What Should a Youth Pastor Hand Off to Volunteers?

What Should a Youth Pastor Hand Off to Volunteers?

To be effective in youth ministry over the long haul, you can’t do everything by yourself. You need people around you to share the load.

That realization was a big turning point for me. Trying to do everything myself led to the brink of burnout. In the aftermath, I experienced what Andrew Carnegie observed in the latter part of his life:

“It marks a big step in your development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you can do alone.”

You’ve probably figured that out. You know you need help. You know you need volunteers.

2 Questions

Two questions immediately come to mind when you realize you can’t do everything by yourself:

1. What are the things you should keep doing?
2. What are the things you should hand off?

To answer those questions, you’ll need to think about how your strengths intersect with the goals of your church and needs of your ministry.

Consider Your Strengths

Let’s start by considering your strengths.

In his book, The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley tells about his struggles when he started out as a youth pastor. He was at the office early and went home late. He was always on the go. But he realized that he wasn’t working smart.

He remembers:

“The majority of my time was devoted to tasks I was not good at. I was eight years into my career before I realized that my real value to our organization lay within the context of my giftedness, not the number of hours I worked” (p. 18).

Did you catch that?

His real value was when he worked within the context of his giftedness.

The same thing is true for you:
Your gifts are a gift to your ministry.

God has gifted you in unique ways. He has connected you with your particular church at this particular time. The worst thing you can do, then, is to withhold your gifts from your ministry because you’re too busy doing things that are outside of your giftedness.

You add the most value to your ministry when you focus on the two or three areas where you’re most gifted.

What Andy Stanley calls “gifts,” Marcus Buckingham calls “strengths.”

When Buckingham worked for the Gallup Organization, he discovered some key themes when successful leaders were interviewed about excellence and peak performance. He found that strengths are made up of three separate ingredients (see Now, Discover Your Strengths):

1. Talents

Talents are personality traits that you’re born with. They don’t change very much during your life, but they influence everything about the way you think and act.

2. Skills

Skills are abilities that are developed through trial and error. They help you perform specific tasks and duties in every aspect of your life.

3. Knowledge

Knowledge is an understanding that is discovered through instruction and observation. It helps you make sense of yourself and your environment.

Buckingham summarizes, “Your strengths are those activities that make you feel strong. (The flip side is also true: ‘An activity that makes you feel weak’ is the best definition of a weakness.)” (Go Put Your Strengths to Work, 85).

Whether you call it a strength or a gift, you need to focus on the few areas where you’re strongest if you want to make the biggest impact in your church and ministry.

How can you do that?

Let’s go back to Andy Stanley. After realizing that his real value was in the context of his giftedness, he says, “I began looking for ways to redefine my job description according to what I was good at, rather than what I was willing to do” (Next Generation Leader, pp. 18-19).

Your Job Description

You probably haven’t looked at your job description since the day you were hired, but take a minute to track it down and read it.

Consider these questions as you’re reading:

What are the things on there that make you feel energized?

What are the things that make you feel depleted?

How would you adjust your current job description to highlight the ways you can add the most value to your ministry?

Which of your gifts or strengths are not currently being utilized to the fullest?

What do you do that is almost effortless from your perspective but seems challenging to others?

In what areas do people consider you the “go-to” person?

Which tasks do you most enjoy in your current job?

What do you wish you could hand off to someone else?

What do you do that brings the most praise and recognition from others?

What are the 5 things that bring the most return on investment for your time and effort?

What situations do you look forward to working in?

What situations do you avoid?

If you could focus more of your time and attention on only one or two things in your job, what would they be?

How can you do more of the things that energize you and less of the things that deplete you?

You goal is to rearrange and reprioritize your schedule around you strengths. You might think that you can’t redefine your job description. But you can. You just have to understand the church’s goals for your ministry:

Why did they hire you?
What did they hire you to do?
What results do they expect you to produce?

As long as you’re making progress in that direction, you’ll be fine.

By the way, I’m not talking about making a formal change to your job description. Depending on the kind of church you’re in, that could require a bulletin announcement, a committee, and a congregational vote. All of that is unnecessary for the change that I’m talking about. The point here is to figure out how to accomplish the job you were hired to do while leveraging your strengths as much as you can.

Back to Those 2 Questions

Let’s go back to those two questions:
1. What are the things you should keep doing?
2. What are the things you should hand off?

Here are my answers:
What are the things you should keep doing?
Your goal should be to only do what only you can do.

What are the things you should hand off?
Everything else.

This is important to understand:
Your willingness to do everything doesn’t make you more valuable.

Instead, you must realize that you are most valuable when you limit your focus to your areas of strength. That happens when you decide to only do what only you can do.

This one change will do more to accelerate your ministry (and your ability to get volunteers) than anything else you can do as a leader.

Your Move

Discovering your strengths is about identifying the activities that bring out the best you have to offer. That’s your sweet spot. Those are the things you need to focus on. They are the things that will bring you the greatest return on investment for your time and effort.

What about everything else?

That’s what volunteers are for.

Books Mentioned in This Post

Next Generation Leader for Youth Ministry Discover Your Strengths Go Put Your Strengths to Work

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Trevor Hamaker (DMin, McAfee School of Theology) is an author, adjunct professor, and youth ministry coach. He helps youth pastors see their potential, develop their skills, and reach their goals.

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