Calling Partners For Youth Ministry & Beyond: a book review

I have been a part of an effective youth ministry team. I was not the pastoral leader but a team member, so I wasn’t responsible for creating and building the team, but it was great. We met together, did retreats together and did team building exercises.We called ourselves the ‘Youth Support Team’ (insert your favorite jock strap/bra joke here, we made them all). As the Youth Support Team (YST) we planned our weekly youth worship service, we mentored, we prayed with and for kids and planned special events. On a whole, we did effective and fruitful ministry together. I have been part of youth ministry before and since when finding an adequate ministry team was difficult and appreciate resources for building teams.

These days I don’t directly work with youth, but as a solo senior pastor in a small church I am invested in seeing the youth of my church thrive. Mark Devries and Nate Stratman of Ministry Architects have written Building Your Volunteer Team to help youth ministers raise up volunteers for their church. The book is a 30-day Change project for youth ministry and DeVries and Stratman guarantee that if their program is followed, it will build your volunteer team.

DeVries and Stratman organize tasks for each day to help youth leaders to approach recruitment systematically. Much of what they give you to do amounts to calling and follow-up with people in an organized way. The goal isn’t just to get new warm bodies into youth ministry to serve, but to build a team where people are serving in their gifts and passions (the right people on the bus). DeVries augment the practical steps with instructions for prayer partners and weekly sabbath days (AKA reflection days).

Each week begins with a ‘balcony day,’–a day to set the agenda for the week, and ends with a day reflecting on the process. The idea is to approach ministry recruitment systematically, thoughtfully and to follow through for  a month. If you do that, DeVries and Stratman claim that the results are assured.

Because this is a book about ‘recruitment’ more than it is a book about youth ministry, much of what DeVries and Stratman say is applicable to building a volunteer team for any ministry. They offer lots of practical advice and because this is an organized approach, there are practical steps here that will be helpful to leaders. I also appreciate the places where DeVries and Stratman help retool our thinking about raising up volunteers. For example, day three talks about how we are not aiming at getting ‘helpers’ who will jump in where needed, but partners who take ownership in ministry. They also share other phrases to strike from our vocabulary:

  • “It’s just easier to do it myself” (56).
  • “I Called but they Haven’t called me back yet” (59).
  • “I don’t know anyone else!” (62).
  • “What do I say on my fourth message?” (65).

But most of this book isn’t about attitude and vocabulary, it is about working the steps: creating lists of names, calling potential volunteers, interviewing past volunteers, creating documents, organizing, recruiting, crafting a team. The chief value of DeVries and Stratman’s book is how practical and hands on they are.

When I look at the possibility of applying this book to building a youth team for our church, I am not exactly sure how well it will work for our context. I think a lot of their suggestions work better in a mid-to-large congregation. My congregation is less than sixty and predominantly older. I feel like I would have to do some reworking to follow their steps verbatim. But I did gain a practical approach to raising up volunteers and will be looking at how to implement their suggestions faithfully in my context. Team ministry is the way to go and if this book can help get us there, that is great. I give this book four stars: ★★★★

Notice of material connection, I received this book from IVP in exchange for my honest review

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