Is there ever a time in which we tell someone "NO" to volunteering?

I have to admit, I struggle with this there ever a time in which you have ever had to tell someone who wanted to be on Core (or any other ministry) that they couldn't, for whatever reason? I know some reasons may be easier than others (i.e. someone in worship band who has no musical talent, someone that openly doesn't like teens, someone that is dealing drugs (yes this is a real example that happened to me,) etc.), but what happens when WE feel they just do not 'fit' in with the overall mission and approach to youth ministry at the parish, yet at the same time, they may feel called to serve in Youth ministry? Is it right for us to tell someone who wants to be on Core, No, sorry?


  • I have struggled with this too. I find having clear expectations, responsibility and a core covenant so they know what they are committing to, and doing periodic assessments will often help people see when they need to be removed from ministry, or at least start the conversation. I think always doing sometimes of gifts assessment and help them discern where they might best serve so they don't feel like the Church doesn't want or need them!

  • From the other side of the coin, I've had to remove people from ministry that clearly did not belong. That was an unbelieveably painful process with crying and multiple meetings involved and it all could have been avoided if the previous youth minister had said no when they first applied. Perhaps one of the ways to cushion the blow to someone up front is get them invovled with youth ministry as a greeter, behind the scenes person with food, environment, etc and see how they do and maybe re-evaluate if your gut feeling was accurate or not.

  • Here's a great core covenant, one for Life Teen and one for Edge, to use at the beginning of each year. I love this so that when hard conversations arise you can easily point back to the covenant. Then the conversation is not a personal attack on the Core Member but a focus on what the team agreed to live out as a community. Ultimately it is always about leading teens closer to Christ and becoming more like Jesus each day.

  • I totally agree with @mdowdy and @matthewzemanek! :) One important discussion to have with each volunteer (those applying for Core Team, running Life nights, small groups, direct relational ministry, etc.) is about the distinction between ministry to and for the youth versus ministry for the volunteer. I have found that sometimes potential volunteers want to be part of the Core team because they had such a great experience as a teen and that they want that experience to continue, not really understanding that the role of a teen and the role of Core are very different. I've had an experience where a potential volunteer wanted to be on the Core team because he was looking for community and to "hang out" with the Core that he had looked up to as a teen. There is nothing wrong with that as long as he understood that he was there to bring the teens closer to Christ in a leadership role. Once he realized that his priority was seeking community and not being relational with the teens, or taking on leadership roles, it was much easier for me to let him go. When this happens, it is so important to make sure that you have a good list of other parish or diocesan ministries/movements that the volunteer can check out and then if you can, follow up with that person. 2 reasons to follow up: 1) You never know... they might hone some leadership skills or have something to offer at a later time or in a different capacity and 2) depending on their discipleship journey, you don't want to be the one who turns them away from the church! :#:)

  • Desire to be on Core ALONE is not a sufficient reason to be on Core. And you should never accept someone on to the Core team because you're afraid they're going to leave the Church. You accept them because they're going to make a solid Core member who is humble enough to accept this challenge of finding and executing ways of leading teens closer to Christ. That should be the primary reason above any others that they're on Core.

    I have asked two Core members to step down, and it was tough (super tough). But as the Youth Minister, I am charged with being an advocate for the youth - this means that I need to assemble and maintain a Core team that is going to be truly good for the youth.

    I also must be an advocate for the Core Team! If there's a Core member who is not pulling their weight somehow or not showing up to meetings or not delivering on commitments, I must put a stop to that as the leader of the group.

    The Core Covenant @mdowdy posted is similar to the one I use, and I lay out all the expectations at the beginning of the year so we're all on the same page. I absolutely recommend it. You can't kick someone off Core for a rule or standard they didn't know existed.

    Last year, I inherited the Core team. It was a group of friends who were LifeTeen nostalgic and wanted to grow in their faith by being on the Core team. We muddled through the year, and it was rough, because they cared more about the fellowship of the Core team than the endgame - leading teens closer to Christ. They cared more about their traditions on retreats or Lifenights than whether or not these traditions were really effective evangelizers. They had a lot of very wrong ideas of what the Core team is and what it's purpose should be. At the end of the school year, I left them with a message that explained how the Core team would be managed/different next year. Here's just a snippet of that message, where I laid out for them many of the misconceptions of Core I believe they had -

    The Core team is not a group of friends. It isn’t a team of individuals with whom you must be friends before you consider joining, or a team with whom you must become friends with at some point. It shouldn’t be the foundation of your life, your only prayer time each week, your emotional stabilizer, your only means of spiritually feeding yourself or your spiritual crutch. You shouldn’t consider it to be a source of some personal benefit you hope to attain (relationship, personal status, friendships, stronger prayer life). When people ask you about your prayer life, you shouldn’t say, “I’m on the Core team…” as the first item on your (hopefully, what is a) list of items that make your prayer list. Etc, etc.

    I went on to explain this in more detail in the message I sent them - I found that being this frank with them was effective in snapping them out of their bad habits.

    There were definitely several people who didn't like me as a result for my calling them out of their comfort and 3+ hour Core meetings (with a McDonald's break in the middle), but, low and behold, the program has taken great strides forward, and I believe that my rules about Core have improved things. I also made it mandatory that all Core members be 21+, which seriously ruffled some feathers (to say the least). But God provided. This year we have an absolute all-star team. They're all pros who are ready to get down to work and they care immensely for these teens. And our Core meetings last no more than an hour and forty minutes (that includes thirty minutes of prayer). Period.

    "What about the college-age young adults who have no other ministry that will feed them?" - As the leader of the high school group, it's not my responsibility to minister to the college-age kids (by allowing them to be on the Core team). They aren't ready to be Core members, and that's okay. Those boundaries are absolutely critical for YMs to have. "That's not my job, let me direct you to the right person" should be something you say, maybe even often, to others! Talk to your pastor about finding a way to fill this need, if you're worried about the college-age young adults. Do not allow them to serve the HS group unless you truly believe they're ready. Don't provide a sub-optimal environment for teenagers because you feel bad for the young adults. That is not being a good youth minister.

    All this makes me sound like a jerk. I'm not a jerk, I promise, I am very passionate about my high school teens and providing for them the optimum environment to grow closer to Christ. Not a "fine" environment - an excellent one. I encourage you to be as well!

    Hope this helps. To make a long story long, my answer to your question is "yes". There are times in which we tell someone "no" to being on Core. Be aware of those times, and take action when you need to.

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