Help! I need more Volunteers!

Recruiting Youth Ministry Volunteers

This is the time of year where every youth worker is asking the same question.

How can I get more help?!

It doesn’t take you long as a youth worker before you figure out this is the whole youth ministry game: recruiting, training, and deploying leaders. You are only as good as your team. You can only reach as many students as you have leaders to handle them. If you have not come to this conclusion yet, then you are either on your first youth ministry tour of duty or on the path to burnout; where you will find this statement carved into the edge of the cliff at the jouney’s end: “I can’t do this by myself anymore.” Other than integrity, your ability to recruit, train, deploy and retain leaders may be the single most significant factors in determining your youth ministry’s success or failure, regardless of how you measure it.

So let’s take these one at a time. First up: Recruiting.  Where do you find good leaders?

Many new youth workers think that simply putting an ad in the bulletin or making an announcement from the stage is the way to recruit. Wrong. In both big churches and small churches this is not the silver bullet that you’d expect it to be. Recruiting is not a one shot deal from the stage. Yes, you still need to do it, but temper you expectations. And here’s how you want to frame it.

Key #1. Paint a picture that the potential volunteer can see themselves in.

Many people believe teenagers need help and that helping them is valuable. Most just don’t think they have the skillset or the ability to do it. Whether you’re recruiting from the stage in a video or in person, paint a picture for the volunteer that they can see themselves in.

Have a volunteer talk about how fearful they were when they started, about the simplicity of what they actually did. Have them speak about how meaningful and fulfilling it’s been, and the difference it made in their own life personally, as well as that of the teenager. Most of your potential volunteers feel like their missing something in their lives. People want to do something meaningful, something that makes a difference. Youth ministry can provide that, and they need to know it.

Key #2. Tell them you will not feed them to the lions.

Promise to train them with whatever skills they need before you leave them alone with teenagers!

Key #3 Make the time commitment BITE SIZE.

This is the most common mistake that keeps your volunteer pool dry. Too often leaders require youth staff volunteers to be at everything. Youth Service, Sunday School, Events, Leadership Meetings, Sunday Service, Pre-service prayer… and on and on. Quality people are not just out there sitting on their butts. They are already busy with something else. You want to make the time commitment small enough that quality people can easily add it to their schedule, but meaningful enough that the volunteer feels it is making a difference. If you cannot do this, you will forever have one kind of volunteer; the 18-25 yr. old single person, or the awkward person that has no life. If you want to recruit awesome people you must make the weekly time commitment bite size. Besides, I’m convinced that if I can just get my foot in the door with a new volunteer, youth ministry will beat out everything else eventually, hands down.

Key #4 Make the application long but the process easy.

Insurance companies will tell you that a long application discourages pedophiles from applying. When “hiring” a volunteer, the process should be that same as if you were hiring a paid employee. A background check doesn’t always catch everything. Having an extensive application discourages bad people from applying. However, make the process simple. In that I mean, don’t have 17 steps over a 6 month period to get people in the door. Fill out and process the application, have a face to face meeting; and get them volunteering as soon as everything checks out. The only exception I would make to this is if a person is brand new to your congregation and is unknown to anyone.

Key #5 Create a list of expectations.

Here’s what you can expect from us and here’s what we expect from you.

People are afraid of the unknown. People want to make sure that by saying yes they are not committing to helping you until Jesus comes back. Creating a short list of expectations gives you some talking points that will help you close the deal when recruiting a new volunteer. Here are a few of the things I like to include:

What we expect from you:

  • Length of commitment (generally the school year)
  • List of what they need to be at.
  • Communicate ahead of time when they are going to be absent.
  • A short job description of what they’ll be doing.
  • A short list of character or behavior policies that you require.

What you can expect from me: (this is EXTREMELY beneficial!)

  • Pastoral Care: I will be your primary pastoral care giver. When you volunteer for me, I care for you in return.
  • You won’t have to pay for youth events. Charge students extra if you don’t have the budget for this policy. People shouldn’t have to take off work and pay as well for the privilege of volunteering at your event. I have done this at every church I have ever been at, both large and small; it not only works, it speaks volumes to your volunteers about their value.
  • We will publish our yearly calendar in August.  Planning ahead tells volunteers you know what you’re doing, and aren’t flying by the seat of your pants. Don’t be surprised if you spring something on people if they don’t show up. People have lives.
  • We will pay for the resources you need to do what we are asking you to do (curriculum etc…)
  • We will train you and give you opportunities to go to conferences to receive additional trainings.

Wow. This is a lot longer article that I intended it to be when I began, but I hope it’s been helpful.

One last thing about recruiting:

Everyone on your team must recruit, all year long. Recruiting cannot just be relegated to a 3 week push each Fall. Yes have the push, but make sure your entire team is recruiting all the time. Many of your volunteers have friends that would be great at this. Ask teenagers what adults they know who would be awesome youth ministry volunteers. And make sure every current volunteer understands the application process, and how to get an application to people.

Next up… Training Volunteers. What do you do with them once they show up?

About markmoder

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