I was given the role of youth pastor two years ago and have found building a reliable volunteer team to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in that time. I have so far learned two valuable lessons: 1. It is best to work slowly on building a team. 2. It is helpful to look for leaders who do not necessarily share similar personality traits with me, but who do share similar values.

When I first started as a volunteer, our church was full of twenty-somethings who were either newly weds or still single.  Many of us enjoyed spending our larger amounts of free time with each other, and so team building looked like Sunday Fundays where we all met up at someone’s house to hang out.  

Now most of those twenty-somethings have married and are in the middle of raising their growing families. “Young families” have become the largest demographic of our congregation and twenty-somethings are few and far between.  

Because of this shifting demographic, I am finding that I have to be far more intentional now with my leadership team.  I have to admit that this is not one of my strong suits, I have two daughters of my own and when I go home after work and on the weekends I really cherish my family time.  

Before he was the lead pastor of our church, Joe was the youth pastor. He brought me in as a volunteer.  He, at the time, also had two small children at home. And as I reflect on how he helped shape me, I realize that the countless meals my wife and I shared at his house, sitting around a table with a good meal and laughing, crying, talking theology, sports, weird things our spouses do and more really mattered.

In team building it is tempting, I know, to just search for those “7 Steps To Build The Perfect Team” articles. And they are helpful. But maybe, just maybe, Jesus was on to something when he called Zacchaeus out of the tree and told him they were going to share a meal at his house.

What I’m getting at is this: in building a healthy volunteer team, relationship is the key.  It is hard to lead someone when they don’t know you and it’s hard to lead someone you don’t know.  

One of my favorite clubs that we do as a ministry is our Thanksgiving Meal club.  I provide the turkey (actually chicken, in our case), and all the students and leaders bring a dish or dessert.  We set up a big table and give thanks, break bread and go around the table and see what everyone is thankful for.  It is one of the sweetest times.  Most of the students make a dish themselves, which is always hard for me to believe.

Team building doesn’t necessarily need to look like a 7 step program. Following Jesus’ lead seems to work just fine.  Carving out the time to invest in your leaders by sitting around a table in conversation and food will help you build the leadership team you need and the Lord can use. 

Andrew Edwards
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