Recruited to Connect
By Jonathan Mckee on January 10 2012
Have you ever noticed the various titles that youth workers give to their adult leaders? Youth Leaders, Chaperones, Counselors, Youth Sponsors, Youth Staff…
What do these titles actually mean?
More importantly, do our adult leaders—whatever they’re called—know what they’re supposed to be doing? Laugh if you will, but I’ve asked plenty of volunteer youth workers that question, and many don’t have an answer.
Last month I was visiting a youth ministry on the East Coast and I saw a “chaperone” standing on the edge of the room. That’s what he was called—a chaperone. Think about this for a second. Do you want mere “chaperones”? A chaperone stands around the edge of the room with their arms crossed, waiting for a student to step out of line so they can holler, “Hey, none of that tom foolery in here! This is church!”
That’s basically what this guy was doing. Too bad, because these teenagers didn’t need another disciplinarian, but they sure could have used a caring adult who was willing to take notice of them, hang out, and actually listen to them.
Guess what? It’s not this “chaperone’s” fault. That’s what he was recruited to do.
Who are you recruiting? Chaperones? Staff? (Should we really use a word that is also a type of infection?)
Don’t get me wrong… I really don’t care what you call your adult leaders. But you might want to think about the expectations you are communicating to them from the moment you recruit them.
Personally, I kinda like it when adult leaders are recruited to connect.
In The New Breed, my book about recruiting, training and managing volunteers, I gave my readers a glimpse of a form that I used when recruiting volunteers to work in our youth ministry. This sheet of paper simply said, “Volunteer Expectations” at the top of the page. Can you guess what I listed as my number one expectation?
One-on-one time with teenagers.
Sure, I also let my potential adult leaders know that I would love to have them at youth group on Wednesday nights, at church on Sunday, at occasional special events…. but before any of that, I wanted them to know that I was looking for adults that cared enough for teenagers that they were willing to connect with them one-on-one, both in and out of youth group. I made it crystal clear from day one that I didn’t want someone to just show up and lead games or work in the snack bar. I wanted adults that were willing to build relationships with teenagers and be available to have conversations with them throughout the week.
Yes, today’s volunteers are very busy, so I had volunteers with all sorts of various time commitments, but my main team of volunteers was a group of adults that were there to connect with teenagers. That’s why we huddled up after youth group each Wednesday night and debriefed about our connections that week. We didn’t waste time talking about how the games went or what flavor ice cream to get for root-beer-float night. We went around the circle and quickly reported in about our “connection-time.”
“This week I took Tim out to Dairy Queen. It was awesome. He really is starting to open up.”
“Brianna and I were texting a lot this week. She’s been really seeking out answers since Jake broke up with her. We’re gonna try to hang out this weekend.”
“Taylor and I are also getting together this weekend to go through chapter 6 in that Lee Strobel book. Then we’re going to the mall.”
No chaperones in that circle.
What are your adult leaders recruited for?
If you enjoyed this article from Jonathan McKee, you’ll love his book on relational ministry, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. This book includes more on how youth entire leadership team can be more about “connecting.” The book also includes a chapter on “boundaries,” answering many of the questions that youth workers have about the safety precautions and boundaries churches should adhere to when connecting adults with teenagers.
Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of numerous books including Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? He speaks and trains at camps, conferences, and events across North America, and provides free resources for youth workers internationally on his website, TheSource4YM.com.