I often get asked about the most important ways to be successful when you are a small group leader of students. At the top of my list is building community (I’ll blog about that another time) and the other way is by spending intentional time with students. Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I’ve found that even high school guys who come from homes where a father spends a lot of time with them, that student still wants and needs another adult male to speak into their life.

When you spend time with students, put your cell phone away and make the time about them, not you. Be intentional. Find out what’s going on in their life, be interested in what they are interested in. I hate basketball but two of my high school guys not only love it they play on teams. So before I hang out with them I check the Lakers and Clippers stats and know how they are doing. I’m not fake about it, they know I’m not a fan of basketball but they know I care enough to be able to be conversational with them about basketball.

The honest truth is that students will often times talk to a small group leader about things they are uncomfortable talking to their parents about. I once had a parent tell me they were jealous of the conversations I was able to have with their son but they were really thankful he had someone else in his life he could open up with.

If your church is like most, there are just not enough hours in the day for high school ministry paid staff to spend with each student in their ministry. My church is a mega church and our high school ministry is bigger than the average size of most churches. Our high school ministry staff is amazing and they make our students feel loved and do a great job teaching and showing the love of Jesus to students. With the size of the ministry, however, there is no way possible for them to spend individual time each week with each student.

My 16 small group guys spend about an hour a week with our high school paid staff during a church service. I spend about 4-5 hours a week with them as a group. This week I spent another 2 hours with them individually between lunches, Starbucks runs, texting them and going to their school events. I have two students who suffer from extreme depression so I’ve spent about 5-6 hours of intentional time with them this week. That doesn’t count endless text messages and phone calls with their parents. All of this was on top of working 55 hours this week.

I’m not complaining, I love my ministry and my small group guys are very important to me. My only goal with this post is to show how important it is to have volunteers in student ministry; good, well trained volunteers being intentional about the time they spend with students.

Side note for paid youth workers: For every hour a staff member pours into one volunteer, that volunteer, in turn, multiplies that investment exponentially. Your volunteers can spend time ministering to students in ways the paid staff doesn’t have time to. For every training event that you send your volunteers to or host at your church, your ministry will reap the benefits. Sounds like a good investment to me.