||Jonathan's Resource Ezine
Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, January 6, 2004
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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
www.volunteerpower.com articles for youth workers. Enjoy.
"OH, BY THE WAY."
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
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:"
The classic come back for the volunteer is, "Oh, by the way, I quit! You deceived me."
- 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.
WHO'S WRONG HERE?
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.
FOUR RULES OF ALL CARDS ON THE TABLE:
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
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.
FITTING THE POSITION TO THE PERSON
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
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: www.volunteerpower.com
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)
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
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.
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.
2. How did you react when this happened to you? Was this an emotional or a rational
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?
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
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.
FOR THE REST OF THIS DISCUSSION STARTER
Jonathan's "Reaching The Unchurched" Training in Sacramento
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:
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
FOR MORE INFO ABOUT THIS TRAINING OR
HOW TO BRING IT TO YOUR CITY, CLICK HERE
or contact Jonathan at Jon@TheSource4YM.com
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