten Knox hey, kirsten.

Kirsten Knox: 0:18

Hey Brian, hey everyone.

Brian Lawson: 0:20

So we are right in the middle of season five, which is all about volunteers, which reminded me, kirsten, that I first got into youth ministry because I was asked to volunteer. But what’s so interesting about my asked to volunteers? I did not grow up in church. I had no idea what youth group was, I didn’t know what this thing was, and I had just started coming to this church, brand new in faith. And this guy comes over and says hey, I’ve got some teenagers. You want to come help hang out with us and help us out? And I said okay.

Kirsten Knox: 0:57

So wait, your first time volunteering. You had never experienced youth group before.

Brian Lawson: 1:03

Never, not once. I didn’t even know what youth group was.

Kirsten Knox: 1:06

Oh, that’s funny.

Brian Lawson: 1:07

Now there was a time when I was about 15 or so that I went, maybe went to church just a little bit, and I guess I guess that would have been a youth group ish. But it’s nothing like what I have now understand youth group to be. So I’m not sure that I’ve really classified as youth ministry, youth group, as we understand it. So anyways, yeah, so for the most part, yeah, I had no clue, no idea, I didn’t really know who the guy was, I just was willing, I guess.

Kirsten Knox: 1:37

Yeah, I was gonna say why’d you say yes?

Brian Lawson: 1:39

you think in that moment, Because I was young and didn’t really you know. I was like sure, why not, let’s see what this thing’s all about. So I had no idea what I was saying yes to and I, when I showed up, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Like I had no clue. I was just there and I observed for a little while and jumped in when I could, and I think it helped that I was young. I was kind of closer to their age. That probably made it easier for me. But, that’s not always true with our volunteers.

Kirsten Knox: 2:11


Brian Lawson: 2:11

They’re not always close to the to their age, they’re not always as willing, or maybe naive, as I was I don’t know, you choose the word and so oftentimes they’re intimidated, or or afraid, yes fair. Yeah, I don’t think I was afraid. I was too young to be afraid at that point in time. But if I was to like go in a situation where somebody asked me to volunteer with something that I had never been to before now, I think I would probably be a little more hesitant and unsure and uncertain. So, Kirsten, did you volunteer? I was trying to think.

Kirsten Knox: 2:48

I was like well, the first time I started was probably paid because I started right after I graduated college. However, there was a season in my mid-20s when I worked at one church and when I started helping, we started doing events with this other church and most of the volunteers there became like my friends. They were my age, so those are the people like became my community, also on off nights, because they met on a different night. I would actually, for a while, volunteered their youth ministry because it was a different night than my youth ministry and all my friends were part of that ministry.

Brian Lawson: 3:22

So wait, wait, wait, wait. Let’s hold on. Let me just clarify you were a paid youth minister.

Kirsten Knox: 3:28


Brian Lawson: 3:29

At one church and then you had another night volunteered as a leader in another youth ministry at another church.

Kirsten Knox: 3:36

I did yes, yes, sure. So we were on competition with one another right.

Brian Lawson: 3:43

I was like we’re all on the same team but this is a pretty good setup, maybe we’re on to something here Like maybe we all just volunteer for each other’s ministries and we help fill the gap. Yes, there you go. Probably, probably not healthy for us, but yes.

Kirsten Knox: 4:00

It’s probably on some. Yeah, I volunteered. I felt like I was hanging out with my friends but yes, looking back, that probably does I’d say that out loud and that feels different, but it felt normal at the time.

Brian Lawson: 4:13

And that that youth minister was probably like I’ve struck gold here. This is the best.

Kirsten Knox: 4:19

And then we started doing things with our youth groups together and, yeah, it’s funny, that is funny.

Brian Lawson: 4:25

I did not know that, wow, so okay. So you probably had some idea what you were doing, at least a little bit. I mean, you were young, right? You’re still growing and developing and understanding of ministry. But you had some idea of the overall goal. I walked into my situation having no idea what the goal was and in fact for a while I think I thought we were just playing games and spending time, you know like not really even trying to achieve anything really and so little different experiences. So we have to recognize that, that our volunteers come from a variety of different places in their life and different expectations and they may come into the ministry understanding but most often they don’t.

Kirsten Knox: 5:13

Yeah and if they, and if they do understand, they probably are bringing in whatever their experience was like in youth ministry. So if they were part of a student ministry, what was valuable to them? So on some levels, even bringing in, they may have some ideas, but there’s also probably some reshaping. That happens when you so, yeah, either they’re clueless, right, they have no experience, or they come in kind of sometimes with their own values and maybe agenda on some cases.

Brian Lawson: 5:41

Yeah, and that’s also true for those in kids ministry as well. I mean, they’ve got an expectation of like, maybe, what Sunday school was like for them 30 years ago or more, depending on how old they are. And we all know the world has changed dramatically, the church has changed dramatically, ministries, how we do ministry has shifted.

Kirsten Knox: 5:57

So even if they do have experience from a long time ago in those expectations, it’s it from a whole different world right yeah, which really just speaks to the value of Creating a process for onboarding, like, how do you do that when you have people and what does that look like? Which is great, because that’s what we’re gonna talk about today.

Brian Lawson: 6:16

Yeah, yeah. And if you missed episode Five, I would encourage you to go back and listen to episode five. In that episode of the season we talk about the documents that you need, the types of documents that you need. That will help eliminate frustration for you as a ministry leader. But in this episode we’re really kind of lean into what does the process look like of Acclimating a volunteer to the new role into the ministry. Imagine landing your dream ministry role or engaging with a community of other youth and children’s ministers as you learn practical tools and Enriching insights together. Whether you are looking for your next ministry job or you are looking for ways to grow your skills as a leader, we have opportunities for you. Head over to ym Institute, com to learn more. And now Back to you. So Kirsten did. Did you have like a checklist process that you like here, step one, step two, like are you that organized where you’ve got the workflow of exactly how they’re gonna do it every single time? No, I did not. I Particularly once they said yes.

Kirsten Knox: 7:23

Right, because depending on what they said yes to and their personality and their experience level. I found in that there was a lot of Flexibility and it was very individualized, based on that individual. So I did not Brian to do have a so process, not officially, but there was a point where the ministry started to get larger and I needed some systems. So I think maybe it’s contextual, based off the same.

Brian Lawson: 7:51

So I think that’s a good point. I think that’s a good point and I needed some systems. So I think maybe it’s contextual, based off the size of kids ministry or youth ministry that you’re serving in. If it’s a little smaller, it’s easier to manage and be more flexible. But eventually, if you get to a certain size you have, you probably have somebody else helping you manage that onboarding process and you need to make sure that they have all the steps that they need to follow. Yes so it does become a little more systematized. So you don’t miss out. So I so no, most of time I did not have an exact process. I played it case by case basis, based off, like you said, the role that the person is going to go into and also, how did I feel like they understood when we had conversations, that they really understand what we were trying to accomplish, and if, if I felt like they had a real good grasp, I probably would Shortcut some of the process a little bit. I’m not sure that always worked out the best though, like maybe it was good, maybe it wasn’t, yeah, I don’t, I don’t know, but I think in this, in this episode, like we’re gonna try to highlight Some key pieces, right, some things that we saw that worked. That may be helpful to our listeners.

Kirsten Knox: 9:10

Yeah, I Would say the first thing that I learned and it probably is real simple is introducing them, like when they said yes and they come for the first time. I did not do that well in the beginning and I realized I Like it’s real awkward. They’ve shown up as students, are like there’s this new adult, or maybe there’s new, several adults being on what season, you know Like what time of year it was. But being able to introduce them and so that help them make some of those connections Was key so when you say introduce them was what does that mean?

Brian Lawson: 9:42

Like you, you stood them up in front of all the young people and said, hey, here’s so-and-so, they’re gonna volunteer with us. Like how was your introduction? Would that look like?

Kirsten Knox: 9:50

yeah, it would depend one what their role was so for. But usually when they came for the first, like when the first night started, and they show up, I would walk them around and introduce them to students like, hey, this is Johnny starting with us, just want to make sure you guys know me is blah, blah, blah and maybe say something fun about him. And so there was more of that informal. Or Then, later in the night, when we got to more of the programming side, we were on stage to be able to say, hey, I just want to introduce and we would like at the beginning of year you did that with all your small group leaders- yeah. So if it happened throughout, then we would just say, hey, we just want to welcome so excited John’s gonna be one of our adult leaders. Blah, blah, blah.

Brian Lawson: 10:26

So did you make them stand up in front of everybody? That’s I’m asking this for. Yes.

Kirsten Knox: 10:30

That’s yes. Sometimes, yes, it depends on different ministries I served in where. If it, yeah, I would bring them up.

Brian Lawson: 10:39

Yeah, so probably yes that’s okay, yes, and the introverts and listening to this all just cringe like no.

Kirsten Knox: 10:49

I would make them speak, so that I would oftentimes do a lot of the talking for them.

Brian Lawson: 10:52

That’s good so. I think, I would introduce them to and I love your that. You mentioned about informally introducing them to people, and that is key, I think, and knowing who to introduce them to. So you want them to. Obviously, it know all of the other adult leaders and volunteers, that is for certain. You need to introduce them, but also the key young people or the key families, the ones who you know who influence all of the others in the best yes, the best kind of influence. Those are the introductions you definitely want to make, because when a young person’s like, hey, who is that? Well, the one you’ve introduced back, oh yeah, that they’re here to, they’re starting to volunteer, and then it’s done right, this conversation over, they can move on and all is good. But I would not. I never made my volunteers come up on in front, although I would yeah, I’d say their name and let them away from the back of the room or or the side of the room or wherever they were. Usually, if they’re new, they were where’s the side or back, because they weren’t fully engaged yet. But yeah, so introductions are important. I think we can easily easily overlook, overlook that one.

Kirsten Knox: 12:05

I think I started because I wanted the adult to feel more Comfortable, but what I recognized, it really made students also feel more comfortable. And that was a game that I didn’t always understand until it, because kids were like who is this? Yeah, yes, introduction seems simple, but I think it’s important to set the tone.

Brian Lawson: 12:22

Yeah, I think. For me, the introduction was usually about the the people in the room knowing who that person was, mm-hmm. So it’s interesting to say that you started because you wanted the volunteer to feel comfortable. Yeah the new volunteer. So it’s really both of those things happening, but we started in different places to get to how that introduction was important. So that’s good. You know I also. One of the things that I found helpful was to integrate the new volunteer into my team as soon as possible. So, you know, even even at times before they came to our main programming, so they may have come there were times where I would let somebody come to observe and kind of get a feel for what it’s like. If they were kind of feeling uncertain about whether they wanted to commit or not, or they were like me and didn’t even know what youth group was right. So maybe maybe they come in and observe or see pieces of it in action, or I’ve even let them volunteer on like a, like a trip or something small that’s in town, where they don’t they don’t play a super critical role, but it’s enough to give them a taste of what it’s like. But once, once they’ve gotten to that point and they’ve said yes, then in my mind I want to make them feel part of the team and the family of the team as quickly as possible, not just like I’m an outsider coming in, but we. I’m now part of the we in this state.

Kirsten Knox: 13:52


Brian Lawson: 13:53

Yes, so the sooner I could do that, the better I felt like.

Kirsten Knox: 13:57

Yeah, speaking to that belonging right that you belong. How would you do that Like? How would you help them feel a part of the team?

Brian Lawson: 14:04

Yeah, so we, we had trainings regularly and so we’re going to hit that another episode and we’ll go down that path. But getting them into those trainings, and every time my team met we did something fun every time. So whether it was fun as in we had to go somewhere at fun, or we did something there together where we were meeting, like on campus or whatever. But if you can laugh together and and you know hear one another, it goes a long way. Because as an adult, let’s be honest, how many places can you go and I don’t know flip cups on a table and joke around and laugh like that? I mean, most places that adults go to do that usually has adult beverages as well. So, I mean, how many places do adults nowadays get to really do that? And so it really builds that team.

Kirsten Knox: 14:56

Yes, I do. You can laugh together. There’s a unity and laughter that I think is so fun and valuable in that space.

Brian Lawson: 15:03

Yeah, so, kirsten, we you’ve introduced them. From my perspective, I try to integrate them into the team as fast as possible. What are other things that you found helpful when you’re trying to help that new volunteer feel comfortable and engaged and moving forward?

Kirsten Knox: 15:21

I would give them something to do Like particularly most youth ministries that I serve in. There’s like a hang time or, in the beginning right, some free time, and I always felt like that’s where I could lose them, because if you don’t have a job, that feels very intimidating and overwhelming. And so giving them something to do in that space, whether they help checking students, or they helped serve dinner, like whatever needed to happen, or helped at the four square core, you know, whatever that was.

Brian Lawson: 15:51

As we learned in episode five, helping at the four square court, where they all argue about who’s in and who’s out.

Kirsten Knox: 15:57

It’s very valuable. Think of it careful, because not everyone likes to be the referee in that space, but giving them something tangible to do and not just feel like they have to hang out. I felt like that was also, like that was key of being able, and I probably learned that through feedback. People you know you’re like, hey, you want to come hang out with us and they’re like, yeah, what does that really mean?

Brian Lawson: 16:19

What is it?

Kirsten Knox: 16:20

So what am I supposed to do?

Brian Lawson: 16:22

So they had the job that they did, that they did that night. Did they stay in that role? Or was it something you just gave it to them one time and then the next week maybe you changed it or kind of moved them to different places? How did that generally work?

Kirsten Knox: 16:35

I usually would move them, or I would move them around If I felt like they had skills to be able to do that, or if they were more like in one area, like I would try to put them in an area that I felt like leaned into their gifts. So would move them around because, like, when we’re doing that time, you want to spread out your adults, so you have adults everywhere, right, and so I usually assign adults to different spaces. All right, so you’re going to be here, you’re going to be here, so we know that everything’s covered and we have eyes, like in being able to connect with students. So sometimes I would put them usually in an area and say, okay, here’s, here’s what we’re trying to accomplish here. And I had one time out of this adult that was super, she loved just connecting. Like if she could sit and have one conversation with a student, she’d feel like she’d won the lottery. So I’m like, okay, so your job during dinner is just to sit around tables and talk to students, and that’s what she did and I mean I was like she loved it.

Brian Lawson: 17:31

So hers is the best job in the world.

Kirsten Knox: 17:33

Yeah, like I never moved her because like she would have felt like I had taken something from her. So she’s like, during the same time, your job is to hang out in the cafe and just have conversations one-on-one.

Brian Lawson: 17:42

She’s like, yes, yeah, and I love this idea of and I would do the same putting a new adult leader into a role to explore whether it fits them or not and give them opportunities to be in different spots, potentially especially early on as they’re trying to find their way. I also love the idea of putting them in a role that is meaningful, that they can find meaningful, but also isn’t detrimental if it doesn’t go well. So that way. that way they can learn and grow and feel more confidence, like to build their confidence, because that’s really what we’re trying to do. We want to make the volunteer feel comfortable, to feel like they’re part of the group and to build confidence in themselves and their ability to serve in the ministry. So I mean practically like small groups. For instance, if they’re potentially going to be a small group leader not being the lead person in the small group Just let them be there as the second adult who’s there for safety reasons and we’ll engage with kids some and learn and observe. That’s a good way.

Kirsten Knox: 18:46

Yes, and I’ve learned too, like if they’re that second person, then to tell them what their role is as that second person. Right, you’re going to help sit, not next to the other leader. Right, sit with the students, help do some crowd control while they’re having small groups. So, like they felt like, okay, I have something to do, versus just sit here, and I found also being able just to articulate. This is overwhelming and can feel intimidating.

Brian Lawson: 19:08


Kirsten Knox: 19:09

Like I think naturally most people feel that way and if we don’t speak it, then they feel like they’re unique in that, like they’ll look around and be like look at all these volunteers that feel so confident. I’m the one that struggles like feeling overwhelmed and I found no, we all like we all. For us. When everyone started, it felt intimidating, and some of us still. There are moments of it being intimidating, depending on what’s happening. So being able to speak, that, I think, helped them feel like oh okay, this is normal.

Brian Lawson: 19:39

Yeah, yeah, another. Another thing too that I found helpful was I would try to pull them into the game or Like that. We’re doing it at youth group that night, so I don’t know if you were somebody who played games or or if you’re the leader who just runs the game and never plays the game. You know, I was a little bit of both, depending on what the game was in the night, and sometimes I would. Other leaders would leave the game and I would be there. So I would intentionally pull them, if I could almost like pulling them beside me, shoulder to shoulder, into the game, whatever it is, especially if I felt like there was somebody who would respond well to that my goals to get them to see that they can relax a little there and to and to have some fun also that to be a reserve and it’s also fun, and it’s both, and that’s okay.

Kirsten Knox: 20:30

Yes, we hope right we for this to work. You’re gonna have to experience both of them. Yeah being the scorekeeper always helped in that space, too, part of the game. Because I Can’t run a game and keep the score, because I will flip that up and then I will hear about it From the students, right? Yeah so, like that was the other, can you help, like pull them in and then help them do something that helps actually Facilitate that game so they get to be a part of it?

Brian Lawson: 20:55

Yeah, and something happens. I think in the trust level that young people have with adults when they see an adult who’s willing to get down and play with them. Yes whatever that looks like and whatever age that looks like. You know you are building a connection with those young people and they’re seeing that you really care about their world. And so when you’ve done that play with them, then they’re more likely to hear you or seek you out when that something serious that they want some support in. So it’s a good way to bring in a volunteer to let them start to build that relationship. And they don’t even know that’s happening to them. They’re just doing something silly that they’ve never done before.

Kirsten Knox: 21:31

Yes, you’re like the value is much bigger than we, than they even understand in that moment.

Brian Lawson: 21:36

You’re like, yes, winning yeah, so For this episode, we hope we’ve given you some thoughts on how was the process that actually looked like to onboard. You know, we’ve both kind of mentioned kind of easing the volunteer into the role, helping them explore different possibilities, integrating them into your adult volunteer team and Young people as quickly as possible, making them feel comfortable, introducing them. All of those things are important and if you notice here so I’m not sure I didn’t realize this when we were doing this, but all of that is about helping them build confidence in themselves and the second part is to build relationships with the other people yeah those are. Those are both very critical pieces and onboarding a new volunteer. So, friends, as always, if you enjoyed this episode, if you leave us a rating or review, we’d appreciate it. Perhaps share it with others that you know. And until next time, I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. To learn more how we might guide you towards success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to yminstitute.com.

Five-Minute Mentoring: Turning ‘No’ Around in Volunteer Recruitment | Season 5: Episode 6

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Do you struggle with asking for help? You’re not alone. Join me, Kirsten Knox, as I divulge my own trials with this issue, particularly how it influenced my effectiveness in recruiting volunteers for youth ministry. Learn how changing my perspective from seeking help to inviting others to partake in the transformative work God is already doing in our youth’s lives made a significant impact.

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Show Transcript

Kirsten Knox: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute Original Podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry Podcast, the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Kirsten Knox here with another five-minute mentoring episode. We’re starting off today with a confession. Here’s my confession I don’t like to ask for help. It’s something I have learned to do. It’s an area in which I have grown in and some might say I still have room to grow in that area in my life. Here’s what I realized my struggle to ask for help was limiting my ability to recruit volunteers. Well, I was making a common mistake when recruiting volunteers I was saying no for them before I even asked them. I recognized it was hard for me to recruit volunteers and not say no for them when I saw it as them coming to help me Instead of understanding that asking them was really about inviting them to be a part of what God is already doing in the lives of young people. This was a game changer for me and I believe it can be for you too. You believe in the ministry. You see how it is shaping the lives of young people. You know how being a part of it has changed you. You get what an honor it is to help young people discover God’s love for them. So don’t sabotage your recruiting efforts, like I did, by saying no for them. Instead, ask them and let them say their own no. It’s important to remember that when you ask someone to volunteer in the ministry and they say no, it might be more about timing than interest. One time I had this adult that I watched the way he interacted with our young people on Sunday mornings and I was like man, I want him to be a part of our team, and so I worked up the courage and I did the ask and I had a conversation with him and it was in that conversation that I realized he was interested and right now, in this season of his life, with his work schedule and the age of his children, it would be difficult for him to engage in the youth ministry. So after our conversation, I went back to my list of potential volunteers and I put a note next to his name. I wrote interested, but not good timing. This was a reminder to me that in the future, to circle back with him, I did, and he became one of the best volunteers I have ever worked with. As we wrap up our time together, remember these two tips in recruiting volunteers. One don’t say no for them. Ask them and let them say their own no. And number two if they do say no, get some clarity on the why. Is it timing or interest? Maybe their interests and passions align better with another ministry in the church and you can help them get connected there. Or maybe it’s about timing and you can make a note on your list of volunteers and remember to engage them at a later time. Well, friends, I hope this has helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. To learn more how we might guide you toward success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to yminstitutecom.

From Guacamole to Four Square: Secrets to Reducing Frustration with Volunteers | Season 5: Episode 5

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Have you ever found yourself spiraling in frustration? Join us as we share our personal tales – Brian’s tussle with a guacamole-less Chipotle visit and Kirsten’s fiery four-square showdown. 

And the truth is, we can feel frustration with volunteers – ever been there? 

We spill the beans on the essentials – from documents like background screenings to laying down clear expectations. Our candid discussion offers practical advice to bypass roadblocks that often lead to leadership frustrations. This episode is your guide to ensuring your volunteers hit the ground running in their respective roles.

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Show Transcript

Brian Lawson: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute original podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast. The podcast design helped you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson, back here again with Kirsten Knox hey, kirsten.

Kirsten Knox: 0:19

Hey Brian.

Brian Lawson: 0:20

So hey, Kirsten, I have a story to share with you. This happened this week and I’m hoping people don’t think I’m petty when I tell this story. Oh, I’m here for it, yes, so we had our council meeting late late last, late one night, and so I was tired and I go to Chipotle to pick up dinner on my way home. Chipotle for my wife and I and I’m waiting in line for about 35, 40 minutes. It was like a fundraiser crazy. Lots of people everywhere and I get up to line, I do all of my ordering and then I get to the final part and they’re completely out of Guacamole, which isn’t that big of a deal, I guess, except for the fact that the only real reason why we go to Chipotle is the Guacamole. So we were disappointed and I asked them. I said, well, do you have any more Guacamole? I said no, we’re all out. And I looked to my left and there is the to-go line where they are making to-go orders, and there are two bowls stacked full of Guacamole on top and I also see them replacing the tub of empty Guacamole with a brand new tub of Guacamole for the to-go line. And I tell the guy. I said, well, there’s Guacamole right over there, can I not have that? And he said no, we’re out of it, we can’t give that to you. But wait what? We’re ordering? A veggie bowl, and if you go to Chipotle, you know that you’re supposed to get a protein on your bowl and if you get a veggie bowl and you don’t, you can get Guacamole for free. It’s part of why you get a veggie bowl, or at least that’s why we get a veggie bowl. So he proceeds to tell me that they don’t have it, that they can’t give it to me, and he’s lying to my face because I’m seeing a giant tub to my left.

Kirsten Knox: 1:48

You’re like, but wait, there is Guac, there is. Guac is one of the best things. Not totally. Is the fact that they have the best Guac around. In my humble opinion, yes.

Brian Lawson: 1:59

I know. So I was very disappointed. So then I asked the talk to manager. I don’t do that very often, but I did ask to talk to manager and the the. It was a young man and I said, hey, listen, you have Guacamole right there. It’s the only reason we come. I waited in this 35, 40 minute line. Can we just get some Guacamole on our bowl? And he tells me that they can’t give it to me, that it’s only for to go orders, and I said, well, I bought a veggie bowl and it’s supposed to come with it. So can you give me a discount for the, for the Guac I’m not getting? Then and he goes no, I can’t do that either. And so he refuses to give me Guacamole, won’t give me a discount, and then he proceeds to tell me if you’re upset, there’s the general manager’s card right there.

Kirsten Knox: 2:38

He passed the buck right there, yeah, yeah, nothing.

Brian Lawson: 2:41

I was so frustrated.

Kirsten Knox: 2:43

You’re like well, can I have this order to go, and does that then qualify me for the to go?

Brian Lawson: 2:47

Right, right. So well, of course I didn’t think about that. I come home and tell my wife and she’s incredibly disappointed and she goes. Why didn’t you just tell him I don’t want this food, I’ll just order online.

Kirsten Knox: 2:58

And I said I don’t know.

Brian Lawson: 2:59

I should have said that.

Kirsten Knox: 3:01

Well, because you she is being thinking clearly and you’re frustrated.

Brian Lawson: 3:05

And when you’re frustrated you have sometimes a hard time to think logically in that moment and I was tired from church stuff and I came there, you know, not feeling very pastor like, because they don’t have my guacamole.

Kirsten Knox: 3:17

They are stealing guac from you.

Brian Lawson: 3:19

Well, that’s what I said to him. I said you’re stealing from me, you’re supposed to give it to me. You’re not going to give me a discount. He didn’t care. He just, he was not a budging one bit.

Kirsten Knox: 3:28

He was not persuaded.

Brian Lawson: 3:31

So moral the story is. Next time I will tell him OK, you keep this food, I’ll order some food online.

Kirsten Knox: 3:38

This that now you wasted because you can’t do anything.

Brian Lawson: 3:40

That’s right, that’s right. So I was frustrated, so frustrated which I wonder, kirsten, what about you? Frustrating stories?

Kirsten Knox: 3:47

I would say recently, as I think about that. We have student ministry and I love four squares. Four squares, one of my favorite things to play, and we play every week and we love it and typically do OK with it. But recently we were playing it and every time someone gets out, a debate ensues right, this, I wasn’t out, it wasn’t online. No, you were out. No, this is it, this is it, and every time. So we’ve done this for about 20 minutes and I, like, I cannot have this, like, this is part of the game. So I held the ball, I grabbed the ball very calmly in the middle of the four square court and I was like so, listen, sometimes you’re going to get called out and you don’t think you’re out, and that’s just part of the game. It’s a fast paced game. You’re going to get out, you’re going to get back in, we’re all going to have fun. But if we complain after every call, it’s not fun for anyone and we will cease to play for this evening.

Brian Lawson: 4:42

Oh quick, quickest way to destroy a game. Everyone just complains about the whole time.

Kirsten Knox: 4:46

The whole time. I’m like because I have one student that complains every time he gets out and last night was like listen, if you complain after every time, it causes me not to hear you when you complain about something you really matters to you. Right so if you complain every time, you lose your power. So be selective of when you want to complain about not being out.

Brian Lawson: 5:09


Kirsten Knox: 5:11

Like listen, this is supposed to be fun and it’s frustrating because we’re just complaining about every time.

Brian Lawson: 5:17

Yeah, we had a similar issue like that with our nine square court. You know people would just griping a plane. They were so competitive and overly competitive, Like their life depended on getting to the top square whatever you call the top square, I know it was like after they got out was like the end of the world.

Kirsten Knox: 5:33

I’m like, listen, in four minutes you’ll be back in. Like you’ll get this chance. Like you know, life will continue, it will be okay and we even have this rule that, like, you get one do over a night so you can decide. If you think you got called out and you were not, then you get one a night so you can choose when you use it. So I’m like, use your do over. That was my help solving the problem, but last night it was just not.

Brian Lawson: 5:56

Our solution to that was the person in the first square, like the first square you enter in, is the final decider. So if everyone’s, if there’s like a debate and people can’t decide, the first person that first square gets to make the call, no matter what, unless it directly involves them. If they’re the ones who might be out, then it’s the second square. So that’s just what we ended up doing, not perfect but you know it’s something.

Kirsten Knox: 6:18

Well, typically we do King like the King person in the King spot, but they have, they have an agenda there. So I do think that first spot maybe so right next week they’re going to come in and have this poster board rule for Square and they’re going to be like what just happened. I’m like, here we are.

Brian Lawson: 6:33

So we talk about these frustrating stories for a reason we didn’t just like randomly said, hey, we’re going to get on here and complain because we want to complain, although sometimes it feels good to complain.

Kirsten Knox: 6:42

They may think that our listeners may think that’s what this episode is right now, but it’s not. We have this Not.

Brian Lawson: 6:47

That’s right. That’s right. And the point is this I think, kirsten, you and I both have experienced this and I imagine in kids ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, whatever you’re in, you’ve probably experienced this as well to our listeners Like, we all get this and that is frustration with our volunteers.

Kirsten Knox: 7:03

Oh yeah, I wonder if you.

Brian Lawson: 7:05

You know, just thinking about that, like for me, one of the biggest frustrations was to not be there when you said you were going to be there and I need you there. Like you show up 10 minutes later, 15 minutes late, like it’s, you just walk in like it’s no big deal, but we’re already in the middle, like we’ve already moved into stuff and we needed you there and you’re not there.

Kirsten Knox: 7:24

That was the most frustrating to me.

Brian Lawson: 7:26

You know, it’s not like they don’t communicate, it’s. It’s it’s if they tell me they can’t be there and we plan it. That’s one thing. But it’s when they just right, just don’t show up or just walk in late.

Kirsten Knox: 7:34

Because I have jobs that I’ve saved for you because I want you to feel you know, like, contribute and feel valuable, and now we’re left with these jobs because you’re 10 or 15 minutes late. Yes, yes, Mine oftentimes was huddling, like the adults are there and I’m glad that they enjoy each other, but it’s like they haven’t seen each other a week. So they’re talking and I’m like, during free time hang time the goal is for us to talk to the students, not do each other, and so that always for me I’m like was frustrating of how to do that. And I recognize oftentimes when I was frustrated with volunteers, there was some responsibility to take that I wasn’t as clear as I thought. I was Like what have I not communicated clearly or demonstrated? And there’s some confusion. So that oftentimes led me to how can I bring clarity in a space that there must be some confusion here.

Brian Lawson: 8:26

Yeah, which I think is probably the real answer. We think they get it, we think we’ve communicated and told them and they know the responsibilities or the expectations, and we also maybe weren’t as clear as we thought or as memorable as we thought. We just assumed they’re going to remember everything. And my wife always used to tell me Brian, no one cares as much about the ministry as you do.

Kirsten Knox: 8:52

So true.

Brian Lawson: 8:53

And I mean I hope that’s true, right, I hope us as leaders have a real passion for the ministry and care. So we’re in it all the time and we know these things and we recognize and remember them. But our volunteers, they’re not in it all the time. They came from work or from home or you know whatever’s going on outside in their lives, and they came in to volunteer with us.

Kirsten Knox: 9:12

Yes, and I would. I think there’s things that seem very common to me so I don’t articulate them but they’re not common to them. Like that was part of that Aha Of how do I take things that seem very common and be able to communicate them, particularly when you’re bringing on volunteers? I always notice when I’m bringing them on for the first time it gave an opportunity to do that when I was, like in the past I would say I didn’t do that as well, so I recognize some of that frustration for me was because in the onboarding process there was a lack of clarity of me communicating things.

Brian Lawson: 9:49

Imagine landing your dream ministry role or engaging with a community of other youth and children’s ministers as you learn practical tools and enriching insights together. Whether you are looking for your next ministry job or you are looking for ways to grow your skills as a leader, we have opportunities for you. Head over to YM Institutecom to learn more. And now back to the episode. Yeah, it is definitely something we can learn early on. I mean, I remember not doing it well and learning sort of by realizing this was a problem and it’s frustrating me and so I need to figure out how to fix it. And so over each consecutive year I think I got better at it. But you mentioned the key point here is when you’re onboarding a new volunteer, like when they’re starting, when they’re just beginning, perhaps is the best time and the best way to give them the expectations and what it’s really like and what you hope they will achieve and do, and how they’ll respond to each other and all of these things and how they’ll respond to young people.

Kirsten Knox: 11:02

Yeah, there’s a lot of dynamics there, right that you’re trying to help them walk through and understand. So, brian, when you would onboard somebody, what were some of the processes, or maybe even documents, that you use to help bring clarity in that space?

Brian Lawson: 11:15

Yeah, I think maybe this episode, I think we’d probably lean into the documents piece and why they’re important, what you should have and how those will help you maybe not get so frustrated, especially when they don’t have that guacamole that they’re supposed to have.

Kirsten Knox: 11:29

That’s right.

Brian Lawson: 11:32

And then I think maybe our next time together we’ll actually talk about, like, what does the process look like for that person as they’re walking into ministry? But yeah, I think about the documents. I think the very first one that we probably all need to start with before anything else is to do a background screening on these people right To do a thorough background screening to have your child protection policy or safe sanctuaries or whatever that policy is that I really hope your church has and, if not, need to make that a top priority to develop that and do some research and reach out to us. If a total listeners reach out to us we can forward some documents your way. But to do that background check and the screening at whatever level you do, that I think is really important because right away, I mean you may eliminate somebody from being a volunteer immediately, potentially. Yeah, step one, Step one and for protection of your young people and families and the volunteers and you and the church as a whole. It’s a first line of protection really in a lot of ways, and ours were simple. You know the I think it was driver’s license and social security number and all that that you had run nationally. However, we were stepping towards fingerprints and where I was, we didn’t actually get there yet, but I think that’s where we’re going.

Kirsten Knox: 12:51

That would have been the next. Yeah, yeah, I think it’s important no matter to know your policies as a church right, and to make sure you align them and that you’re just not making those decisions by yourself.

Brian Lawson: 13:01


Kirsten Knox: 13:02

Of what you think the steps should be. Have that conversation with church leadership so that there’s an alignment there and awareness that everyone has said this is the process we’re gonna use as you move forward. But yes, first one, yes, step one.

Brian Lawson: 13:16

So we’ve got child protection policy. Kirsten, what do you do next?

Kirsten Knox: 13:19

My second was an application. So I developed an application that they got to fill out for one just information from them, but also it was a document which we commuted the vision and the purpose of the student ministry and the culture that we were creating, as well as and probably in that well, in the application we also had the background check. So that was kind of all in one.

Brian Lawson: 13:42

All together.

Kirsten Knox: 13:43

Yes, that they would fill out to be able to be able to learn some things about them, also an avenue to be able to communicate some things, and it set up. Usually then I would do a one-on-one coffee lunch, something with them. So that document, once I had it, also facilitated those conversation and created a space to get to know them personally one-on-one. But to be able to do that in the application process and I noticed I was kind of timid at first to do it because I was like what are people gonna think? Like they’re applying, I’m asking them, I’m recruiting you now, I’m asking you to apply so that was awkward at first, so I had to learn how to walk through that. But also what I recognized for them is that communicated a statement of value, like To be able to do that. There is a level of professionalism and in a value that we started from the very beginning and an importance of what we’re doing here. That Came and I didn’t always anticipate that. Like I learned that that’s what happened.

Brian Lawson: 14:40

Yeah, so this is, you’re communicating that. This is important that this mission is important, it’s valuable and we think it’s important and therefore there’s a process here in here, where we live In Florida with our policies in the United Methodist Church, we’re required to do those interviews. So they do apply and you have to do an interview with them and that interview is very specific About, like, how, why they want to, why do they want to be engaged in working with young people, what’s the motivation behind it? You know how do they handle discipline, those kind of things really important questions to ask. Anything else in the application Are you, like, in your application, kirsten, are you asking for about them, their story or their faith or their Interests? Like, are you asking those kind of things in the application as well?

Kirsten Knox: 15:22

Yeah, I had questions about their hobbies, what they do for fun, also questions about sharing, about their faith journey, mm-hmm. So to give some explanation to that, and then it would also be in those motivation to what, what. What motivates you or what are you excited about to be a part of this ministry? Why are you interested? Kind of to be able to frame that. But yes, I wanted also to say who you are matters, so I wanted to ask questions about who they are, because they want to communicate like you matter, and ultimately I want them to know I care about you more than I care about what you’re going to do for me in the ministry, and that was an avenue of being able really just to get to know them and helped on some Of those one-on-one conversations because then you had a place to start.

Brian Lawson: 16:02

Yeah, thank you, thanks about them and if you know their favorite snacks because you got it in the application, you can randomly give them by their favorite snacks, just because right, yes. Yeah, so once we get past the with child protection policy, the screening, safe saying, choice, whatever you call, we’ve got the application. Perhaps you’ve done an interview with them. That’s beyond recruiting. That’s part of the safety policies. I think the next thing that I would look at is some sort of covenant for your team, and I hope you, hopefully our leaders, have this. This is a covenant about how your volunteers are going to operate when they’re volunteering, how they’re going to seek to live their life outside, how they’re going to treat that the young people, the families, the staff members and how they’re going to treat other volunteers like. All of this is in is in the Covenant. So you know, some things might be that they’re going to be on time Right, that’s important for me. That they’re gonna. They’re gonna do their best to be there when they say when there’s Say they’re gonna be there when they’re assigned to be there and if not, they’re going to Try to find the replacement or communicate that far enough in advance. Another one that I had on there was that they were I love this one that they were gonna try to recruit to make about an effort to recruit Another volunteer this calendar year. So I was trying to build into the culture of our volunteers, that they were trying to bring in more volunteers. So that was on my covenant, some things Others were. You know that I would speak positively of team members and those kind of things and if there’s disagreements We’ve tried to resolve it behind closed doors. You know those sorts of Standard things really on the Covenant. Kirsten, did you have your team?

Kirsten Knox: 17:41

Yeah, the site.

Brian Lawson: 17:42


Kirsten Knox: 17:43

We would do Covenants once they became a part of it, like what does this team look like? And but also highlight that in the application We’ll talk about who we hope you will be the qualities that we want to develop here. So I think, however you do, that being able to communicate that and also it helps them. I want to paint a picture for them of a culture that they want to be a part of yes, yes right, and so that they know, hey, here’s what I’m saying, yes to you, and that we’re not, by no means do we do this perfectly, you know, but we will. Here is what we are aiming towards and here’s how we’re gonna handle things when we mess it up and I I felt like that helped them say, hey, I want, I want to be a part of that, and that’s the avenue to be able to do that and make a commitment how we treat one another.

Brian Lawson: 18:27

Well, and I think the Covenant is about setting up a culture where they can flourish and others around it flourish. It’s about setting up a space where all the people who are engaged can flourish, and that’s really what’s about yeah, and it helps select people.

Kirsten Knox: 18:42

If I don’t feel like I can live into that culture, then it can help people self-select themselves out A being able to say that’s really not what I’m interested in or do I feel like I can do that or want to do that. So to be able to paint yes, to paint that picture, I think is valuable to them absolutely so, kirsten.

Brian Lawson: 19:02

Screening application interview, possibly Covenant what you got next job description.

Kirsten Knox: 19:09

Job description Okay, that’s interesting, right?

Brian Lawson: 19:12

It’s funny. I I had job descriptions as well. But when we tell people that, like, wait a minute, this is the volunteer role, why don’t I have a job description? So why don’t you tell us what you mean about by job description? What kind of things do you put in yours?

Kirsten Knox: 19:23

Things that I would put in my job description is one I would say the first purpose is to bring clarity out of confusion. So what I noticed was that brought more clarity. So things that I’d have on that is first. It would start with the mission of the ministry, because I want to try to communicate that over and over so people get it. Then, whatever task it was, that there was the purpose of that job. So, whether that was a small group leader or that was the person who served dinner on Wednesday nights or whatever it was, every position had that, so that they really spoke, understood that there was a greater purpose and that they were part of something bigger. Even particularly think it was important for jobs that felt mundane.

Brian Lawson: 20:00


Kirsten Knox: 20:00

To speak value into that and then I would put on their qualities that we’re looking for in that person and the commitment they would make. So here’s your commitments that you’re making, and I think key into that is knowing having start and stop times.

Brian Lawson: 20:17

You mean like actual times a day or times a year or both.

Kirsten Knox: 20:20

Both. So like you’re starting time, like what is your time commitment, and give them the time, so like if it’s on your program night, what time do you want them there, what time do you want them to leave? So they have clarity. And then also time of when does it start, when is the commitment say yes, and when is their commitments? When are they done with their commitment? So, for small group leaders. Oftentimes for me that was like an August to May commitment, so that was each year. That was the commitment they made in that job description and then also in their wins. I wanted to define the firm what does it look like to be successful in this role? So that they had a target that they were looking for, and those would be quantitative as well qualitative, and also for them to know if, like people, want to do things that they feel successful in. So how do you know you’re being successful? So that would all of those. Those things would be a part of a job description for me.

Brian Lawson: 21:12

Yeah, absolutely, those are mine too. I think they’re important. I love the wins on the bottom of them. I think that’s so helpful to give them also a visual of what it looks like to do well, particularly when they don’t know. Like I think about a small group leader, like what could be a win that you could put on the bottom of a job description. I think something that set something like you, as the small group leader, have spoken with a student that you haven’t seen in two weeks, that’s a win because you’ve reached out to them, you’ve now connected with them. They know you’re thinking about them, they know you miss them. You’re winning if you’ve done that. That’s you know, it’s an easy small thing that you could put at the bottom that says what does it look like?

Kirsten Knox: 21:51

Here’s what it looks like Very concrete, right, very easy to know. The other thing that I would say job descriptions got better over time and part of the way that was is when people, after they started to be able to ask them what was confusing or maybe what did that, they found out that they wish they would have known. So I would spend some time asking questions because it was so common to me, and then their input helped shape the job description for the next year. So I’m like it got better through time because of that input and that feedback from them.

Brian Lawson: 22:20

Yeah. So I think it’s we start somewhere. We begin with where we are and we develop them and they get better and better as we tease them out. So hopefully these things, when we put them in place, help us avoid all that frustration that when we onboard them with these documents, we’re outlining what we’re hoping from them, what we’re, what we want them to achieve, what they want their role to look like and also how they’re going to treat each other. All of these things can minimize perhaps the frustrations of them not being on time or what you were describing in your frustration, where they all gather together. We used to, we used to go whisper to them no clumping, no clumping. That’s just a reminder like hey, y’all are like chit chatting, we got to spread out, you know so. But having all those documents in place, we believe, will help you and in your kids ministry or your youth ministry feel a little less frustration.

Kirsten Knox: 23:15

And yes.

Brian Lawson: 23:16

So, friends, as always, if you enjoyed this episode, we love it. If you leave a rate, rating or review, or share it with others who you think this would be helpful, and until next time, friends. I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. To learn more how we might guide you towards success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to yminstitutecom.

Five-Minute Mentoring: Making the Ask | Season 5: Episode 4

The Making Sense of Ministry podcast is on all major platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcast, and Audible.

Ready to ask a potential volunteer to join your Youth Ministry or Children’s Ministry?

In this episode, Brian uncovers how to successfully connect with potential volunteers, from choosing the ideal setting for your conversation to effectively communicating your ministry’s vision. The way you ask may just make or break whether the person will say yes to joining your ministry team.

This episode will give you a clear understanding of the BEST way to ask a potential volunteer to serve in your ministry.

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Show Transcript

Brian Lawson: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute Original Podcast.

Welcome to the Making Sense Ministry podcast, the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson here with another 5-Minute Mentoring episode.

Have you ever stood up in front of your church and made an all-call for volunteers? Perhaps it sounded something like this we need you. Our young people need you. Seriously, we’re desperate.

The truth is that wide-sweeping announcements about volunteers that you need rarely work, and if they do work, it’s not always the type of volunteers we truly hope to have on our team. This is why the personal ask is the most effective way to recruit an individual to volunteer in your ministry. So how do you ask? Believe it or not? There’s an actual strategy that will work in your ask.

First, begin by following the steps we shared in previous episodes. Observe and make a list of people you’d like to recruit. Then ask for a time to speak with them. The best place is over coffee or lunch. Somewhere off campus often feels more personal. During your time together, begin by asking about their life. Ask about their faith, story how they got to the church, about their family. Show genuine interest in them as a person. This will communicate later that you care about them above and beyond what they can do for the ministry and, when it feels appropriate, move into your ask. Step one is to tell them that their name has been on your list or your whiteboard or a sticky note on your desk for some time, and so you’ve wanted to share some information with them.

Next, begin sharing with them the vision of your ministry, not just the mission statement. Yes, you share that, but not just that. But you also want to share all the good that has been happening and can and will happen. Share what you love and what your volunteers love. You want them to know the why, to see the good and to catch a glimpse of the beauty that is coming in the ministry. You are building excitement here. Now circle back to their name on your whiteboard. Share with them specific gifts, talents or personality traits that have led you to put their name on the list. You want to show them that you truly have been noticing them and you see potential in them. And if any young person has ever had a positive thing to say about that adult maybe because you asked a young person about their opinion then share that with the potential volunteer, knowing that a young person has a positive perspective on this potential volunteer will only build their confidence. Next, begin by marrying their gifts and where the ministry is going. Paint a picture for them about how you see them fitting in well and contributing in a meaningful way into the ministry’s future. And then here comes the scary part Make the direct ask.

Sarah, you are such a great listener and it is clear that you empathize with those you are listening to. Our young people need adults just like you who are willing to notice them and to really hear them. You do that so well. I would just love for you to be on our team. Would you consider joining our youth ministry team or kids ministry team? Now be ready, because after you have made the ask, more than likely they’re going to start to doubt their gifts or abilities. They may have questions that they want to answer or they may ask. They may even express a fear of young people. So be ready to reaffirm the gifts you see in them, to share with them that many people are fearful at first, but often that they discover volunteering with young people becomes one of the most meaningful things they do each week. You want to empathize with their fears or concerns, while also working to help them build confidence in themselves, to see a possible future of themselves volunteering in your ministry. As your conversation comes to a close, hopefully they’ve jumped on board and they’re ready to go and you’re excited and they’re excited. But more often than not, you’ll need to have a follow-up conversation with them. So in a day or a few days, reach out to them again, preferably not via text message. Begin we want this to be personal, but in person or over the phone even, no matter what their answer is, all of them are willing to be willing to be. No matter what their answer is, always reaffirm and encourage them. You are building them up as a person, as a child of God and as a potential volunteer. So, no matter their answer, make sure they walk away from their time with you feeling encouraged. This is really important and why you ask. Well, we’ll get to that in another episode soon. For today, that’s all I have for you. I hope you have enjoyed this video. If you did, please leave a comment. I’ll see you in the next video.

The Power of Diversifying Volunteer Teams | Season 5: Episode 3

The Making Sense of Ministry podcast is on all major platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcast, and Audible.

Ever wondered how a NASCAR risk manager or a post office worker could be the best addition to your ministry team? Buckle up! We’re about to take you on a unique journey about unique volunteers.

We’ve learned the immense value of diversifying our volunteer teams, drawing from our volunteers’ skill sets, backgrounds, and ages, even when they defy the ‘typical’ volunteer image. It’s easy to overlook the quiet ones, like the tireless administrative volunteer ensuring birthday postcards are sent out – but trust us, their impact is far-reaching and deeply meaningful to young people.

We’ll also delve into the depths of our own biases when recruiting and how they can inadvertently limit the potential of our ministries. We all have our blind spots, but learning to recognize and navigate them is crucial in building a team that can truly take your ministry to the next level.

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Show Transcript

Brian Lawson: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute Original Podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast, the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. This is Brian Lawson, back again with Kirsten Knox hey, kirsten.

Kirsten Knox: 0:18

Hey Brian, hey everyone.

Brian Lawson: 0:20

And we’re so glad to have you here listening with us today. We are in our season of volunteers, so this whole season on this podcast is all dedicated to the lifespan of a volunteer. So if you did not hear the first couple episodes, I’d encourage you to go back and listen to those, because we’re going to build as we move through this season. So, kirsten, in our last episode we released it was a five-minute mentoring episode you talked about recruiting the best and making a list. So, here’s my question for you, kirsten Do you actually do that, or is it something you just teach that you should do?

Kirsten Knox: 1:03

Well, I would say yes, I actually do it, and have there been years where I did not do it? Yes, so I would say yes and no right and those probably were not my better recruiting years and so I could probably tell a difference. I used to call my A team when I would make a list like who would I want to be on my team if I could have anybody? And then oftentimes I sometimes would make a list of who do I think will be an easy yes and B. That would serve in the youth ministry so. But yes, I would do it. It was hard because I want to say no for people before they say no.

Brian Lawson: 1:40

So you’ve got your A team is what I heard and then you’ve got your easy yes team and hopefully you’re recruiting more of your A team.

Kirsten Knox: 1:47

I would, yes, I would do that. So I would push me because I would tend to I could develop. It was easier for me to develop a B team than an A team. Yeah, and so making the list made me really focus on the A team and who was the best that I wanted to ask? So for me, it helped me focus in that space when I had a tendency not to at times.

Brian Lawson: 2:08

Yeah, yeah, and we’re not going to go into this today, we will go down down the road but could you take a B player and develop them, you know, into a team and I think that’s possible. Also, I mean, I think about, like the baseball season. We’ve been following the Reds all season and they’ve moved rookies up and back down in the AAA and back and forth all the time, which is probably terrible for the players. However, it’s about development and the needs of the team and so their, their goal in triple A is to develop the players for the majors. So, yeah, so it’s good to hear you actually do it, because I didn’t know if it’s something you teach but you don’t do. But, yeah, good, that’s good to know. So hear that we actually try to do what we, what we’re telling you. Yes, we don’t always do a perfect, but we sure try. True, yeah, so as we, as we’re going into this next, this next part of our season on volunteers, I’m wondering what kinds of unique volunteers have you and I had in our ministry? I wonder if we shouldn’t share some of that. You know, the ones you don’t necessarily think about in youth ministry, like you wouldn’t walk down the street and be like that person’s definitely a volunteer in youth or kids ministry. There’s just no way they volunteer in those ministries, right?

Kirsten Knox: 3:24

Like you are those people. Yeah, brian. So tell us who is one of the unique people that you’ve had in your ministry that you normally wouldn’t have just picked out.

Brian Lawson: 3:33

So I feel like I’ve had some unique characters. I remember I had a volunteer that had a beard that, like, basically went to the ground, which was always fantastic.

Kirsten Knox: 3:42

And I don’t know how he managed that Great conversation starter.

Brian Lawson: 3:44

Yes, absolutely. But one unique volunteer that I think about this gentleman who I believe he was probably in his mid to upper thirties when I first recruited him married, had kids, so nothing unique about that, necessarily, but what was most unique about him was his day job, was he was a risk manager for NASCAR. So number one, his job was cool because he worked for NASCAR. I mean, I don’t know a lot about NASCAR, but it sounds cool to say you work there, so he’s a risk manager for NASCAR. And so how many people, I wonder, would think a risk manager would work well in youth or kids ministry? Because, let’s be honest, how often are we actually like pushing the limits on things?

Kirsten Knox: 4:29

I would be like his job. He had a lot to do in his job if he was that.Brian Lawson: 4:33

Yeah, and I wondered how many people in ministry would really want somebody on their team who’s gonna be like are you sure you really wanna do that? Maybe that’s not the wisest thing. Perhaps we should dial this back a little bit.Kirsten Knox: 4:42

We usually like the others. Yes, yes, so true.

Brian Lawson: 4:47

So he’s not the person you would initially think would be a volunteer, but he became a really great asset because there were times where he would gently question, respectfully, kind of push and back and say, hey, are we sure that this is the best row? What if we looked at it this way? And sometimes we agree with him and sometimes we didn’t agree with him, but we appreciated his voice in the conversation. But he also was a fantastic small group leader and is still doing it today, years later. Not the typical volunteer you would think of, but a fantastic one, the 18.

Kirsten Knox: 5:24

Did he know? Was that like a formal role that he had, or did he just naturally lean into that?

Brian Lawson: 5:30

You mean like kind of pushing back against us.

Kirsten Knox: 5:32

Yeah, like it was something you talked to him about, like here’s what I would really like for you to like do, and this would be helpful. Or did it just naturally happen?

Brian Lawson: 5:40

I did not ask him because he was a risk manager. In fact, I was hesitant to ask him because of that, so I did not tell him ahead of time. But he just brought it with him, right, like it’s his training, it’s his career, it’s what he does, so he brings part of who he is with him into the conversation. So he wasn’t asked, he just offered it and I’m glad he did. I’m glad he did.

Kirsten Knox: 6:04

Yeah, that’s some things you stumble onto, that there’s some real goodness that you didn’t really think through right Like intentional, but then just happened. I always say, for me I have to almost have it the other way as someone who pushes limits, because I tend to really have a low tolerance for risk when I’m, you know, in charge of other people’s kids. So I intentionally put someone on my team who’s going to push it a little bit and be like, hey, this is okay, because I tend not to do that as much.

Brian Lawson: 6:30

Yeah, yeah, I think I’m probably middle of the road, but I had some people on my team who were absolutely push it to the limit, and so he was the other side, so you’re right, yeah, yeah, created all those voices. Yeah, working together, yes, and you know, if you have a good culture where everybody can hear one another, that that’s helpful too. And where disagreement is okay because it pushes us to be better, and the best that we can be so. so it was good. But how about you, kirsten? And did you think back on your time? What unique volunteer or volunteers have you had in your ministries that you’ve served?

Kirsten Knox: 7:05

Yes, I had this one lady. She worked at the post office and she had she had lost her college age son a few years back in an accident and got to the place where she really wanted to help with students but knew she wasn’t that emotionally in a space really to interact with them one on one. But she’s like I work at the post office I don’t know if that can help you and I was like, well, I always want to do these birthday postcards and send out to students. You know, the week of their birthday and it’s one other admin tasks in the midst of everything else kind of falls through the cracks. So we have, we created the system at the end of each month she would give me a stack of postcards that she had already addressed and she would put up in the right corner the date their birthday and I would write them a personalized note and then hand them back to her and then she would mail them throughout the month when it was time for their birthday. So students got this birthday card postcard for me with a personalized note and I didn’t have to do anything but once a month sit down and be able to write them out. But I remember her saying to me I work at the post office, can that be helpful? And I was like yes, it can. Yes, this can be helpful. So it was. I, you know, stumbled onto her and it was a unique and she never really interacted with students but also got to play a powerful role in their life and speak, encouragement and celebrate them. And they they will never know her name, most of them and yet she played a critical role for them. So I always felt like I was like wow.

Brian Lawson: 8:32

And I would have never.

Kirsten Knox: 8:33

she came to me and asked, so that was great.

Brian Lawson: 8:36

So I love that she made so, mel, those cards. I have a similar situation right now where I have a volunteer who prepares the cards and puts the names and the date in the top corner, just like you described, where you put the stamp. A question for Kirsten, and I hate to admit this, I have still forgotten to mail them. Like I have. I have finished them, closed them up, even put the stamp on them, and then left them on my desk over the weekend and forgot. So more than once cards have been late because of me. Has it happened? Did you ever do this?

Kirsten Knox: 9:07

Well, she would do all that, so I didn’t even have to mail them.

Brian Lawson: 9:10

She would mail them.

Kirsten Knox: 9:11

So I would hand them back to her and she would mail them on the right day, like to get there a couple days, or else, brian, if she didn’t do that, I would have, because I I’m like I would tend to be late on that, so that was like you got on time.

Brian Lawson: 9:23

birthday cards because of her. That’s the best. And then, when I realized I’m late once or twice, I’ve actually haven’t even written them yet. So all right, hey, I just want to extend your birthday a little bit.

Kirsten Knox: 9:33

So here’s a late card so you can celebrate longer. That’s right. I’m like let me spend this, oh that.

Brian Lawson: 9:40

I’m a failure. Yes, oh, that’s great. I love that volunteer and the fact that she’s never known and yet does it Doesn’t that say something that she is. Yeah, she knows that people probably won’t realize she was doing that, and yet she does it anyways.

Kirsten Knox: 9:56

Yeah, and I would have kids take a picture of the birthday card and text it and thank me, right, like thanks for my card, and I was like you’re welcome and I had. You know I play. I wrote the note but it happened not because of me, it happened because of her.

Brian Lawson: 10:10

Yeah, which, in truth, is the best of any group ever is when the team is working together collectively. And there’s not this concern about, well, who’s the face and who’s getting credit, but it’s a word of movement together. But it takes a strong, I think a strong person who’s willing to be in that place that she was in, and I imagine it probably comes out of the tragedy she experienced as well.

Kirsten Knox: 10:37

Yes, and for her son, youth Group was a powerful experience. So she wanted to give back into that space and I had to be intentional about telling her about how much it meant Like that was closing the loop for her, that sometimes I probably could have been better at being able to say, hey, I got this text message or different things. I know that she also felt like she was a part of their story in a powerful way. But, yeah, I was like the gifts you know he stumbled onto that goodness, I had no idea. She said I worked at a post office.

Brian Lawson: 11:05

That’s the best. Oh, I would love to hear. I would love to hear, like, from our listeners, like, what, what odd thing. Has somebody come and said, hey, I do this is a job. Is this useful? Like I’m sure there’s some really odd, odd ones out there. I would love to hear about it. Even landing your dream ministry role or engaging with a community of other youth and children’s ministers as you learn practical tools and enriching insights together. Whether you are looking for your next ministry job or you are looking for ways to grow your skills as a leader, we have opportunities for you. Head over to YM Institutecom to learn more. And now back to the episode. I think we’re kind of leaning into something that hopefully, hopefully, our listeners kind of are hearing is that there needs to be variety. You need to have this uniqueness about your team and about the people. So, like you talked about your A team and person you know and made the list in that last podcast episode and today we’re kind of leaning into the variety of that list and how important it is to have a significance in the diversity of your team in a lot of different ways

.Kirsten Knox: 12:29

Yes, and I think what was helpful to me is, along the way, I was able to recognize that I’m drawn and I think most of us were drawn to things that are familiar. So, therefore, what I tended to do was recruit people that were like me, who felt familiar to me, because that was an easier ask. And then recognizing hey, that’s why I’m doing that how can you build a team of people that are different than you? So one thing that I would do is look at, I would think in my head, here are the qualities I think I bring right and here are the gaps. And how do I find people have these qualities, that have these gaps, to be able to do that? But being able to recruit people who of different ages, different stations in life, different personalities, yeah, I think that’s a challenge. At least, it was a challenge for me, because I tended to be drawn to people who were more like me.

Brian Lawson: 13:18

Yeah, not only people who are more like us, but just think the young, youth or kids ministry leader, maybe fresh out of college or in their mid-20s, even late 20s, and working with people who are older than you and recruiting them and asking them to be on your team and asking to put them in a place where you’re going to train them is intimidating and uncomfortable. And so I think a lot of young, younger people in ministry don’t recruit as variety that they could, simply because of intimidation factor, and so they don’t want to recruit somebody who’s much older or a different stage of life than them, because who am I to tell you how to lead a kids ministry when you have kids? And I don’t Right. If not only do I not have kids, but I’m not even in the age range of my mind to have kids. So depending on your I guess your mindset as to where you are in your life and what you hope, but but still I think that there’s an intimidation factor there. So there’s a lot of reasons. Either we’re just we recruit people we’re comfortable with, who are like us, we recruit people who are in the age range that makes us feel comfortable, or maybe even we recruit all people who are yes, people who are always going to be like yes, whatever you want, yes, yes, yes. And that’s not good either and that’s not healthy. No, okay, yep, okay, okay. Then there’s the other side too. I wonder if there’s something in us at times that keeps us from recruiting people because of bias and there’s a lot of, you know. Without going too far into this, there’s a lot of reasons why that could be. A lot of bias could exist. I mean, I even just think of one of our former Youth Ministry Institute students whose entire Youth Ministry volunteer team was adults who were of the older age range, who most would never consider recruiting, and yet that was her entire Youth Ministry volunteer team and she did well with that.

Kirsten Knox: 15:18

Yes, there are these stereotypes of what a volunteer looks like. I think for us sometimes we have to break through that, but also for people in our churches Like they almost self select themselves out because they don’t fit the stereotype that they think would be good with working with students and children. So I think also being able to help educate them of being able when you have those conversations, there might be some hesitancy on their side and probably on some level because they’ve already have some ideas of what that looks like and why they’re not good at that. That’s why I think, when you’re having those conversations, being able to talk about what assets they bring might help them break through some of those stereotypes. But yes, there’s a lot of barriers when we think about recruiting.

Brian Lawson: 16:01

We also could be unsure what to do with a person. I mean you had this woman who says I work at the post office. And I mean I could see that there’s probably Youth or Children’s Ministry leaders who are like I’m not sure what to do with that. How do I incorporate them into it? And so it requires a level of creative thinking, a level of thoughtfulness about how could their gifts be used in the ministry that we’re serving and leading. How could you use a risk manager? Do I?

Kirsten Knox: 16:32

really want a risk manager on my team, but perhaps I do.

Brian Lawson: 16:36

Do I want a finance person on my team? Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know, depends on if you’re turning your seats.

Kirsten Knox: 16:44

That’s right when you’re like those places also create accountability, and I think if we’re not careful, we lean away from that sometimes and that accountability so being able to recruit a variety adds that as well, as we have all kinds of different children and students that need different things from adults, and so that was probably for me, what helped me really go over, like be able to go over that barrier at times of when I went and recruit people who were different. What was like what my students need are people who are different, and so I was willing to push through some uncomfortableness because it was best for students. That, for me, helped me.

Brian Lawson: 17:22

There’s absolutely been young people who I could be friendly with and they knew I was going to support them and they knew I would be there and listen and try to help form and shape and guide, and who also don’t connect with me as well as they do somebody else, and that is 100% true about every person out there. There are young people who are not going to connect with you as well, and that’s part of it.

Kirsten Knox: 17:50

Yes, and I think we have to be able to say that right, it’s okay that you don’t connect with everyone the same way. So I think sometimes for our ego that’s hard, so we don’t always just say that we Wait.

Brian Lawson: 18:02

not everybody likes me.

Kirsten Knox: 18:03

What? Like I’m not everyone’s favorite person. I’m like, yes, I don’t think we say that, but we don’t always want to say that out loud. We might know that to ourselves, good that. But you’re like, yes, sometimes our own ego gets in the way of being able to recruit different types of people and giving them right. There’s freedom in that and we have to confront some stuff in ourselves to be able to recruit well.

Brian Lawson: 18:26

Yeah. So when we say variety, we’re talking about personality types. If you’re into the Enneagram or whatever those different numbers introverts, extroverts, different career types, genders, ages, backgrounds I mean everything is diverse and wide in many different ways as you could get I think only extends our ability to reach more young people and to help them know of Jesus, in than if we have a limited team and a team that is all sort of the same. So when we say variety, that’s kind of what we’re looking at everything. And if you have to think long and hard about how to incorporate them into the team because it’s a unique situation or a unique career path that they have or there’s a unique skill set they’ve got, I think that’s even better and it may lead to something beautiful.

Kirsten Knox: 19:19

I would say the goodness is probably on the other side of thinking through that. What is that? Yeah, yeah being able and we will reach more students. Like you had said, our capacity increases with the more diverse team we have. So, for you know, trying to figure out because recruiting can be uncomfortable what motivates you and using that to help you to be able to look at that.

Brian Lawson: 19:39


Kirsten Knox: 19:39

Of all the different varieties of people, and what a gift that is to your children and your students to be able to do that.

Brian Lawson: 19:45

Yeah, and as we move through this season and we look at the lifespan of a volunteer, we’re kind of real into the recruiting side at this point in time. But we’ll we’ll address like, how do you really, how do you really ask somebody to come into the ministry, how do, how do you do that? And so we’ll we’ll address that and hopefully that’s helpful. But as you’re thinking about that, a team, as Kirsten described, that you’re putting together maybe look down the names and say is this, is this a list that shows creativity of thought? Is this a list that shows a diverse group with lots of different skills and ages that can speak to lots of different young people? And if not, then maybe there’s some other names that that you need to look through and and add or ask other people who they might consider, because maybe they have thoughts that you don’t.

Kirsten Knox: 20:31

Yes, I’m going to say make that team would ask people. I think that’s one of the best. You don’t have to have all the pressure to do that list. Make that list by yourself, create your list and then I’ll ask for people’s input.

Brian Lawson: 20:41

Yeah, absolutely Okay. Friends, I hope that this has been helpful to you, that you see the significance of looking at a diverse group of volunteers and why that matters, and, as always, I hope we helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. To learn more how we might guide you towards success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to yminstitutecom.

The Power of Volunteers in Youth & Children’s Ministries

Volunteers standing together outside. The banner for Making Sense of Ministry podcast episode, season 5: episode 1.

The Making Sense of Ministry podcast is on all major platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcast, and Audible.

In this episode, we walk through tales of memorable volunteers, the influences they wield on youth and children’s ministries, and the lessons we can glean from their stories. Ever been amused by a volunteer who does something quirky? Or marveled at a longtime volunteer who creates a ‘happy place’ of serving within the church? 

As we round off this episode, we lean into the life cycle and retention of volunteers. We share a poignant story, a single unpleasant encounter that drastically reshaped our volunteer recruitment process. We then tap into the art of trusting our instincts for volunteer selection and tactfully guiding volunteers onward when the time is right. Tune in and be inspired by the immense power volunteers offer to our communities.

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Show Transcript

Brian Lawson: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute original podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense Ministry podcast, a podcast designed to help you lead well ministry, transform your lives and impact generation. I’m Brian Lawson, back again with Kirsten Knox hey, kirsten.

Kirsten Knox: 0:17

Hey everybody, hey Brian.

Brian Lawson: 0:19

And we are excited to celebrate a new season, start a new season and we’ve got some great stuff to share. So I don’t know when our listeners are listening to this. Perhaps they’re listening to it shortly after they release it. But we just ended summer, yes, and I had a really cool experience, Kirsten. I want to share with you the I was had a really long day and I was exhausted, and I think we all know those days and those are the days when you’re out and about and you kind of hope you don’t see anybody. You know, I don’t know if you know these days- I got it yes. Yes. So my family and I, we were eating dinner at a restaurant, but it was like a quick service place so we were thought we could be in and out and no one would see us and we could be good. And we’re sitting there eating and then all of a sudden I see like a shadow hovering over to the right of myself. So I panic a little bit, wondering what a world’s happening. But then I look over and I see I see what is clearly a football player, right, so a high school football player. And then I look behind them and there’s this big group of high school football players that had come from practice it looks like you’re probably doing long summer practices right now and and he said Pastor Brian, and the whole time I’m like I don’t know if I know this person.

Kirsten Knox: 1:35

And I think I should cause.

Brian Lawson: 1:37

He knows who I am and I feel like at this point in time I’m supposed to know him, and so I wasn’t sure who he was. And he goes. Pastor Brian I, I know I hadn’t seen you in a while, but I just wanted to tell you. You were like the first person to tell me about Jesus and you were the one who really got me interested in faith and in Jesus and like here I am terrible day, don’t want to see anybody, and then hit with some incredible, you know gift from him to share that with me. I didn’t know who he was. I knew that I had to know him. I recognize like his mannerisms and he clearly knew me, and so I kept trying to remember who he was. So I’m trying to play it off like we do.

Kirsten Knox: 2:20

Yes, yes.

Brian Lawson: 2:23

But then I go home later and I looked through my Instagram feed and old pictures and I figure out who it was. So I hadn’t seen him in over four years.

Kirsten Knox: 2:31


Brian Lawson: 2:31

And he was a little six sixth grader, just started seventh grade the last time I had seen him. So this time he’s middle of high school.

Kirsten Knox: 2:37

He’s grown up a lot. He looks different.

Brian Lawson: 2:40

He’s got a lot, yeah, long hair, everything’s very different, and so, but if it’s just a really cool experience, so then of course, I actually sent a message on Instagram with an old photo of him and it was just a cool experience to have him share that with you, with me, and yeah, so I hope our listeners have had that experience. Kirsten, have you ever had something like that happen before to you?

Kirsten Knox: 3:05

Yes, I have. I was trying to think back of the last time I received. It was during a graduation recently and someone when an old student was graduating and they had sent me a thank you card and had written things in it and I was like man, I had no idea that this had the thing. She mentioned some specific things that made a difference in her life and you’re like I thought they were impactful, but I had no idea at the level in which it was impactful for her. And it was again such a gift and I didn’t expect it. You know you get a thank you card from graduation and you think it’s the standard. Yeah, I thank you blah blah blah for your, and it was definitely a lot deeper than I anticipated. So, definitely in those because I’m like there’s a lot of times we do ministry without getting those thank yous or even just wondering, like, is this really making a difference? So what a gift. When those moments happen, I’m like I’m going to hold on to that because in the discouraging moments I’m going to remember this.

Brian Lawson: 4:06

Well, and when I, when I think about him in sixth and seventh grade, I would have never thought any of it was even registered, but clearly something did and the Holy Spirit moved in him somehow and it meant something. So, yeah, such a great experience. I’m so thankful I had it and it was on the right moment when. I had a day that. I didn’t really want to talk to anybody.

Kirsten Knox: 4:32

And I think it’s so important to remember there’s so much we don’t see that God is always at work. We believe that, we know that, but to remember that there’s so much that we don’t see that God is at work, doing in the lives of students.

Brian Lawson: 4:43

So yeah, and so whether they ever tell you or not, and maybe years before. Maybe they were in your third grade class when you were teaching volunteering in a children’s ministry, or maybe they were in middle school, I don’t know. But it could be years before you hear from them, but you never know how it sticks with them. So it’s just an experience. I hope our listeners get to have that at some point in time it’s such a gift to me. I’ve had other encounters like that, but this was the most recent one that really kind of hit me this summer. But today we’re going to lean into. This is our first episode of the season, and this season we’re going to focus on something that I think lots of churches deal with, that we hear all the time, and that is primarily about volunteers. Kirsten, I know about you, but I feel like I hear that that’s a need all the time.

Kirsten Knox: 5:32

Yes, it never ends. Yes, and I would say particularly I think always, but particularly just after pandemic life, that just seems to be even more of a struggle and a challenge. So, yes, most of the time in a lot of conversations we’re having conversations about volunteers, recruiting volunteers, training volunteers, all things related volunteers.

Brian Lawson: 5:53

Yeah, it’s a constant need. Even when I think about where I serve and the church I serve, I mean, that’s always something that we’re struggling with and seeking to further develop. And you know you feel like a college football coach who’s got to recruit the next batch to come in, I know.

Kirsten Knox: 6:10

And. I always wanted to do it and be done because I’m like it’s not always my favorite. So like if I focus on it, do it and be done, but the truth is you’re never done Like you’re always doing it.

Brian Lawson: 6:22

Yes, yeah, I’m sure we’ve got some some stories about volunteers. There’s one volunteer that just sticks out to mind when I think about him. He was a volunteer for me years ago. I spent 15 years ago by this point. It was a while ago and one of the things I’ll never forget about him was this was Facebook was kind of the main social media. Instagram hadn’t come out yet and he would post pictures on Facebook. And then he, after he posted his picture on Facebook, he always liked his picture and I thought why do you like your own picture? What are you doing there? And his statement was how do you know? I really posted it if I don’t like it?

Kirsten Knox: 7:01

Wow OK.

Brian Lawson: 7:02

So, just so, I actually checked on the other day just to see if he still does that. And he still does that to this day. He posts his picture and he likes it. So that’s just what you know. I just will never forget that about him. He was, you know, he was a great volunteer and I enjoyed him. But I just won’t ever forget that, and so that was hysterical to me. So then he always thought, like the ministry had to like its own picture, because if it didn’t, the ministry didn’t really post it.

Kirsten Knox: 7:26

You know it’s like the second verification right now that we do a lot when you’re like trying to get into things. That’s the here’s how you really know.Brian Lawson: 7:34

Yes, so it’s just hysterical. So I just don’t remember that about him.

Kirsten Knox: 7:38

I remember the first church that I served in we had a volunteer we did. Our church was located near the high school, just a couple blocks, so we did at six am every Friday we had high school breakfast, that we cook at the youth building and then the high schoolers would go and then we do middle school.

Brian Lawson: 7:55

So this is hot breakfast. You cook breakfast every Friday.

Kirsten Knox: 7:59

middle school or yeah, high school is at six, Middle school was at eight. Wow and then the middle school was farther away. So when we had buses so we would bus them to and take them to school for the middle school. But the high schoolers they were nearby and they would drive in carpool. But we had this one volunteer that he had for many years. He cooked pancakes. That was one of the things that was his favorite. But every Friday and like when I started, I think he had been doing it Probably already six or seven years and he came every Friday. He had keys to the building, he started the breakfast, he got the breakfast going and then when we showed up, but he, he would do it all and he had another, he had another adult that he would recruit different adults in different years, but he was the main staple. But I’m like every Friday six am, he had to get there earlier because we, we all got there at six am but he bought. He’s like this is my happy place, that’s what he used to tell me. This is my happy place.

Brian Lawson: 8:56

Isn’t that amazing? When you meet a volunteer like that, that’s like how do you get one of those Right? Like that’s incredible.

Kirsten Knox: 9:03

I’m like I’m glad it’s your happy place, because six am on Friday is not my happy place. Well, I mean, that reminds me of a church that when I was part time.

Brian Lawson: 9:08

I was in seminary as part time of this church and there was a volunteer who had been there for years and I haven’t been at that church for years and he is still there, Like he has outlived probably six youth directors, maybe more, in his time as a volunteer. And so what? What a gift to the students there and the families and a level of consistency by having him there all that time. And I think it speaks to when we can help volunteers.

Kirsten Knox: 9:39

Line up with their passion and do something that is life giving to them, you really have an opportunity for longevity. And how cool is that?

Brian Lawson: 9:52

Imagine landing your dream ministry role or engaging with a community of other youth and children’s ministers, as you learn practical tools and enriching insights together. Whether you are looking for your next ministry job or you are looking for ways to grow your skills as a leader, we have opportunities for you. Head over to YM Institute dot com to learn more. And now back to the episode. So, kirsten, do you you by chance, have any volunteer stories? Do you by chance have any volunteer stories that inform how you think about volunteers or has shaped how you go about recruiting or training, or just volunteers in general?

Kirsten Knox: 10:39

When I was in, I was probably in my second year of being a youth minister and I served at a church that I was on a youth ministry team, so there was, you know, a staff of us, but my responsibility was part of recruiting and training the leaders, which I thought was kind of interesting because I was the youngest on staff in the youth ministry and I’m like some, most of my volunteers truthfully all of them were older than me because I’m in my early 20s, most of them twice my age. So I just felt scared and intimidated and so one of the first times, like I inherited volunteers. So it’s the second year you’re recruiting some volunteers. I had this dad that came to me and he wanted to teach the sixth grade science school class and I currently was teaching it. But it was one of the things we were looking at taking off my plate so that I could do some other responsibilities, and I loved my sixth grade science school class. But I was like you know, you’re supposed to do this. So even in talking to him I had some reservations but they felt shallow to me. So I’m like, just do it all, this will work. So he became a volunteer teacher in the Sonny School class. It was a class that kids loved to go to and it was thriving. And then a few months in my sixth graders don’t want to go, and particularly I had this great group of boys and they loved it and so, like the very loyal ones are the ones that their parents were making them go. That’s probably really the truth. When they want to stop, they’re like no, you’re doing this. And so one day I sat in on it and the dad is up. He has the chalkboard and I had given him curriculum. It was great curriculum. I taught him how to use it, but anyway he’s on the board. You can tell I still have some feelings about that. It’s like it felt like I had the vibe of like a college class and I was like I don’t want to be here. I understand why they don’t want to be here. And his question was I’ll never forget this, he asked them. He’s like what does that mean to be saved? This is the opening question. Number one it’s not language we used a lot, so that probably would have been difficult to them in this middle schoolers Like well, I saved my cat from falling off the roof.

Brian Lawson: 12:49

Well, and the simple concept of being saved is somewhat abstract. I mean, let’s just be honest, there’s an abstractness to that idea and you’re asking middle school students to our only transitioning abstract thought, maybe to comprehend that without any context.

Kirsten Knox: 13:05

Yes, I’m like this does not help and I’m trying not, I’m really trying not to laugh because I’m like they then then that then another middle schooler told a story, and another middle school, I mean like they’re all talking about how they saved something and he’s trying to get them to move and they just can’t make the shift right. And then I’m also frustrated because I’m like you had this great curriculum that was interactive and had movement. So, anyways, afterwards I went to talk to the lead youth pastor and I was like, ok, we’ve got to do something about this. And he’s like, ok, kirsten, you have to do something about this, great. So I made an appointment that came in, we had a conversation. I didn’t think it was a great conversation, but I didn’t think it was an awful conversation until three days later I received an envelope under my office door that was was typed two page letter, single spaced. He had a lot to say about me, he had a lot to say about the youth ministry and just, he gave us a lot of his opinions. And I remember after that I was like here’s the truth. I don’t ever want to sit here again, I don’t ever have to do this. So what that probably is what it’s shaped. More is in my how Do I recruit, also learning to trust my gut, like I ignored some things that I’m like I should have really paid attention to and probably I was slower to trust volunteers and I bring them in more in an entry level before they’re like small group leaders and all of it I think goes back to second year. So 20 plus years later I’m like I’m still like shaped by that experience. I want to say I’ve never had to quote, quote, fire volunteer before again. So that has been good. We’ve had to move volunteers to different spaces but have learned, but that was awful.

Brian Lawson: 14:53

Reminds me of the the money ball scene. You know if you’ve seen that movie where he makes him learn how to let go of a player who’s been traded to another team. And you know he’s yeah, he’s the assistant, but he still has to do it. I had a similar experience. It was a little later into my ministry but it was with a young adults group. The young adults group was strut. It always struggled in our area. I mean, it does in lots of you know, lots of churches, and I was so pulled in other directions the youth ministry and other ministries that I just couldn’t give attention to this young adult class on Sunday mornings. And so I was instructed by my supervisor that we needed to keep that going and we needed to have somebody in there. And they had somebody in mind and I said okay, and, like you, there was red flags about this person. But I was kind of desperate and made a mistake and said okay, and eventually no young adults came to the class, like it just dwindled down to nothing. And I kept asking them why, and they were didn’t really want to say they were trying to be nice, I think. And so then I eventually did come one time when there was some people there and I kind of listened and similar thing it was. It was just terrible. And he was provided curriculum but chose not to use it, chose to do his own thing, which was not good, and so I had the conversation about hey, perhaps this is not the best area we’re going to, we’re going to help you find another place to connect. And he just was not happy. I met him at Red Lobster. I remember we went to Red Lobster because he loved Red Lobster, so that’s where we were going to meet. We met a Red Lobster and sure enough he wasn’t happy and about a week or two later showed up in my mailbox at the church had been mailed a letter. Mine was handwritten though, and I don’t know how many pages, but I’m thinking it was upwards of six pages.

Kirsten Knox: 16:43

No way.

Brian Lawson: 16:44

I’m not even kidding. That’s commitment. This it really, it really was, and so I opened it up and I recognized the handwriting. It was clear it had come from this person, but number one rule that I heard a long time ago was if you don’t put your name on it, I’m not going to read it.

Kirsten Knox: 17:01

There you go.

Brian Lawson: 17:01

And so there was no name on it. It was clear it was not happy mail, so I threw it away and never looked at it, Because I was. I was not going to be bashed by somebody who wouldn’t put their name on it and I knew who. It was right and I knew it. Well, he wasn’t happy.

Kirsten Knox: 17:17

Yeah, not a lot of value there I know, as a pastor’s kid, my mom always said to us because we would receive, at times, anonymous letter. She’s like if you’re going to write something, put your name on it. If you don’t have the guts to put your name on it, don’t write it. When I called my parents because of course you know I’m very upset when I got my letter and my dad’s comment was well, he put his name on it and I was like there you go so wait to find the positive.

Brian Lawson: 17:46

So you know that informed me for sure and it changed how I approach volunteers. Like you, I learned like if I have a gut sense, like I got to listen to that, like there’s a reason why that’s there, or at least give more space to dig in and think about it. But this whole season we’re going to focus on volunteers. We’re going to, we’re going to talk about your volunteer team and I think and I don’t know if you agree with this, kirsten that oftentimes we we say we need more volunteers and therefore we talk about how there’s just not enough people in the church or we say we don’t know how to recruit them, like we ask and no one responds, and I think we always blame the recruitment process of volunteering. But I actually think it’s much more than that. It’s not just how you recruit volunteers, is it?

Kirsten Knox: 18:36

No, I think. And how you keep volunteers and retention and understanding. That I think is very helpful and I like it because then I have more control over that Right, that is in my arena. But I do think we oftentimes think the problem is recruiting. When we understand some of those other tools which we’re going to impact the series, that really helps you to be able to look at that differently and also have a different level of success when it comes to volunteers.

Brian Lawson: 19:08

Yeah, cause we don’t want like we don’t want you or listeners to have the situations where you get the nasty letters. In truth, you might get one anyways. It’s sometimes that’s just part of ministry, but we’d like to help you avoid that. We’d also like to help you have more volunteers, and let’s create more volunteers that are like the ones who have been there for a really long time.

Kirsten Knox: 19:28


Brian Lawson: 19:29

Like they, they are a gift. Now, sometimes we wish we could like shape them a little more, mold them a little bit, but in reality their faithfulness Is a significant gift to us. If we would just recognize that.

Kirsten Knox: 19:42

Yes absolutely Such a gift, and now we wish I could go back and ask them questions right Like yeah, and learn a little bit more now that I’m in a different space.

Brian Lawson: 19:51

Yes, yes, I have seen the gentleman who wrote me the very long handwritten letter. In fact he came when I was interim pastoring a church Multiple times to the sermon, so I found that to be very interesting. So either he’s forgotten or forgiven, or he’s decided to take notes again and use against me, I don’t know. But but here’s what I would say is we wrap up this first episode. Here’s what we want you, would like you to think about. We’re gonna talk about this season the lifespan of a volunteer. Oftentimes I don’t know we consider the full lifespan of a volunteer. What I mean, what I mean by lifespan, is that From the moment that you decide to recruit somebody into ministry to the moment that they have stopped Volunteering entirely with your group so they’re not involved for whatever reason, and so we’re gonna try to help you consider the full lifespan of the volunteer and how each phase of that can impact the, the number of volunteers that you have and how well they serve in ministry. So two questions I wonder for our listeners to think about. If I was them as one, I would wonder who do you have that has been around for a while, or who’s your longest volunteer? You know, maybe it’s been a year for you, maybe the volunteers been there for five years or two years or maybe ten years, and what, what has, in your mind, kept them around? So I would make a list of, like what has helped help them stay around? And? And the second is, I would think about a volunteer who didn’t make it, who maybe started for three months or six months and Then left. Or maybe they were there a year and they left and I would wonder, like what, what do you think contributed To them leaving? So I think if they start with those questions, it can help build some reflection into our volunteer lifespan.

Kirsten Knox: 21:40

Yes, so give us some great Insight and then also be able to be able to think how do I want to shape that differently so that we can maximize the lifespan, which is the goal? How do you maximize that and put yourself in a position of strength to do that? So I’m excited for this series and the topics that we’re gonna talk about and unpacking. How do we do that with volunteers and how do we maximize their impact for the kingdom?

Brian Lawson: 22:06

Yeah, I think it’s gonna be great friends. We hope that you will subscribe this podcast, maybe share with your friends if you find it helpful, and join us this season as we dig into volunteers and until next time. I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry. To learn more how we might guide you towards success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to yminstitutecom.

Preparing For A Successful Year – Four Tips

Preparing For A Successful Year

All around the country, folks are preparing for a successful new year of school. Buses are running their practice routes, schools are hosting open houses, and schedule change requests are pouring into guidance counselors.

A lot of action goes on at the beginning of the school year. And the same is true for us in ministry. Before we lose focus in the busyness, let’s get prepared.

You can start preparing for a successful year with these four tips.

Have a plan to communicate with parents.

How you communicate with the parents of young people in your ministry will often make or break their attendance. 

Consider how you will communicate your top-level announcements, such as when your Fall Retreat will occur. Top-level announcements can be shared via a printed calendar (for the entire Fall/Winter season), through monthly parent e-mails, in your church bulletin, or website. Top-level announcements contain information that individuals can use to make a decision about participation. For instance they can look at the retreat dates and decide if it works with their schedule.

Mid-level announcements get more specific. These announcements are audience focused. Mid-level may be the details of the Fall Retreat. Where will drop-off and pickup occur? How much spending money should their child bring? This information can go out in newsletters, but you will also want to communicate this information more directly to those participating in the activity.

Quick announcements are the final kind to consider. These are the announcements used to encourage last-minute participation or temporary changes to plans. Text messaging, social media, or phone calls are often the best mediums for this type of communication. Do you have a text message system or a way of collecting their phone numbers? Will you put young people on this text list also?

Create excitement for the mission within your volunteer team.

An old saying is, “Mission is like a balloon with a slow leak.” I have found this to be true. 

To help your team refocus around your mission, spend time together to go over the mission. But don’t just say the mission – make a game out of it. Write the mission statement on paper and cut it like a jigsaw puzzle. See how quickly volunteers can put the mission back together. Then, help them see a practical example of what it looks like for them to live out that mission in your ministry. Get them excited and involved in preparing for a successful year by actively honing in on the mission.

Engage with young people who are leaders.

Whether you call them student leaders or not, there are young people in your ministry that influence others. It may be a natural ability they have or respect given to them by their peers. Whatever the source is, build a relationship with them and help them see what you hope the ministry will look like this year.

For example, if one of these influencers buys into the idea of your ministry being a place where every person has a friend, they will help make that happen when they see a new person. They will either befriend the new person or encourage others to do the task. The quickest way to culture change in your ministry is through young people, not adults

Have a game plan for your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health.

I had a history of being one of the worst at caring for myself. I would get excited and ready to make a significant impact in the next season of ministry. So what would happen? I quickly forget about myself, leading to exhaustion and near burnout by the end of the season.

Over time I discovered that making a plan based on the season was helpful to me. For instance, I may say that I will intentionally schedule extra meetings for the next three months with people that refuel me. Or I may take a season of planning spare time to listen to podcasts. I always found mowing my yard was a good time for these podcasts. Whatever it may be, preparing for a successful year has to include a plan of how to take care of yourself in the next season. Be creative, have fun, and make it something enjoyable to you. Your health directly impacts those you serve.

I hope these spur on ideas on how you can have a great season of ministry this Fall. At Youth Ministry Institute, we are always rooting for you!

Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.

After The Program: What’s Next?

For many of us, VBS 2023 is over. We’ve loved seeing volunteers serve, loads of kids on campus, and many new faces. But I have to ask you, is it actually over? What’s next?

Whether you held a VBS, summer camp, or another outreach-oriented event this summer, the program’s conclusion is not the end. Now, I know you are tired. Your team is exhausted and ready to rest. So why would I tell you that your work is not finished? 

What you do after the program is as important, or even more than, the program itself.

You’ve had great encounters with new people, and you hope they walk away knowing the love of Jesus. Additionally, you probably also desire to see them again in your regular ministry gatherings. The work you do after the outreach event is what can help fulfill these hopes.

A few key ways you can do good work after VBS or other outreach events.

After the program: Consider personal encounters. 

How a person feels when interacting with you can make a big difference in whether they want to spend more time with you.

My kids participated in a VBS this week. Teenagers led their groups. This setup is common; you may even use this setup. When groups are set up this way, those children spend significant time with teenagers. They get to know them and look forward to seeing them the next day.

If this describes your setting, consider asking the group leaders (or any volunteer) who have spent time with the children to send personalized cards. You could even include a photo of the group leader with the child.

Why do this?

The goal here is to cultivate the relationship built and remind the young person that someone at your church knows and cares for them.

Curt Thompson says, “We all are born into the world looking for someone looking for us.” The same is true about any human being that participates in your programs. So make an extra effort to help them feel seen on and off campus. 

After the program, connect present experiences to the future.

You likely had a great time at your event. You may have had a song that was a big hit or a fun character on stage. Perhaps the young people went crazy over a game you played. These present experiences are excellent opportunities for the future.

So was there a particular activity, game, or character from your outreach that everyone loved? If so, communicate to those who attended your event that this beloved element will be at your next gathering. Connecting what they loved with what you will be doing next extends the present experience into the future.

A little side note, do not overuse that thing they loved. The saying, “leave them wanting more,” is true in this situation. If you play that unique game every week, it will quickly lose the uniqueness factor.

Communicate gratitude to volunteers, parents, and other staff members. 

You did not accomplish the event on your own. The best work we do involves teams of people working together. I imagine you will want their help in the future. Take this opportunity to express gratitude and communicate how their work supported your church’s mission. Above all, help them see that they were part of something bigger than themselves.

You’ve done good work this summer. Let’s continue that work by doing post-event ministry well. Did I miss anything? What would you add to this conversation? Rooting for you!

Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.

Am I Doing This Right?

There was a time when I wondered, “Am I doing ministry right?” This feeling went on for years.

Yes, I would feel good about events we were hosting, and sometimes I’d even feel good about a sermon, lesson, or small group. But, I still felt unsure whether I was doing ministry well.

Then one day, I learned something. I learned that there is a way to understand the impact we are making. There is a way to know if we are on the path to achieving our mission. Best yet, there is a way that I can help my volunteers feel successful in our ministry!

So what was it that I learned to help feel like we’re doing this right?

I learned to define the wins for the ministry I lead.

I learned how to communicate to my team, parents, students, supervisor, and other vital audiences exactly how to see the wins in our youth ministry. And once I did this, we began to become more focused and saw a dramatic difference in the engagement of our students.

If you’ve never defined achievable wins, here are a few tips on getting started.

First, think small. When we think about success, it can be easy to dream about lofty goals. We might want to say something like, a young person will feel called into ministry once a month. While this would be a beautiful outcome, it isn’t necessarily a win that will lead you to recognize each step to achieve that goal.

For instance, for a young person to feel called into vocational ministry, they likely first need to have a faith experience with Jesus. Additionally, they will need time to cultivate a prayer life, both speaking and listening. Also, how do they know what vocational ministry looks like? Have they have never been exposed to it through an internship, service, or learning opportunity?

By thinking small, you make it possible to design a roadmap toward the ultimate outcome you hope to achieve. So what would be an achievable win in this situation? One example might be, “A win is when a young person participates in our leadership learning summer group.”

Second, consider wins that volunteers can own. For instance, a win for a small group leader might be each time they call a parent to brag about that family’s young person. When small group leaders call parents with positive words of affirmation, it helps foster a positive relationship with the parents. 

These are just two ideas that go into creating wins for your ministry. If you want to feel good about the direction of your ministry and want volunteers to stay motivated, consider defining your wins. You might start to finally say, “Hey, I am doing this right!” What tips would you add to this list? We’re rooting for you, ya’ winners!

Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.

Oversharing In Ministry: The Shocking Truth – Are You Guilty?

Matt, who had been serving as a summer youth ministry intern, was excited to share a devotion with his middle school group. It started strong, but as he began to share about a relationship that had ended just a few weeks earlier, he began crying. His cry was not just a little crying but a full-on sobbing type. The middle schoolers felt for him and even showed him great empathy. But the devotional stopped short of Scripture reading, prayer, or even understanding where God was in Matt’s story. 

It wasn’t bad that Matt shared a painful place in his life. The trouble was that he was still living this part of his story. Matt hadn’t reached a place where he could share coherently. Where God was moving in his life was missing in Matt’s story. 

Matt had fallen into the oversharing trap.

Do you know the balance between transparency and oversharing in ministry? Do you know why transparency matters? And have you seen the pitfalls of oversharing?

The Pitfalls of Oversharing In Ministry

At times oversharing can be driven by a desire for sympathy or attention. And the truth is, you may really need someone to empathize with you.

You may feel tired, overworked, or burdened as a leader, so we share our struggles to elicit sympathy. However, this oversharing is ultimately selfish and may not be conducive to building trust and credibility with the young people we serve. 

It is crucial to recognize when we need support. Having appropriate spaces, such as friends, counselors, mentors, or coaches, to share our challenges helps us be the healthiest versions of ourselves. And being healthy makes it possible for us to challenge unhealthy motives for sharing.

Age-Appropriate Sharing

Another aspect of oversharing in ministry is sharing without considering the developmental stages and needs of the young people we serve. It is essential to exercise caution and wisdom when deciding what aspects of our lives to share with young people.

Failing to recognize the appropriateness of our sharing can lead to upset parents and strained relationships. Had Matt gone into further details about his relationship, we may have gotten phone calls from angry youth group parents. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully evaluate our audience’s age and developmental stage before deciding what to share.

Sharing in Challenging Seasons

During times of personal crisis, we may feel compelled to share our experiences and struggles with young people. But you should ask yourself whether you can communicate coherently and have had adequate time to reflect on God’s movement in those spaces. 

Sharing with young people may not achieve the desired outcome when we are still in a painful situation. While it can elicit sympathy and build relationships, it may not be healthy for the spiritual development of young individuals. In such situations, seeking support and leaning on others while being cautious about oversharing is essential.

The Power of Authenticity and Transparency

Finding the balance of transparency and sharing the right amount can deepen our ministry relationships. It invites others into the story God is writing in our lives. Transparency helps build trust with those we serve, which is vital in guiding young people in their faith journey. Authenticity involves being brave enough to be ourselves and genuine enough to live according to our values.

As youth and children’s ministers, we should share appropriate aspects of our lives with our communities. Volunteers need to see that our families are real and our homes are not always perfect. Young people need to hear about our moments of doubt and struggle with our faith. Those in our ministry should witness the highs and lows of our lives, as this cultivates trust and relatability. At the same time, we need to be sure to share appropriately.

Transparency and authenticity are powerful tools that help guide and inspire others on their faith journey. So how do you use them well? In what ways do you avoid the pitfall of oversharing in ministry?

Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.