You and your volunteers know kids learn best when they’re actively involved in an experience. So why do your leaders sometimes resort to lectures or mindless puzzles when they know they could do better?
I’m betting those passive, traditional methods are less draining to them. It’s easier to hand out a brainless worksheet than to lead an involving group activity. Active-learning leaders need more than slick lessons, they need renewal. Here’s how you can help.
1. Offer professional development sessions for your leaders.
Once your volunteers have bought into an active-learning philosophy, they need to know how curriculum books and teaching aids can help them. Practice activities together so they can see how they work in advance. Give them several “rainy day” (no preparation required) lessons. Plan an “Idea Swap and Share” night with other local youth leaders, and invite your volunteers.
2. Establish a point person for resources.
It’s tiring to gather supplies for active-learning experiences. And often volunteers end up spending their own money to buy them. Reduce their stress by recruiting someone to order, gather, and buy all supplies using money from your youth program budget. Stress buying in bulk and reusing supplies.
In addition, appoint a resource person or committee to do curriculum research. This person or group should visit Christian bookstores on a regular basis to evaluate and recommend resources.
3. Regularly honor your volunteers for their efforts.
Encourage church members to communicate their appreciation by passing out thank you note cards during the worship service and by planning an annual Volunteer Appreciation Night at your church. By letting them know how important they are, leaders will get the pat on the back they deserve, but rarely get.
4. Make sure your church leaders publicly support and value Christian education.
In general, how do average church members see your youth program—as a vital part of the church’s ministry or a baby-sitting service? Your volunteers will feel energized by the former and drained by the latter. Every year, declare a “Christian Education Month” emphasis. During the month, perform skits during the worship service that emphasize the importance of youth group and Sunday School. Hand out stickers or pins that read “Proud to be a Youth Leader.” Ask parents to tell about the positive impact your youth program has had on their kids.
5. Plan informal get-togethers for leaders to blow off steam and enjoy each other.
Encourage fun, laughter, and casual conversation—no brainstorming and problem-solving allowed!
6. At least once a year, show volunteers an inspirational video or movie.
I’ve used videos such as Molder of Dreams (with Guy Doud), Stand and Deliver, and To Sir With Love. Your goal is to reinforce the beauty and power of excellent teaching.
7. Make sure your volunteers get regular breaks.
It’s stressful when you know you have to show up every week regardless of what’s happening in your life. So, if you must, cancel a youth group meeting or Sunday School for a week. Schedule the time in advance so the leader knows there’s time off in the future.
8. Pray, pray, pray.
Sure, it’s a cliché. But Jesus does carry our burdens and give us peace. Ask the people who benefit from your volunteers the most—your young people—to pray for them.In Firefox or Chrome browsers, right-click the link and select "Save Link As." In Internet Explore select "Save target as." In Safari right-click or ctrl+click and select "Download Linked File As."