The Source for Youth Ministry
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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Featured Article: Two Groups Willing to Volunteer, Part II- Are Young Professionals Actually a Good Source of Volunteers?

The following article is PART II (Click Here for Part I) of an excerpt from Chapter Four of Jonathan's new book, The New Breed. (This book is available now with free shipping and signed by both authors here.)

Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
Retiring "Boomers" and "Young Professionals"

Two Willing Groups
So who should we try to recruit?

The 21st century has seen the rise of two huge groups that are ready, willing, and excited to help you accomplish your mission: Retiring "Boomers, and Young Professionals. If you're not tapping into these two resources, you're missing a great opportunity to expand your volunteer base.

The Young Professionals
Jonathan writes:
How would you describe the leading edge of Generation @-specifically, the part of this new generation of young professionals currently in their 20s? This includes people like LeBron James (born in 1984), Hilary Duff (born in 1987), and Lindsay Lohan (born in 1986). Are these 20-somethings a good source of volunteers?

Despite the sometimes negative headlines generated by some of the more well-known members of this generation, most of what we're learning reveals that this younger generation is volunteering in mass numbers. USA reported that 30 percent of Gen @ (the 68 million people born between 1982 and 1994) are volunteering more than 80 hours a year.

Generational researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss make some extremely optimistic predictions about the generation born after 1981, who they call Millennials. They make the prediction that "by the time the last Millennials...come of age, they could become...the cleanest-cut young adults in living memory." Howe and Strauss go on to say that this generation will also be known for its hard work "on a grassroots reconstruction of community, teamwork, and civic spirit. They're doing it in the realms of community service, race, gender relations, politics, and faith." The researchers note that this generation will have a tremendous capacity to mobilize volunteers for worthwhile causes, largely by use of the Internet.

You might be wondering, if all this is true, then where are they? If this generation is so great, why can't we get them to help us?

You might also be skeptical, wondering how predictive studies like these can even be valid. After all, Strauss and Howe began making their predictions about this generation back in 1991, when the oldest members of Gen @ were just 9 years old.

I understand some of your skepticism. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't give a lot of weight to statistics unless I also observe those conclusions firsthand. When it comes to Gen @, I immediately meshed this data with what I've seen of this generation when speaking at school assemblies and events across the country. In addition, I decided to do a little research of my own. I tapped into my database of more than 16,000 youth workers who are now recruiting older members of Generation @ to work with teenagers. I polled a group of them, asking questions about this young generation's reliability, passion, attitude, and skills. I then compared my results with existing research (like Strauss and Howe) as well as my own personal observations.

When all was said and done, I came up with a number of qualities that you need to understand as a volunteer manager so you can recruit and manage Gen @ volunteers- volunteers who are willing and excited to help you make a difference. Let's take a look at these seven characteristics, as well as a "So what?" for each one that provides a few tips on harnessing the potential of this generation as volunteers.

1. They're impatient. Googled is a verb-as in "I googled it"-that has replaced going to the library or the store. More than prior generations, this new group of young professionals shops online (often at 2:00 a.m.) and researches products on the Internet so they can be prepared and informed buyers. This generation grew up in the information age where everything is available at the click of a button. They grew up with computers in the classrooms, video games, and fast-paced television programming.

By playing video games, they learned that when you win, you're automatically promoted to the next level. So they're impatient to move up the organizational leadership chart. When this generation completes a task, they want to know, "Where's the next challenge?" or "When do I get to be in charge?"

So what? As a volunteer manager, give these young professionals an opportunity to use their gifts and abilities. If they perform well, give them a little more responsibility. Yes, they might be impatient, but be tolerant of this. Many of them really are quick learners. Look for the kernel of truth behind their impatience; you might expose some areas in your organization that need improvement.

2. They're multi-taskers. The Kaiser Family Foundation's 2005 report on media consumption notes that Gen @ regularly consumes more than one medium at once. The Internet has opened the doors to most of these media sources with social networking sites, chat rooms, and downloadable songs and videos.

According to this Kaiser report, 20 percent of kids age 8 to 18 (the younger half of Generation @) can surf the Web from their own bedrooms-double the figure from 1999.

Researchers suggest that this saturation of available media has morphed kids into "media multi-taskers." Nearly one-third of kids say they chat online, text or talk on the phone, surf the Web, instant message, watch TV, or listen to music "most of the time" while doing their homework.

The Kaiser Foundation argues that we need to give our full attention to anything that takes up this much space in young people's lives:

This generation truly is the media generation, devoting more than a quarter of each day to media. As media devices become increasingly portable, and as they spread even further through young people's environments... media messages will become an even more ubiquitous presence in an already media-saturated world.

Reports like these make note of multi-tasking in their statistics. When Kaiser reported that this generation averaged six and a half hours per day of media consumption, they had to qualify the statement. A large percentage of these kids are actually "exposed to the equivalent of 8? hours a day (8:33) of media content, even though they pack that into less than 6? hours of time." In other words, it's not uncommon for kids to watch a DVD while listening to iTunes and browsing MySpace.

I came face to face with this younger generation's skill for multi-tasking when I tried to battle my son at one of his new Xbox games. Call me old, but I used to be pretty good with an Atari joystick. It was easy-a stick and a button. Have you seen an Xbox controller? It's like the front of a cockpit! We've come a long way from Pong. My son can work all the buttons on the controller with ease while I'm still trying to figure out how to get my character to walk without bumping into walls. He'll do a quick move and then tell me to do the same. "It's easy, Dad," he assures me. "Just move around the corner (with the left joystick), jump (using the A button), punch the ?Grunt' (B button), aim at the ?Elite' on the balcony (right joystick), throw a grenade (L trigger), and fire your SMG (R trigger) as you strafe sideways (left joystick again)." Of course, my son can do that in two microseconds while chewing gum and whistling to the music he's blasting.

So what? As a volunteer manager, be tolerant when this generation does things differently than "the way we've always done it." They might accomplish things faster and more efficiently (all while playing loud music). When possible, ask what they can offer to your mission. Instead of just giving them a "to do" list, ask them to help you achieve your desired outcomes.

3. They think "digital." Have you ever tried to train a 23-year-old? They process data completely differently than retiring professionals. If you're used to working with Baby Boomers, remember this: The retiring generation is analog. Young professionals are digital.

Retiring professionals think more like a videotape. If you don't like a part of a movie, you have to fast-forward. Generation @ has never had to fast-forward. They just jump to whatever chapter they want on their DVD. "Hey, skip through the beginning. Let's jump right to where Happy gets beat up by Bob Barker!"

Sorry, Boomers and retiring professionals, members of Gen @ don't even like your outlines. A lot of retiring professionals think in points I, II, and III, maybe with some neat little A, B, and C subpoints. But members of this younger generation aren't bound by such linear structure. They can jump to the last chapter without a fast-forward. They process information quickly and embrace change. They don't sit around and wait for things to happen when they know they can make things happen.

Marc Prensky, a pioneer of digital game-based learning and CEO and founder of, coined the term "twitch speed." He says that this generation thinks and operates at higher speeds than previous generations: "They grew up on video games ("twitch speed"), MTV (more than 100 images a minute) and the ultra-fast speed of action films." If you want to see what Marc is talking about, watch five minutes of the newest CSI, and then watch a rerun of Magnum, P.I. You'll be surprised at how slow the show Magnum has become in its old age.

Marc contends that the "under-30 generation has had far more experience of processing information quickly than its predecessors, and is therefore better at it." Companies or organizations that hire this digital generation often make the mistake of boring them to death in a training class taught by a terrible communicator, or by forcing them to watch slow, out-of-date, anesthetizing training videos.

So what? As a volunteer manager, provide opportunities for young professionals to make an impact and to see the difference they're making. They don't want to wait for someone else to make a difference-they want to do it. Give them that opportunity, and they'll begin to grow roots in your organization.

And don't bore these potential volunteers right out of your training room. Use training as an opportunity to motivate and inspire your volunteers for your cause. Like no other generation before them, this younger generation is causedriven. Hire a dynamic and cutting-edge trainer to capture the hearts of these volunteers and motivate them to make a difference. (I probably do about a dozen of these types of trainings each year for youth ministry organizations around the country, engaging these young workers with a lot of media and relevant examples from youth culture.)

4. They're tolerant. I probably don't have to tell you that this younger generation is growing up in a much more integrated world than even Gen Xers. Gen @ is growing up with friends and heroes of all types. Diversity is a value for this generation. They display an incredible tolerance and a slowness to judge other people.

You might be thinking, "What? These young people are rude and outspoken!" Valid observation, but don't confuse that with being judgmental. Young professionals have a great spirit of openness. True products of the civil rights movement, these young people don't display the same prejudices that divided earlier generations. They're great team members, ignoring gender and racial biases to work with anyone to accomplish common goals. My friend Lane Palmer from Dare 2 Share agrees with this assessment in an article he wrote about this generation posted on (one of the best Internet resources providing insight about Gen @). Lane says:

Like the young people of the 1960s, these adolescents do not have an inherent respect for titles and/or positions. Yet unlike the Woodstock folks, they generally aren't actively anti-establishment. What registers with them is personal authenticity and passion about life regardless of background, education, or societal "rank."

So what? As a volunteer manager, make sure you practice diversity (i.e., ethnic, gender, generational) in recruiting, promoting, and hiring leadership. Most of this young generation ignores biases and works with anyone who can help them accomplish common goals.

Provide opportunities for this young generation to get to know each other and bond together with your entire team of workers. If you give them opportunities to grow as a team, they'll be great team players. Provide fun annual training retreats where they can connect. Use team-building games and activities regularly in your meetings.

If you capture the respect of this young generation, they might easily prove to be your most valuable volunteers. Nearly all the youth and children's workers I surveyed noted how committed this young generation was to their team.

5. They're looking for causes. Although this is true of most volunteers across generational lines, this young generation is highly motivated by causes. They're always looking for ways to make a difference and to make their mark. Volunteering can provide that. When the match is right, they're highly committed and fiercely loyal. Regina Brink, volunteer coordinator for the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, raved about Stacey, a high school student who called her and asked if she could do graphic art work for the organization as a school project. Regina e-mailed her the information, and Stacy developed a professional design for one project. The people at the Society for the Blind were thrilled, and that project extended into a two-year volunteer relationship between Stacy and the organization.

So what? As a volunteer manager, devote considerable time to communicating your cause to your young volunteers. In training sessions, don't just teach process, teach desired outcomes. Once they're convinced of your cause, these volunteers will seek out ways to make a difference for your organization. Also, provide community service opportunities. This generation might come to you at first because they "have to" for a school project or required community service hours. But if you inspire them, making your passion their passion, you'll make incredible allies.

6. They're team players...but... In Chapter 1, we talked about the seismic shift of isolation. We painted the picture of today's young people alone in their house, but on the computer with hundreds of e-friends. Isolated, yet surrounded.

This young generation is often a living contradiction. They're a generation of loners that make for great team players. They love to seclude themselves with video games and iPods, but their favorite activity is to just "hang out" together.

In my survey about this generation, one youth minister said, "I had big-time ?hang out' people. I would sometimes need to fake a death scene for them to get the hint about leaving my house!"

Most volunteer managers that I've talked to seem to agree that this young generation loves opportunities to build "community." Maybe it's due to the fact that people have fewer close friends today than a decade ago. Maybe they're trying to fill an interpersonal void in their life that e-friends just don't fill. (To review this information, go back to Chapter 1, "Seismic Shift 2-Isolation: From Community to Individualism" on page 18.) Whatever the reason, they seem to be seeking community. And they seem to realize that volunteering might provide opportunities to build new relationships. Cash in on this opportunity.

A desire to "hang out" doesn't automatically mean "team player." Is this generation truly a team player or a loner? My take is that many members of this generation want to be a part of a winning team-a team that makes a difference.

However, there is a but. They want to be a unique part of the team. They want to be able to use their gifts and abilities to make a difference. How many times have you heard, "There's no ?I' in ?team.' " Well, this younger generation might tell you that there is an "I" in "win."

Gen @, like the Boomers of the '60s, want to make a difference. Many young people are getting involved in world relief, either locally through their churches or through other random causes like the Gap/Bono iPod for Aids relief.

Chap Clark, professor of youth, family, and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, presents another interesting perspective in his insightful book Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers. Chap claims that today's middle adolescents (ages 14-20) have been abandoned by a society that has moved from a "relatively stable and cohesive adult community intent on caring for the needs of the young to a free-for-all of independent and fragmented adults seeking their own survival." So today's teens have found themselves in a "deepening hole of systemic rejection," which Chap calls abandonment.

Because of this feeling of abandonment and rejection, these young people seek a safe place in their smaller group of friends that Chap calls "clusters." But their desire for community doesn't stop with their own age group. Chap found that contrary to popular opinion, middle adolescents want significant relationships with adults as well, if adults are willing to trust them.

What I found interesting is that I did my research for this book in 2007. Chap added to his extensive research by serving as substitute high school teacher while on sabbatical in the 2001-2002 academic year. The 16-year-old high school students of 2001 are now in the life stage that we're focusing on-the young professionals of 2007. And although Chap focuses mostly on high school students, he notes that as middle adolescents mature and leave home for college or military service, they seem to have a willingness to explore new relationships. They move beyond their "clusters" and look for new groups. In my own experience, this group loves to cluster with people who share a similar mission or cause. And they still seek relationships with caring, older adults who will trust them.

So what? As a volunteer manager, make sure that you provide opportunities for these young professionals to get to know each other and bond together with your entire team of workers. But because these young adults want community both with people their own age and with adults who trust them, take the opportunity to provide both of these needs. However, you must also be willing to empower members of this generation and give them opportunities to share their insights and skills. This gives you an opportunity to win their trust as you provide a safe place of acceptance and service.

7. They don't want to be managed; they want to be led. One of the best-run camping programs I've observed is Timber-Lee Christian Center in East Troy, Wisconsin. I speak there several times a year, and I'm always amazed at the quality volunteers who work at the camp. I asked Chris Radloff, director, for his take on working with young volunteers. Chris said:

They don't want to be managed, they want to be led. By the time I have my staff for a few weeks, I don't need to give them commands. If I said, "I don't want you to leave the property," they'd respond, "Forget can't stop me!" Instead I let them know, "My preference is that you don't leave the property tonight." By this time I've earned their respect. I've never had someone leave.

Chris states his preference, and his volunteers abide by it because they respect his leadership.

So what? As a volunteer manager, be careful not to micromanage this younger generation. Help them understand your mission, your cause, and your desired outcomes. Earn their respect. As you earn their trust and get them excited about your cause, they'll follow your lead.
(For more on helping volunteers understand your mission, earning their respect, and getting them excited, go to "Chapter 9: Leading the Successful Volunteer Organization," beginning on page 117.)

Quick Review
We've covered a lot of ground in this chapter about two groups who make up part of the new breed of volunteers. So let's review.

Recruiting and managing retiring professionals. How can you recruit and manage the whole new group of retiring professionals who are willing and excited to help you make a difference? Ask these questions about yourself and your organization to see if you're really "retiring professional" friendly:
  • Do you have a cause? Retiring professionals want to make a difference, not a contribution.
  • Are you providing opportunities for retiring professionals to use their professional skills?
  • Are you keeping the standard high? Retiring Boomers don't want to work alongside half-committed, unprofessional, "any old way will do" volunteers.
  • Are you highlighting the payoffs? Make sure volunteers know what's in it for them, as well as how their work benefits your cause or mission.
  • Are you providing flexibility? These volunteers are on the go and will often volunteer for more than one organization.
Recruiting and managing young professionals. How can you recruit and manage the whole new group of young volunteers who are willing and excited to help you make a difference? Ask these questions about yourself and your organization to see if you're really "young professional" friendly:
  • Are you mission driven? Don't tell this young generation, "Please do this job and have it done by Friday." Instead, say, "What can you do to help us accomplish our mission?" Get to know them as individuals and listen to their input.
  • Are you a coach to these young individuals? Be a coach-not a traditional manager. A coach challenges volunteers to do their best, yet nurtures individuals and encourages them to reach their full potential.
  • Do you involve this young generation in decision making? They want to be a part of the team in making decisions.
  • Does your group practice diversity (ethnic, gender, generational) in recruiting, promoting, hiring, and seeking leadership? This young generation ignores gender and racial biases and works with anyone who can help them accomplish common goals.
  • Do you take advantage of the community service requirements that many schools require? This young generation puts in hundreds of hours of volunteering by the time they graduate from high school and/or college. Do you have opportunities where they serve and can be inspired by your organization?

The New Breed
This article was from Chapter Four of Jonathan's new book from GROUP PUBLISHING, The New Breed.

Here's a glimpse of the Table of Contents of

Introduction: The Common Predicament
Where It All Begins

Chapter 1: Who Is the New Breed of Volunteer?
   A Profile of the 21st Century Volunteer

Chapter 2: Recruiting the New Breed of Volunteers
   The "Courting" Relationship

Chapter 3: Finding the New Breed of Volunteers (Not Scaring Them Away)
   The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers

Chapter 4: Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
   Retiring "Boomers" and "Generation @"

Chapter 5: Motivating the New Breed of Volunteers
   Discover Three Levels of Motivation

Chapter 6: Empowering Volunteers to Do It Their Way
   Move from Delegation to Empowerment

Chapter 7: Managing the Virtual Volunteer
   Virtual Volunteers and Using Technology

Chapter 8: Managing High Maintenance Volunteers
   Performance Coaching the Volunteer from Hell

Chapter 9: Leading the Successful Volunteer Organization
   Mobilize the Collective Power of Volunteers

Chapter 10: A Leadership Case Study
   A Fable of How to Do It Right

  • Sample Position Charter
  • Sample Project Charter
  • Interview Guide for Hiring a Paid "Volunteer Manager"
  • Sample Questionnaire for Virtual Volunteers
  • Sample Board Code of Conduct
  • Strategic Planning Retreat - Agenda of Questions
  • SWOT Analysis Form
  • Ice-Breakers and Openers
  • Team Building Activities
  • Sample Training Exercise-A Case Study



Get Jonathan and Tom's
new book, THE NEW BREED


"Eye Opening
  And Thought

Recruiting, Training, Managing
and Occasionally Even Firing Today's Volunteers

"The world of volunteerism has changed a lot over the past ten years and the McKee's definitely get it. In this very practical leadership book, they have perfectly described today's ?new breed' of volunteers and reveal recruiting secrets that will not only help you build a team but keep it together for a long long time."
Wayne Rice
Co-founder, Youth Specialties
Founder, Understanding Your Teenager Seminars


New Podcast: Are "Programs" a Bad Thing? Jonathan, Brandon and Saddleback's Kurt Johnston talk about whether "programming" works

Many of you have written us and requested that we provide a transcript of our podcasts. Although that task would be cumbersome, we agreed that it would be helpful to provide a snippet of future podcasts to give you a glimpse of the discussion. If you enjoy this discussion, realize that downloading iTunes and this podcast is completely free to all.

Listen to it for free on iTunes now! (CLICK HERE) Or, if you don't have iTunes already... jump on Apple's web page for a free download, then click on our podcast page.


JONATHAN: Program. When I say that buzz word, "program," what do you think?

KURT: I think what people are pushing back against isn't the word, it's what they obviously associate with the word.

JONATHAN: Absolutely.

KURT: So they associate big events, "lights, camera, action." Kids won't come unless it's big dollars and a big stage. So they view that as a program. And they are pushing against that.

JONATHAN: Sure. And they are almost talking about that extreme point of view as if there is someone out there that is saying, "You need this stuff to be successful in youth ministry."

KURT: Right. And I don't think anybody...I mean there are probably still some people that say that, but the truth is, lots of youth ministries were built on that, and still probably are.


KURT: To me, when I hear the word "program," I think the word program is just a fancy word for "the stuff I do." I mean, everything I do is some kind of program. I'm programming a camp, or even if I'm programming a silent retreat where we're going to sit under the trees, well I'm still going to pencil in when we are going to break for lunch, and when we're going to load the vans, you know. So, for me, that's programming. It's just the stuff I do. It's programming.

JONATHAN: I like that. I think it's a definition people can grasp onto because it's kind of like that philosophy "wherever you go, there you are." You can't NOT program.

KURT: That's right! You can't NOT program.

BRANDON: Well you can, but your ministry would reflect that...

JONATHAN: Actually, then your program would just be sitting on your butt!

Later in the podcast...

JONATHAN: Do you think that the large group "monster truck voice" event is the launching pad for some of the smaller points in ministry?

KURT: We do the large, or "monster truck" version of programming. But I also believe that it is not essential. We do it, but that doesn't mean we have to do it. I have a trust that my kids are better evangelists than any program I can create.


KURT: So, if I have the right leaders hooked up with the right kids and kids lives are being changed, I like to think those kids will word of mouth "Hey man you gotta come to this small group because it's really changing my life." Even then I would still have summer camp. Camp could provide the monster truck. One Friday night a month during football season, like a 5th quarter, could provide the monster truck. I think I would always want somewhere for kids to get the large, "wow!" event. There's something about kids coming together. Even we as youth workers go to conferences like Youth Specialties and such. There's encouragement, there is hope. You find out that you're not in this alone. So why would I not want that to be a part of our ministry. But, we do not have to have it.

JONATHAN: Sure. Now what I hear you saying is that the programming of events is a tool for youth ministry, not THE tool for youth ministry.

KURT: Absolutely.

Listen to it for free on iTunes now! (CLICK HERE)

Is Program a bad word? If so... how do we make "first contact" with kids today? Jonathan, Brandon and Saddleback's Jr. High Ministry Director Kurt Johnston wrestle with the effectiveness of "programming" in youth ministry today. Join them as they tackle some great questions like...
  • Does the word "programming" mean big lights, videos, smoke and a monster truck voice? Or is sitting around praying also a form of "program?" Kurt proposes a definition for the word "program" helping us take a closer look at the "stuff we do."

  • What is fun? Is a game "eating baby food out of a jar" fun and "small groups" not... or is the inverse true?

  • What part of "programming" are people resisting?

  • What is the difference between being "event driven" and simply using "program" as a tool?
Join Jonathan, Brandon and Kurt as they try to answer these questions, discuss examples of "programs" that work and speculate why they are effective.


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