We are in the process of recruiting adult leaders for student ministries, which is apparently like asking a seven year old if they would like to go to the dentist. It appears as though a large population of the adult world is intimidated by teenagers. These are some of the responses we’ve heard over the past several months:
“Uh, no thanks. I prefer to work with toddlers. They like me” Really? Toddlers terrify me. Can’t have a real conversation with a toddler. I end up telling the kid I like their shoes in a moment of awkward panic.
“Teenagers? Yeah right, they’re way too scary.” Yes, they can be frightening, especially when they come in with more piercings than you have teeth, but at the heart of every teenager, they’re much more afraid of you – afraid you won’t understand them, stick around, or try to listen.
“Too much energy.” You could use the energy my friend. It’s invigorating.
“They stink.” That they do. We’ll buy you some nose plugs.
It’s a tragic truth that finding committed adult volunteers is hard. I understand the intimidation – teenagers pop off, roll their eyes, fall asleep during the lessons, complain about the games (too many, too few, too active, too slow), and turn open-ended questions into yes or no questions. I even give myself pep talks before youth group occasionally, and I’ve worked with adolescents since I was a teenager!
Sean, JD, and I are finally starting to massage the ministry into a cohesive, relationally based community of adolescents and adults. Our desire is to build a strong leadership base of adults who have a passion to pour into the lives of teenagers – both inside and outside the church building.
I read in a youth ministry book recently that the amount of time it takes to make a lasting impact on an adolescent is 10 hours a month for at least a year. Anything less than a year places the adult on the same playing field as every other adult in the teen’s life, creating a pattern of isolation and abandonment where the adolescent turns to his/her peers to find value and worth.
At the heart of youth ministry rests the understanding that each adolescent walks into the room with the same question: “am I of value?”
We hear all the time that adults are afraid they won’t be able to connect with teenagers because they are too shy or quiet or old or nerdy, when in fact, the teenager would just really like to know that there is an adult out there who thinks they’re cool.
Maybe this should be our recruiting tagline: “Do you want to tell a teenager that you think they’re cool?”
… Great because we’re asking for a year long commitment on both Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings as well as time spent with students beyond the program. Thanks. Oh and we will be giving you a police background check as well as an interview. But don’t worry – cuz it’ll be a year full of pizza and soda and late nights and all the dodge ball you can handle…
Any youth workers out there have ideas for recruiting volunteers in a mid-size family church with a fairly small young adult population? We’ll take your suggestions.