Here’s a staple of my youth ministry philosophy: there needs to be clearly differentiated roles for adults who work with youth in church, and those roles should change and grow over time.
This is a staple of my philosophy, yet it’s not something I’ve put a stake in the ground about. I should do that.
In many contexts, being a youth ministry volunteer has for a long time meant that you come to the youth group. Then, when the youth go on retreats or do service projects or throw a lock in or lead in worship or travel to mission trips, you do those too. This makes youth work a contest of stamina, and it necessarily cuts out people who either can’t commit to a weekly youth group meeting or who can only commit to youth group and none of the other things.
What if instead the lock in volunteers were invited to do only that? They’re welcome to come to youth group, of course, but we’re inviting them first and foremost to help make the lock in amazing. I’ve actually got three volunteers lined up for a junior high lock in later this month, and none of them are weekly leaders.
We had two leaders on our mission trip last summer who were recruited from the congregation and who had never before a) volunteered with the youth ministry or b) participated in a youth mission trip. Their perspectivec and contributions were invaluable (so were those of the weekly volunteer who was leading his 23rd youth mission trip).
If a goal of youth ministry is to pack the stands with adults who know our church’s teenagers, then we should multiply the ways adults can interact with youth. A new youth event on the calendar should be an opportunity to invite a new crop of adults to lead it.
By all means be professional. Volunteer applications, background checks, and abuse prevention proecedures are a must for every adult who works with youth in any capacity. Let’s swell the progress of church grown ups who work with youth with a posture of constant invitation.