what do volunteers need?

this week youth specialties premiered a new video called “the volunteer,” promoting participation by volunteers in their national youth workers conventions in san diego and nashville. i love their desire to pour into the unpaid ministry workers who pour into teens, but at what cost?

depending on how early one registers, most will pay $300-400 for a ticket, plus the cost of travel, lodging, meals, etc. it seems like very few churches will have a budget large enough to send any volunteers at all? perhaps one or two, but not the entire team?

even if your entire volunteer team could go, should they?

i honestly can’t speak for this convention, as i’ve never been. i almost got a spare ticket once, but i wasn’t able to arrange being off work. which brings to light another huge piece of the puzzle for volunteers – we are paid for things other than youth ministry. is there another forum in which to encourage, equip, and minister to volunteers?

meanwhile, tim schmoyer at life in student ministry has posed the question today, “do we really need more youth ministry resources?” he brings an excellent point. it seems like there’s always a new youth ministry resource popping up somewhere. some are excellent, some are paltry, most get lost in the noise. (i’m in the process of writing for a couple, so i won’t name any names…) tim also asks if/what needs there truly are for additional resources. soul care, emotional support, vision casting?

photo by oberazzi (flickr)

of course i am biased, but i think there is a huge need for resources designed specifically for volunteers. large national conferences are good for what they are, but drinking from the fire hose once a year doesn’t always help in the week-to-week. do volunteers need predigested articles fed to them by their paid staff? or could there be a way to allow volunteers to share wisdom directly with each other?

whatever i may come up with, it’s unlikely to get much face time with other volunteers without going through the gatekeeper youth pastors. kind of a catch-22. full timers are already overwhelmed with resources and often are just trying to get something, anything, for the next meeting. but here are these legions of capable volunteers who chug along, under-resourced and under-recognized.

here’s where i need help in connecting a potentially huge resource with a clearly huge need.

  • what specific needs to volunteers in your ministry context have?
  • how are these needs distinct from the needs of paid ministry workers?
  • what format would be most effective to resource volunteers? what would they (you) be most likely to engage with?

thanks for your thoughts!

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About andrew burden

andrew blogs about being a volunteer youth leader, teacher, video editor, husband, friend, child of God
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