Are they Hole-Fillers or Disciple-Makers? Training your volunteers to be Disciple-Making machines.

Now that you have a team of volunteers, what should you do with them? Obviously you want to train them, but how? And what do you train them to do? Most coaches would die for a Peyton Manning to transfer to their team, but that’s not likely going to happen to you. You probably feel like you’ve got a whole bunch of project players instead of the all stars you were hoping for. That’s alright. Because great volunteers are made, not born, but it’s not going to happen by accident. You are the coach. It’s up to you to train and develop them to be successful on the youth ministry playing field.

Here is a short list of the things you should cover in your training times with your volunteers.

#1. Policies & Procedures – this is the boring legal stuff, but your volunteers are acting as an extension of you and your ministry. You can be held liable in a court of law for the actions of your volunteers. If one of them does something wrong, it’s seen as almost the same as if a member of your church staff did it in the eyes of the public and at times the law. Make sure your volunteers both understand and abide by your guidelines.

#2. Hard Knowledge – whatever role you are asking your volunteer to fill has a skill set attached to it. Whether they are driving the van, running sound or leading a small group, there are functional skills that you will want your volunteer to know. Make sure they have both the training they need, and the supplies necessary, to do what you are asking them to do.

#3. Contact Work – Believe it or not most adults are not comfortable around teenagers, and in some cases are out and out intimidated and afraid of them. You should train every leader how to connect with teenagers. Some of this they will learn through trial and error, but every youth worker should be skilled in how to relate to teenagers in engaging and appropriate ways.

Lastly and most importantly:

#4.  Disciple Making – Are your volunteers making disciples or are they just doing a job for you?

Most people have never been discipled and do not know how to disciple anyone else. And yet if there was only one thing that we really want our volunteers to do, this is it. The best way to teach discipleship is to model it. And I don’t mean having your volunteers watch you disciple teenagers, although that can work. I mean YOU should disciple your volunteers, and in turn they will learn how to disciple teenagers. Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho does this better than any church I know. I can’t speak for their youth ministry any longer since I am not involved, but this is the model they use to make disciples throughout the entire congregation.  I remember a specific weekend while I was on staff, when we cheered as a congregation because even though we were running 5,000 in attendance each weekend, and we had more people in small groups that week than we did in our weekend services. Suffice it to say, they take discipleship seriously in that congregation. And that is the purpose of each small group.  At Real Life we used to say, “We create relational environments for the purpose of discipleship.”

You can make disciples in any relational environment. A small group created for the purpose of discipleship can have anything as a hook. Dance, drama, coffee, …. you name it, can be used as a tool around which a volunteer can make disciples. Why should the sound guy only teach the 3 teens on his tech team how to change the slides? Instead have the sound guy create a small group with those 3 kids, start giving them pastoral care and praying together; now he’s making disciples. Why should the kids on worship team also have another group that they have to meet with at another time to get discipled? Instead have the worship leader go deeper relationally with the team and watch what happens to your entire worship culture. Instead of having 2 kids show up with a volunteer to just set up chairs, what if they showed up 30 min earlier and had a small group together?  Of course you can divide up by schools or by area as well; but the purpose isn’t to force teens to go to whatever group their supposed to go to, it’s to put them in a relationship of trust with a caring adult who can invest in their spiritual life. As a leader, I don’t care what they connect around, I just care that they connect.

Even when our security guys would have to remove someone, I’d encourage them to try to not just be a cop but instead to look at it as a ministry opportunity… “So, what’s going on in your world right now that you can’t seem to focus in there?” It very well may be the best ministry that happens in that kid’s world all year.

Challenge those on your youth staff to do more than fill a hole in your leadership flowchart. We are all called and empowered to make disciples one person at a time.  Your volunteers did not volunteer for Boys and Girls Club, or 4-H. They are volunteering at a church, not a secular organization. We need to be much more than a Big Brother or Big Sister to students. It is completely appropriate that our volunteers make the turn to spiritual things in their relationships with students. Train them to make disciples. The Great Commission is not just for you as the youth pastor, it’s for all your volunteers as well, and they all need to be disciple-makers. And it’s your job as the leader to both train and release them to do just that.

You are not the New York Yankees of churches. You cannot just go out and buy a championship team of volunteers. But you can compete and win. But you have to build the team from within your organization. Stop making excuses. Stop waiting for a the big free agent church transfer. If you don’t know how to develop your leaders, go find help. For some reason God has appointed many us to lead beyond our comfort zone… but make no doubt about it, if you are the leader, God has placed you there. Now Lead.



About markmoder

One Response to Are they Hole-Fillers or Disciple-Makers? Training your volunteers to be Disciple-Making machines.

  1. Chris Long says:

    Great post!


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