Growing up in the “Hoosier State,” Indiana, you have little to no option of enjoying the great game of Basketball. You know every line of the movie Hoosiers, you root for IU or Purdue, and the aroma of popcorn and Sprite brings sentimental value because it reminds you of a packed out High School gym in mid-winter.

I have an older brother who was, and still is, an extraordinary basketball player. He grew vertically and has a great jump shot. I grew horizontally and liked blocking on the offensive line in football. But one thing we shared was our love for one-on-one pick-up basketball. Most every time my brother and I played, the outcome was the same—me running in the house crying in utter defeat. I look back at those “painful” times and cannot help but be thankful for each of those games—even when I was annihilated. It was those one-on-one times when I really connected best with my brother. This is when I would learn from him and about him; things like how to talk to girls, the best jokes to tell, and tricks on navigating my way through school. What I learned is you really get to KNOW someone by spending one-on-one time with them. So this begs the question:

What are we doing to get to know our volunteers?

Do you spend one-on-one time with your Volunteers?

I am the Student Groups Director for Small Group Leaders of 6th-12th grade. With all of the wins and fails that we have had in my four years here, we now have the strongest group of leaders that I have seen in my time here (shouldn’t we all say that, and mean it?). Each year I learn new things, including what works and doesn’t work. We have the normal volunteer issues: getting to service on time, making sure they are contacting new students, updating their attendance, attending our quarterly training sessions and (my personal favorite) Facebook Policing. We work to address these through discussion and training but where is the relational connection?

Though I appreciate the commitment our leaders have to their students, they deserve more than just casual conversation on Sundays. So I make it a priority to have at least three small group leader one-on-ones a week.

After starting this practice, the fruits of these conversations became apparent right away. Here are some things I started hearing from some of our leaders:

“There is a strong possibility our school will cut my department, and it’s got me very stressed out.”

“Seeing Terry volunteer in the nursery 15 years ago I saw that the purpose of the Church was to serve. I started serving in the church because of her.”

“I cannot keep this (leading a small group) as a priority. My family needs me at home as much as possible right now. I probably would not have told you this but I didn’t want to burden you with my troubles.”

That last quote is exactly what a former leader told me. Even though she stepped down, I was so thankful for her opening up to me. It’s time to let our volunteers know that they are not a “burden.” Rather, they are our most important ally in helping us win with students. We almost always have full plates serving in ministry, but take some time to ask yourself these questions about your volunteers:

  • Do I know their story?
  • Do I ask them often enough about how God is moving in their life?
  • How is their family doing?
  • Am I checking in with them about specific prayer needs?

From a cup of coffee, to your office, or maybe even a one-on-one basketball game—make it a priority to get to know your volunteers.

How do you connect relationally and provide care to your small group leaders?


Nate Reeves is the Student Groups Director at Connection Pointe Christian Church in Brownsburg, IN (Indianapolis). He oversees recruiting, placing, and training all volunteers for 6th-12th grades. Nate just became a newly married man to his wife, Brooke, this past September. He has lead a student small group of twelve guys the past four years. They will graduate in May. Nate is convinced he has the best job in the world, with the greatest group of small group leaders.

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