Archives For Volunteers

I was thumbing through an old youth ministry textbook (1997) and reflected how much youth ministry had changed. The book touted different models of youth ministry and left it up to the reader to “pick and choose” one that adapts to your ministry context. A lot of the models were outdated and some of them should never have been mentioned but the book and the 8 1/2 years I have been in youth ministry has caused me to think of some serious questions:

  • Should we ever look at other models of youth ministry as templates or should it be a helpful guide when contextualizing our ministry?
  • In what ways do past models inform how are ministry is working?
  • Is youth ministry about models anyways? Missional, attractional, whatever…
  • In what ways should youth ministries adapt and in what ways should youth ministry never change?

All of this thought has led me to at least two firm commitments: 1) never stop learning and 2) youth ministry is not about picking and choosing a model more so learning in a community of believers at what works.

First we start with the last commitment…

There are tools to the trade that are normative throughout all ministries (i.e., keeping parents informed, medical releases, casting vision, discipleship, etc.) but some things work in one context that will not fly in other. Sometimes you do not have the right resources (volunteers, money, etc.) to pull certain things off. Sometimes it is not the right season for doing certain things. Maybe you need to plan more or maybe you need to be more relational or maybe you need to have a season of recruiting volunteers or maybe you need to work on building the right team or maybe you need to establish credibility in the large context of your church and community.

Which leads me to my number 1 commitment: never stop learning. I can provide all fancy quotes for you but the bottom line is you never will arrive at a point in youth ministry where you have it all figured out. Never. If you are at a point where you consider yourself an expert (not to be confused with veteran) then prepare to be humbled. Never stop learning. Look at awesome blogs, talk with veterans, learn from each other’s success and failures and take action.

What are your suggestions?


Are you feeling the crunch of the Holiday season yet? Are you feeling the pressure yet? Most families are and so youth group should be a time where we focus on the family. Here are 5 things a youth minister can do to help every family around the holiday season.

#5 – Provide a Daily Devotional

I am in the midst of providing a devotional for the season of Advent that will be ready to release December 2nd. You can always count down from December 1st to the 25th and have a daily Scripture reading and a thought. Or provide a devotional online or on Facebook (I like Brian Kirk’s idea here). Allow the family to have some resources to put the holidays into proper perspective.

#4 – Have a family party

Have a big Christmas party where all the parents and youth are invited. We typically just have the youth but I am thinking about inviting the parents as well. Pay for the food and have some fun Christmas games. Make it an ugly Christmas sweater party!!!

#3 – Look for ways to help financially

I think it is important to help kids in the community with Christmas gifts. Every church better be doing something like that. But we fail if we help people in the community and that does not include our own church members. Look for families who are struggling financially and provide them with some gifts, dinner or maybe just pay the light bill.

#2 – Write thank-you cards

It is the end of the year on the normal calendar and the beginning of the year on the Liturgical Calendar. Either way you can begin or end your year expressing your appreciation for the parents, students and volunteers in your ministry.

#1 – Clear the Schedule

Resist the temptation to pack lock-ins, high-school bible studies, middle-school games in the gym and all sorts of activities around the holidays. Maybe a party (See #4 above) and that’s it. Clear the schedule and allow families to do what is important, spend time with families. You should take a break as well. Be with your family. Don’t go in the office as much. Relax. Clear the schedule.

What would you recommend?


Last night we had our first ever activity planning where we organize the activities for the youth for the entire year! It was grueling, it was long but it was amazing. During the meeting there was a discussion about conducting a lock-in in April 2013 and typically I only do one lock-in a year because it is painful, exhausting and I hate them. Yet, truth be told, the students really enjoy them especially if the lock-in is planned well. As I was trying to convince the students and parents for us just to keep our yearly lock-in a parent humbled me with this comment:

“Robbie, what do we, as parents, need to do to make this happen?”

I was amazed at getting this response because this person was so serious about making this lock-in and she was willing to do whatever it took to help out. After the meeting I thought about our youth ministry and how vital our parents are. Doug Fields has a comment in his book Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry that has always stuck with me:

A Youth Ministry that excludes parents is about as effective as a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage. (p. 251)

Whether you promote a missional model or a program model in youth ministry, if parents are not at the core then you are failing. Make it happen with parents and allow them to partner along with you and steer the ship.

What a great way to start the fall!