By Matt Coppess

Coach Prahler was my favorite football coach in high school. He told it like it was but he was never overly negative and had a knack for giving you just the right encouragement at just the right time. It didn’t matter if you needed to be picked up after a mistake or praised after a great play. Coach Powell was the same way in college where most of the other coaches were selfish, conceited, and well…jerks. Coach Powell and Coach Prahler inspired us to put forth our best efforts because of the way they treated us and lead us. We knew we’d be noticed and appreciated. Ultimately we sought their approval because of the deep respect we had for them.

When it comes to our volunteers, we are the coaches. How we treat them goes a long way to their effectiveness and their joy in serving. Do we use them up and take them for granted? Or do we encourage and inspire them? This is an ongoing weekly if not daily process based on the relationship we have with each volunteer personally. However, we can do things as a team that create a closeness that a team then can’t help but communicate to the teens with whom we work. They see that we have truly special relationships. In essence, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples,” John 13:35.

So how do we do that? How do we build up each individual and thus create a better team? You take care of them personally and professionally. You serve them. First, make sure that you spend time with each volunteer not just “getting to know them” but really listening and understanding what makes them tick. Learn how you can help them in any way possible and then do it. I have helped volunteers find “new” cars, apartments, and even just had them come over for supper to hang out...even before I had a wife whose cooking illicits raucous cheers. Sometimes you just need to be there to listen. Just like students need a shoulder, sometimes so do your volunteers. It doesn’t matter if they are a college kid, a grandma, or anyone in between, they look to you as a leader and spending time caring for them is invaluable.

Professionally taking care of their needs simply means making them more and more proficient in their ministry. Training is invaluable, the more confident your team is the better, not just for the students, but for the volunteers as well. A volunteer who confidently delivers a wrap up, or who understands the value of leading a small group well, will strive to improve and succeed. They more impact they believe the make the more likely they are to stick around for the long haul…and maybe even eventually come on staff. So plan and implement a solid training strategy. Use the on-live videos. Practice each element of club together. Laugh and encourage each other.

Lastly, be friends. Social time as a team is incredibly impactful. Our ministry site and chapter wide “Story Feasts*” go way past the published end time. It is not uncommon for volunteers to hang out well past midnight. We just enjoy each other’s company, just being friends. When a volunteer begins to “flake out” I go back and check their attendance at “Story Feast” and other training events. The pattern is usually clear, they have not been there. Watch for that in advance and make sure you plug everyone in. Don’t only focus on training events, take your team bowling. Have a staff only move night. Basically do staff building times. We know that we can do more together than we can only…united and excited our teams can do even more.

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*What is “Story Feast?” Nina Edwards gave us the idea to once a month share a meal as staff. Then everyone gets a chance to share something in his/her story and we share just one nugget of training. This is usually pretty informal and we usually end playing games or watching the game. It usually goes a lot later than scheduled and the last thing staff and volunteers ask when they finally leave is “When is the next one?"

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