Keep them Around

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Non-profits, churches and schools all receive a significant boost in productivity through the work of volunteers. Volunteers are the life blood of many organizations. Yet, volunteer turnover effects them all. This leaves organizations in an constant pursuit for new volunteers that need to be trained, coached, launched into positions, and overseen. The pressure to be in the constant hunt for new volunteers can be lessened when you increase your ability to retain the volunteers you already have. Before you can go and recruit more leaders you have to make sure leaders aren’t slipping out on you because of your volunteer culture. Fix the culture first so that volunteers can flourish in your organization. Through working as a volunteer, leading volunteers and helping problem solve with other organizations here are a few ways to retain the volunteers you have currently.

Value your Volunteers

Volunteer retention can be as simple as showing that you value them. You care about them as the individuals they are and not just for the tasks they do and how they advance your organizations agenda. Look volunteers in the eye and say you appreciate them and tell them how you see them engaging in the organizations mission. Volunteers often leave because they are overworked and under appreciated. Buy them coffee before they show up, send out thank you notes, and budget for volunteer retention ideas. Show that you care about your volunteers and they will stick around.

Clearly defined roles and expectations

Make sure your volunteers know their role and the expectations of them. Volunteers get frustrated when they signed up for one job and end up being overwhelmed with tasks they didn’t sign up for. Volunteer frustration often comes from unclear expectations and not knowing what a win looks like for them. They may not see how their effort helps in the long run. As an organization, take time, especially during the recruitment and training phases, to coach volunteers on expectations, defining their roles and what a win looks like for them. Your volunteers will knock it out of the park when they know what pitch to swing at.

Create ownership

Whenever you can generate a sense of ownership in your volunteer team your organizations culture begins to shift. Listen to your volunteers and their suggestions. They are the eyes, ears, hands and feet of your team. They see the problems in your systems and procedures that you may overlook. Ask for volunteer feedback and empower your volunteers to come up with solutions. When volunteers are asked for their thoughts and suggestions it helps them to feel part of the team. Creating a culture of safety, mutual respect and ownership goes a long way in retaining your volunteers.

Stay organized and ahead of the game

Get your stuff together! You cannot expect a team of volunteers to work well in the midst of chaos and dysfunction that you create. Take a moment to get yourself organized, create better systems and stop living in the moment. When you are going by the moment a lot of your time is putting out small fires that arise. When you have a great volunteer culture you have coached and empowered volunteers to put out the fires for you in a way that drives the mission of your organization. This allows you to stay ahead  of the game, think big picture, and be innovative.

A revolving door of volunteers prevents momentum in your organization. Look at the volunteers you have right now. How are you celebrating them? How are you allowing them to feel part of the team? How are you getting yourself organized to better lead others? If you are struggling with volunteer retention and recruitment it is time to evaluate and improve your team.

Orange is Coming

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Orange Tour is underway and you have to get your tickets. Every year Orange takes the information, speakers and resources from the Orange Conference and brings them to you. It is a great time to learn, laugh, and create a dialogue around your ministry.

Last year, I had the chance to have Orange Tour come to the church I was the student minister at. The people on the tour are amazing. Even Reggie got into the hustle of the day as we set everything up. Orange leaders make themselves available for attendees to chat with, ask questions and better themselves. Not everyone is able to go to Orange Conference, that is why they bring the fun to you.

Monday is coming and Orange Tour is bringing it. Here you will discover the best ways to connect kids and their families to Jesus throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Monday is coming is a great idea to test your ministry against. How are students and their families acting on their faith throughout the week? How is your ministry helping them to do just that?

Through the speakers, workshops and conversations at Orange Tour you will be challenged. Challenged to re-evaluate your environments, your programs, and even your mission. We all want students and their families to live out their faith. To have an autonomous faith that can change the world. Monday is coming will challenge our current practices and provide practical steps to see success.

Check out Orange Tour this year. It will be a great way to invest in your leaders and your ministry. Create space to have conversations about your ministry with your leaders, students, parents and your lead pastors. Sometimes, for success to happen we change what our success looks like. Monday is Coming will help you connect Jesus to the everyday lives of people and to the moments that mean most to them.

For more information check out http://orangetour.org/. Can’t wait to see you there.

Be ready for Orange Conference 2017! Registration opens up on October 13th

 

God/Science

 

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Recently, I opened up one of our home groups to high school students to just ask questions. To help make it a safe place I passed out paper and pencils and had them think and write at least one question each. We spent the rest of group answering them together. I simply facilitated the conversation, listened to students thoughts, let them wrestle together in the messiness and then would chime in some final thoughts. At the end of the night I thought this was such a great night. They wrote amazing questions and I really saw, in a more intimate way, what exactly my students are wrestling with. I hope to write a few blogs on some of their questions and hope then can help you in your own conversations with your students.

Question:

Can you believe in both science and God? Do you have to pick one?

The short answer: Yes!

Science and God can exist together. God created this idea of science. I love that as we discover more in the fields of science, from medicine to geology to astronomy we can see the creativity, the power and the evidence of God. I have had many friends in the sciences. Many Christian and some not Christian. What is amazing about them all is the wonder that they see through science. From stars and galaxies, discovery of new species and the study of the Earth the creativity of God is constantly being rediscovered. Scientists still struggle with coming up with an answer to a lot of questions we have in faith. I believe it takes more faith to believe in some scientific theories than to believe that God was the one behind it all. These questions are where science, God, and faith unite.

Many people say that science and God are opposed to one another. I believe that science produces evidence of God, is created by God for us to see Him, and helps develop faith in the things not seen. Churches should not limit talking about science. They should use the sciences to demonstrate the power of God. When churches stay silent about the sciences it speaks volumes of our ignorance and misunderstanding on how to see God through them.

When talking with students about science ask them questions about how they are able to see God in it. Talk to them about nature, about the expanse and creativity of God. Share with them the experience of not having all the answers but being able to trust in God. Use a common interest in science with students to build a positive relationship with them. Let us be leaders that can use science to demonstrate the power of God.

 

A Christmas Connection

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The Christmas season is officially upon us. I love seeing all the Christmas decorations and the cookies that are everywhere. People saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and everyone just seems more joyful. This is also a rough time for student ministry. Families are out of town, students have Christmas plays to attend, they have other commitments and it is common to not see a few students for this entire month. Yet, we can still discover new ways to connect with our students over this hectic time of the year. It is a great time to be creative and think outside the box to grow your students in their faith and develop relationally in your ministry.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA

Press into your social media plan to stay connected with students. Show them a few pictures of what you’re doing this season. Post some devotionals along with some questions to help them process something in the craziness of the month. I’ve had many students say that these are the only time they are able to read some Scripture and connect with God. Do a few social media games to get students to post about their favorite cookies or Christmas traditions with their families. Create a video devotional for your students. Especially during the week leading up to Christmas and the week after. Something short that they can watch on Christmas morning or stretch their thought process past just the receiving of gifts. Shoot them a text message asking how their day is or ask them what they’ve been up to for Christmas. When you can’t be present with students, connecting with social media is clutch.

CONTACT

The Christmas season gives us a unique opportunity to have contact with students. Invite them into some of your Christmas traditions or start some new one withs students. Bake Christmas cookies, go Christmas Caroling, or just shopping for presents together. Recruit a couple students to help you decorate your house. Have a White Elephant Christmas party or Secret Santa amongst your students. Chances are you will watch ‘A Christmas Story’ or ‘Elf’ fifteen times over the next few weeks so have a few students over to watch with you. Go attend a students play, recital or concert and bring some other students with you. Think about what you would normally do and invite a student into that.

SERVE

Serving with students is a great time to connect with them. Your church is probably doing extra events this upcoming month. Challenge your students to show up with you and volunteer along side you. Find an outreach opportunity in your community. Better yet, join your students in an outreach opportunity that they are passionate about.

In the busyness of this upcoming month we can still connect with students. We may have to think outside the box but students matter. They matter enough to go the extra mile this Christmas to connect with them.

Expectations

In an old friends pregnancy announcement they praised how excited they were for having a baby boy and couldn’t wait for him to be a star athlete. I could imagine the expectation of a room full of trophies and daily sports games. It started me thinking (which has proven to be dangerous) whether this was a smart move, or just one made in excitement. I have seen many parents and their students differ in their expectations of what niche they would fit into. What if a child didn’t want to play sports, would a parent force them into it? Would a parent rob a child of joy because the child would rather read or be creative than do something the parent once did? I am not a parent, but I have seen a lot of this tension play out throughout my life experiences. Here are some thoughts on the expectations we put on kids.

Discovery

Allowing a child room to figure it out, and being a person who can help guide that is important. I hope kids can try a bunch of activities and learn from those experiences. Kids get to discover for themselves what they enjoy and like. They begin to learn new skills and develop their personalities. Allowing them to try things gives them a chance to see it for themselves. We should, however, also create a sense of commitment in them to stick with something that they do enjoy. This should come naturally if they enjoy it. Get their curiosity going, help to see and try new things.

Safety

As adults we should create a safe environment for kids to be themselves. When we coerce or force a kid into do something they don’t like it frustrations rise on both fronts. There can be an unhealthy expectation on kids to do a certain thing which when they don’t like it leads to frustration and disappointment from the adults. From the kids it creates a tension that can destroy trust and connections with adults. This safety helps kids to try and fail and try and succeed until they discover something that makes them come alive.

Passion

Be a champion for kids in whatever fills them with joy. If it is being creative, or band, reading or sports be a kids cheerleader in whatever they are doing. Create an environment that encourages them and creates a passion behind what they are doing. Let their passions become your passions. You will connect so much better when you share this with them. Encourage them to be the best they can be in this area. If it is drawing, ask them to see some work and help them to learn more. If it is sports, cheer them on, teach them new skills, and ask them questions about it.

In giving kids a safe environment where they can discover their passions they will flourish. We begin to see kids for who they are, not who we believe they should be. In families, and in our ministries, we should strive to help kids discover the unique individual God has created them to be. Even if it doesn’t fit our molds.