In my church, I serve as the associate pastor of families and students. My role entails many responsibilities as I oversee and manage the following ministries: marriages, families, college, students and kids ministries.
There is no way that I can lead all these ministries alone or be in all these different places at the same time. Therefore, I must surround myself with a team of devoted volunteers to accomplish the scheduling, events and activities that are associated with these ministries.
I have heard many reasons why ministers should not develop teams. One I have frequently heard is that ministers are the ones getting the paycheck from the church, so they should not bother others to do their jobs. This has some truth as it is our job to lead these ministries, but it is not up to us to make all the decisions and accomplish everything by ourselves.
We must learn to delegate. At the same time, I will never ask a team member to do something I’m not willing to do myself. I know I have some strengths, but I also know that I have some weaknesses. By surrounding myself with a team of people, I can accomplish way more than I could ever imagine on my own.
There is a difference between having volunteers and having a team. Some of you may be thinking, “I already have volunteers. Why do I need a ministry team?” There is a big difference between recruiting volunteers who will work in your ministry and growing a ministry team.
So what makes the difference? Ownership. According to Charlie Lee, who wrote an article titled “Building a Leadership Team” for youthworker.com, volunteers are people we recruit to perform a specific task that is assigned by someone else. A ministry team is a group of people who are responsible for discerning and implementing the vision and programs of a youth ministry.
So, why are ministry teams important?
You are allowing people in your church to use their spiritual gifts and talents. For example, we have a team leader who organizes food for any event we have. He does it well. We have ladies who run our check-in station every Wednesday, and we have a table/chair organizer who breaks down the Wednesday night service to set up for Sunday School training. When team leaders ask me how they can lead, I always respond by asking them what they are passionate about or what their gifts and talents are. They choose what they want to do by using their talents in ways that help me out.
Our team loves one another and is so excited to hang out. It’s like our own youth group. We get together and play card games, we have “minner dinners” (i.e. mentor dinners), Christmas parties and so on. We pray for one another and share with one another what God is teaching us through our daily readings. The team carries out the mission and culture of our student ministry. Our students know them and celebrate them because they are a part of every event we plan.
Team members feel like they have a place where they belong. They are also being filled with joy as they carry out God’s mission and plan for our student ministry. They put work into the ministry, and they put a lot of sweat equity into it as well. Because of that, they are not just volunteers, but they have a place of belonging and, as a result, give back more to our students.
So where do you start?
What you need in your student ministry.
Decide how many adult leaders you desire for your vision. We decided on one adult for every 7-10 teenagers (depending on the ages of the students).
What are some ideas, dreams and goals that you want for your ministry? Maybe you just haven’t had time to implement them yet. For example, we wanted more help in discipleship. For our first few years of ministry, my wife and I could disciple the majority of the ones who were truly seeking spiritual maturity, but that number started to grow, and we were no longer able to handle the spiritual growth ourselves. We wanted our discipleship groups to flourish. We also had grown in numbers, so for the safety of our students we needed help safely checking students and having adults just being there to watch over students and build relationships. But you may need help in planning events, organizing food, greeting students, checking in students or other areas based on the culture of your church.
How to build a team.
- Start out praying and fasting for that number and what the team will be doing and planning. Ephesians 3:20 (NIV) says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
- Ask (Pray).
- Imagine or vision. Ask God for direction and guidance throughout this process. God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. He will do more than you pray or dream. When we see things like this happen, we cannot get the glory. Only God can. God gets the glory when He does immeasurably more. I don’t know how long it will take for you to develop your team or God’s plan in timing. But in three months, we had ten on our Whiteflag Ministry Team.
How to utilize your team.
Cast your vision with them, brainstorm, calendar and plan. We meet regularly with our team to remind them of the mission and vision of the student ministry. An example of this is to meet once in the fall and once in the spring. We give our leaders giant white sticky pads and tell them to dream big. We have a competition to see whose plan or activity we would pursue that year. We usually end up combining a little of everyone’s ideas. We encourage them to dream big with us.
Some things that have come out of our brainstorming sessions:
K Groups (Koinonia)
We divide up into gender and grade levels, and our adult team leads our students in follow-up discussion questions about the message and what they have been hearing from God. They take prayer requests and go over major announcements.
The groups are for students ready for discipleship. Our adult team leads two to three students in a discipleship group where they read the Bible, hold each other accountable and memorize Scripture together. The groups meet twice a month in various places like church, restaurants or coffee shops. We end the mentor semester celebrating wins and hearing from students on the impact of their mentor group.
The conference focuses on in-depth theological study. It is led by spiritual leaders in our church. Our first conference was on Creation, and the second one was an Old Testament survey.
One of the greatest moments as a student pastor is graduation Sunday. Last year, we had a student who shared about her time in student ministry. She thanked my wife and myself, which was kind, but a big win for me was when that student started thanking her mentor group leader. And that’s the victory – the ministry would not fail if I left or if God called me to a new position. The team could handle it all, and it would still thrive!
Justin Caton serves as associate pastor of families and students at Thorsby First Baptist Church.