GUEST POST: The Often Forgotten: Volunteers As Free Labor?

August 30, 2012 — Leave a comment

The role of a youth pastor is unfortunately cross-functional and creative.  Read that again.  The responsibilities that are the weekly to-do list are daunting and incredibly unachievable.  No, that’s not pessimism – that’s realism.

Here’s the thing, ministry is not meant to be done on your own.  That’s not profound, that’s simple.

I have been looking for a job as a high school pastor for 4 years now.  I have seen interview after interview, panel after panel.  Though each community is unique, one question remains consistent: “How do you balance your ministry?”

Believe it or not, my answer is not “I just do.”  The key responsibilities of youth pastors are two-fold: Lead students, Train leaders.  This second half is often overlooked.

As I said above, all churches and communities are unique, but this fact remains true no matter how big your youth room is.  You need staff support.  No, I don’t mean free labor to pick up a gallon of milk for your Wednesday night game.  I mean a group of people who are passionate about connecting with students.

I had a professor in college that continually beat into my skull that, “life-change happens in the context of a meaningful relationship.”  This means the gallon challenge won’t officially bring students into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, a student and a volunteer talking about the gallon challenge could.

That might seem a little unattainable but it remains true.  Students connect with each other and with Christ through volunteer leaders.  I would strongly argue that the best way to grow your ministry is through training and empowering your volunteers.

I know a lot of youth workers who think they can connect with every student and single-handedly disciple and grow the ministry.  I don’t know about you, but I might label this as a messiah complex.  The ministry of your youth group should involve the extension of your heart for Christ and students through the time and effort of your volunteers.  This is why it is crucial to focus on the development of your leaders as much as you focus on the development of your students.

Take a look at Luke 9:1-2 –

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

Huh. If Jesus didn’t do it on his own… you probably shouldn’t do it either.

So this is where the rubber meets the road.  Are you investing in your volunteers or are they free labor?  Is your staff growing or is it tough to get people to show up?  This is why I see the ministry of a youth pastor to be a healthy balance.  Investment in students is most successful when you empower your dedicated leaders to do it as well.

This is not an excuse to run your ministry as the CEO of a fortune 500, but it is permission to share the responsibility.  Ministry is not a one man or woman show.  Developing your relationship with your leaders allows you to see the gifts these volunteers bring to your community of students.

This isn’t a formula – it’s an idea.  There are a lot of ways to make this practical and I encourage you to find what works for your group.  A great place to start is looking at Justin’s blog on the 10-foot rule.

So as you plan your next message or event, grab coffee with a leader and see what happens.

*Timothy Crossland is a youth ministry major from Azusa Pacific University who is now up in Kirkland, WA (looking for a youth ministry position, get him, he’s amazing). He just started a blog at and you can follow him on twitter at @tbxland

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