The Middle Years Ministry

Formerly "The JH Uth Guy", THE MIDDLE YEARS MINISTRY is a Site Dedicated to Providing Resources, Ideas, and Help to Pastors, Leader, Directors, Teachers, Mentors and Anyone Else Working in
the
Pivotal and Important 5th-9th Grade Years. The "Middle Years" are not children's ministry, not high school ministry, and are more than just Middle School. It is a unique and specialized ministry.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Middle Years Volunteer 101" (Year 1 Basic)

It’s sad but true. there are stories that come out all the time about the wrong person working with kids and the consequences of their actions. It breaks my heart. When it comes to our volunteers, our youth deserve the time and energy required to properly screen volunteers, but sometimes it can be tough knowing what to look for and what precautions to take, so here’s a little bit of 
Volunteers 101: 



Background Check Everyone.  
Everyone that works with your youth needs to be background checked.  Period.  Most churches have a system through which they run background checks, but if yours doesn’t, then you’ll have to take in upon yourself.  You can do state-wide, but I always spring for the national check, because like I said, your (and my) youth are worth the extra scrutiny.

Recruit Role Models.  
Whether they like it or not, by holding this position, they are getting their merit badge for Role Modelship (not a real word) pinned to their chests the moment you introduce them as a leader.  Be sure to bring in adults that going to be good role models, which means no questionable behavior.  Also, remind them that the teens are not their buddies or peers, that as role models they should be talking about teen and church appropriate subjects.  Their dating habits, drinking habits, political views and other adult themes shouldn’t be shared.

Get Online.  
Google them.  Check out their Facebook page.  See what kind of digital footprint they’ve left so far.  This will give you an idea of the type of person you are dealing with, as well as prepare you for when your youth’s parents do the exact same thing.  It’s good to know what’s out there before you are being asked to explain it – and I say this as someone who until recently could be found via Google as my college dorm’s Lucky Charms Eating Contest undisputed champion, a fact that was brought up in a job interview once.

Trust Your Gut.  
Be sure to have plenty of conversations before you bring someone into your ministry.  Know your leaders and trust your instincts.  If someone seems on the level, that’s a good sign.  If they seem off, dig deeper. Talk it out until you are satisfied the person is the right fit.  Patience, a sense of humor, compassion…look for individuals that seem like the real deal.

Recognize Specific Skill Sets.  
When you do find a volunteer that’s willing, able and appropriate to have in your ministry, have a discussion about their skills and passions.  Just because you are in specific need of someone to drive the van to retreats doesn’t mean that’s all this volunteer is good for.  Perhaps they have a passion for photography and would be a good person to document the trip, or have a background in web design and might be interested in working on the youth website.  Evaluate then empower.

Set Them Up To Succeed. 
Give your volunteers all the prep and training they need so that they are ready for this.  Make sure they are familiar with your expectations of them and their specific responsibilities so that everyone is on the same page.  Success is very unlikely if the volunteer is in the dark and unprepared.

Procedure, Procedure, Procedure. Make sure there is a procedure in place for every important contingency.  Make it so ignorance of the rules is impossible so that you, your adult volunteer, your church and your group is protected if there were ever any suspicions or allegations.  Where do you go if there is a fire?  What are the ratios of adults to students supposed to be?  What are the rules regarding one-on-one contact?  Same sex or opposite sex?  How do you report suspected abuse?  When and how should you communicate with students?  Leave no procedural stone unturned.

This is a working list, so don’t assume this will get you the perfect person.  Stay up on the standard checks for your denomination, local schools, even other churches.  Check in with the police department once a year to see if there are anything they can add to your screening.  

These may all seem “over the top”, “tedious” or “paranoid”, all terms I’ve heard from leaders and volunteers, but the protection of our ministries, ourselves, our jobs, our churches and our youth are more important than being perceived as overly cautious.
______________________________


Pastor Kellen Roggenbuck has been working in youth ministry for over a decade, serving several churches in 3 denominations over 2 states. Kellen has worked with middle school youth, high school youth, college-aged adults, and even lead a seniors ukulele ministry. Pastor Kellen currently serves the congregation of Immanuel UMC in Jefferson, WI where he lives with his awesome family.

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