The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, January 6, 2004

In This Issue

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Featured Article: "Oh, by the way!" Four Words Volunteers Hate to Hear

by Jonathan McKee
January 6, 2004

Tom McKee ran a church youth ministry in the 70's that brought out over 500 students a week. He was in charge of junior high, high school and college. No other youth pastors, no interns, just him ... and a bunch of volunteers. Tom knows volunteers.

Not only is Tom a great speaker and resource on volunteers, he's my dad. So I convinced him to customize one of his recent articles for youth workers. Enjoy.

by Thomas W. McKee

Lauren was recruited to work as a helper for her daughters' girl's club. As a parent she felt obligated and really wanted to help.

"What can I do? I would be happy to be a helper," were her initial words to the lady in charge of the ministry. Lauren was happy to bake cookies, drive, stuff envelopes, attend activities and anything else, as long as it was behind the scenes stuff. That is who Lauren is. The leaders said, "Great. We are excited to have Sabrina and Savanna in our club, and we would love to have you volunteer to help."

At the first meeting the leader handed her a huge manual and said, "Oh, by the way, we ask all volunteer leaders to read this." Lauren took it home and started to read it when the phone rang. The leader said, "Oh, by the way, we are giving a test on the manual. We want all our leaders to know the philosophy and what we expect from our volunteers." Lauren said, "I'm happy to read the manual"--she was being polite, "but I'm more the behind the scenes type of person. Can I just be a helper?" The leader then said, "Well, we really want the parents to be leaders. Oh, by the way, we are having an eight-hour training session next Saturday and want all our leaders to attend."

Lauren is conscientious and wanted to be a support. After all, her girls were taking part, and she felt that she should help. Lauren had a big decision to make, and it was troubling her. Should she quit, feeling guilty that she had not kept her commitment, or should she continue, hating every minute of it and feeling duped by the continuous "Oh, by the ways!"

Classic Youth Ministry "Oh, By the Ways:"
  • Oh, by the way, all volunteers need to be fingerprinted.
  • Oh, by the way, all volunteers attend our annual planning retreat.
  • Oh, by the way, all volunteers spend at least 12 hours just before the 4th of July working in the fireworks booth.
  • Oh, by the way, all volunteers need to read our volunteer policy manual.
  • Oh, by the way, all volunteers need to go to this evangelism training conference.
The classic come back for the volunteer is, "Oh, by the way, I quit! You deceived me."

What is wrong with this picture? The problem is not Lauren. The problem is not even with the demands-there's nothing wrong with asking volunteers to be fingerprinted or with asking volunteers to attend our annual planning retreat. The problem is the volunteer organization that follows the "Oh, by the way" recruiting method.

You might be thinking, "But I thought that an important recruiting principle was not overwhelming the volunteer at first." Many volunteer recruiters find that if they ease the volunteer into the job, they have better results. If they told the volunteer how many hours, some of the unpleasant tasks, and the level of commitment they expect, they wouldn't get anyone. After all, when people begin to volunteer, they begin to get excited about the organization and want to do more.

So the reasoning goes-but that reasoning is wrong.

The "Oh, by the way" approach has never been a successful strategy for managing volunteers, but it is especially ineffective for the 21st Century volunteer. Today's volunteers are too savvy.

Sure, we shouldn't corner a potential volunteer at church and show them a list of rules and responsibilities. That would be a lousy recruiting method. (For "how to recruit volunteers," check out Jonathan's article HERE) But once a volunteer is interested in helping out, we need to be up front with them.

Today's volunteers want you to be up front and follow these four rules:

1. Develop a list of volunteer positions: Develop a form with a statement asking for volunteers and a checklist of what you need. Be sure to add an "other" to your list in which people can volunteer their unique talents. 2. Be flexible: The 21st century volunteer is eager to volunteer-according to their schedule, not yours. You might need someone who can commit to Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. But do you need them so bad that you're willing to turn down someone who can only help on Wednesdays? No. Be flexible. This doesn't mean bi-passing training or the vital application process either. But you might be able to have two levels of volunteers. Those who work hands-on with students- these people need screening and training. Then there are those who might just want to bake cookies for you or drive on a trip. Do they really need to attend the 8 hour training?

3. Develop position charters for each position: A position charter outlines the position, the roles and responsibilities and commitment expected. See a sample of the volunteer position charter at

4. Interview each potential volunteer individually: You can clarify your expectations and their concerns when you interview each volunteer and go over the position charter.

When I was in graduate school, our oldest son was in first grade. My wife Susie was working full-time as a high school English teacher while I was taking a full load of courses. We got a note from our son Thom's teacher asking for mothers to volunteer as room-mothers. Susie and I discussed it. Looking at the schedule we knew she could not be available at the times they needed help, but I could. So I filled out the form by crossing out the words "room mother" and wrote in "room father." I got a call from Thom's teacher saying that they would love to have me help. However, at the first meeting the women were talking about how they would make cookies and arrange for holiday goodies for the school. I kept thinking, "This is not what I signed up for." I felt out of place, even though the women were gracious and tried to find a place for me.

When I got home, I called Thom's teacher and told her I would love to volunteer to help in the classroom, attend field trips, and perhaps even bring my guitar to the class and lead the group in a singing and story time-that is something I could do. The teacher quickly changed the program and classified me as the room father. I had a great year volunteering for the first grade because the school was willing to let me work according to my interest and our busy schedule.

Tom McKee is a trainer, writer, facilitator and motivational speaker for managers of volunteers. His website is a great resource for managing and recruiting volunteers. Check it out at:

Something You Can Use This Week: "Bruce Almighty" Discussion Starter

What To Do When Life Stinks: Trusting God in Disappointment

A Discussion Starter from the Film Bruce Almighty, PG-13 (Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston)

Bruce Almighty OVERVIEW: A guy who complains about God too often is given almighty powers to teach him how difficult it is to run the world.

While this movie probably won't be used by any reputable seminaries in place of Theology 101, it actually tackles some good issues while avoiding self-centered armchair theology so many "other-worldly" films do. Though Bruce's personal life isn't the shining example of Christian discipline (he lives with his girlfriend and uses his newfound powers in a few ways that cross the line), we keep in mind that he doesn't claim to be a Christian in the first place and acts as perhaps many would if they were in his position. With that in mind, there are more than a few great lines and scenes in this movie to spark various discussions.

Here's one idea to talk to students about trusting God in disappointment. It's a great opportunity for you to share how God has been faithful in your life, so have a personal story ready to briefly share at some point during the discussion. (For those of you who do not wish to show the film, you should be able to find another launching point and still use this discussion).

Set counter at 0:00:00 when the Universal studio logo (with the globe) fills screen. Fast forward to 0:18:50 where Bruce is ranting after having been passed over for a promotion, then beat up by thugs. The scene begins with a bum holding a sign, "Life Is Just".

Pass out paper and pens for students to write.


INTRO: Tonight we're talking about what to do when life stinks. Let me start by saying that we're not talking about when you reap what you sow and get what you deserve. We're talking about when things don't turn out as you'd hoped because of circumstances beyond your control; or getting your hopes up for something only to be let down. Can anyone relate?
    1. Write down one or two things that have really disappointed you - preferably in the last year - but it could be anything that's happened in your life that still really bothers you.

    2. How did you react when this happened to you? Was this an emotional or a rational response?

INTRODUCE CLIP: In a scene from the movie, Bruce Almighty, the main character is feeling sorry for himself after being passed over for a promotion, then beat up by thugs.

SHOW CLIP HERE. Stop at 0:20:16 after Bruce finishes his rant, "I'm not ok with a mediocre job. I'm not ok with a mediocre apartment. I'm not ok with a mediocre life!"
    3. What about you? How do you react when bad things happen?

    4. Some of us blame God when bad things happen- we think he's mistreating us or ignoring us. Have you ever felt like this? Elaborate.
INVESTIGATION: Maybe you've had your own temper tantrum when life stunk. It's hard to keep perspective when bad things happen. Tonight, we're going to put God's character on trial. When we're disappointed, we often assume God is one of four things. Let's look at these four incorrect assumptions


Jonathan's "Reaching The Unchurched" Training in Sacramento

Reaching the Unchurched Youth Specialties/Zondervan is publishing Jonathan's new book, REACHING UNCHURCHED STUDENTS (coming late 2004), but don't wait for the book ... get the training now!

If you are in driving distance from Sacramento, you won't want to miss this!

Tic Long, President of YOUTH SPECIALTIES EVENTS says "We had Jonathan do his REACHING UNCHURCHED KIDS seminar at our National Youth Workers Convention and he did a great job. Not only is Jonathan's presentation dynamic, his information was extremely helpful to those in attendance. In fact, that's why we're publishing his book."

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: February 7th, Jonathan is doing a Saturday workshop (9AM to 3PM) for youth workers in the city of Sacramento. If you're a youth worker, barely paid or a volunteer, this is for you! Here's the details:

    February 7th, 9AM to 3PM
    Sacramento (Call for more specific location)
    Two affordable choices:
    $10 a person if registered by January 31
    $20 at the door
    Call Sacramento Youth for Christ at (916) 857-0660


or contact Jonathan at

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