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Build a System That's Worth Following

Andy Stanley, has said that one of the biggest steps for someone exploring faith is “trusting a Christian.” What does it look like to build a volunteer system that is focused on finding, training and supporting the kinds of small group leaders (SGLs) you want kids and students to trust and model their lives after? Note: Groups aren’t going anywhere. Eighty-one percent of Gen Z say that community is part of their “ideal church.”

Are your current adult volunteers the kind of adults you want students to become someday?

I know we always need more volunteers, but what if the truth is that you need the right volunteers rather than just more of the mediocre ones? This may sound a bit harsh, but the next generation deserves adults worth following.

I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve seen small group leaders lead kids away from the faith life, leave leadership vacuums that kids dissolve in when they leave unexpectedly and create drama that rivals that of 7th graders.

On the other hand, I’ve seen adult volunteers who have engaged entire families in the local church, helped kids navigate extreme crisis and breathed momentum into the vision of the ministry. This is why doing the hard work of identifying, recruiting and developing adults worth following is so worth the effort.

Here are a couple of tips for building a system that attracts the right people:

Set a High Bar

I truly believe that volunteers will rise to the level of expectations you set for them. We asked all of our SGLs to commit to embodying the principles laid out in the book, Lead Small. Yes, over the course of implementing new expectations, we saw about 80% turnover of our team. However, within a couple of years we re-staffed our SGL roles with quality, consistent and mission-oriented leaders.

The truth is, leaders will rise to the level of the bar you set—no matter how low or high that is. Our adult volunteers will almost always respect what we as ministry leaders expect and inspect. Don’t expect extraordinary results when you set ordinary expectations for volunteers.

Develop Them Spiritually

One of the most important roles for next-gen ministries of the future is to create volunteer systems that help adult leaders grow spiritually.

Many of the volunteers we’re recruiting nowadays are millennial adults. Millennials are the most biblically skeptical people on earth today (even more so than Gen Z). This means that we can’t expect millennials to be biblically founded spiritual mentors for Gen Z by default. Instead, what if we started taking the spiritual development of our volunteers just as seriously as that of our kids and students? What if we gave our volunteers spiritual mentors? What if we created environments where they could build their theological foundation? Or what if we wrestled with and studied the Bible alongside them instead just hoping it happens as a part of their daily routine?

We have an opportunity to help Gen Z build a faith of their own, but we also know that we cannot do this alone. We need incredible adult small group leaders that kids and students can trust. When we set a high bar and choose to believe that fostering the spiritual growth of our leaders is our responsibility, we’ll start heading in the right direction.


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