Great youth ministry volunteers who passionately care for students, help plan events, teach, and disciple are the common thread among every good youth ministry. If you struggle to find these amazing people, then take some comfort knowing that many other youth ministers also struggle to recruit volunteers. It’s time to learn how to recruit them to your team.
Veteran youth ministers who have excellent volunteer teams know these two secrets:
1. We realize that if our youth ministries are going to grow, thrive, and someday survive after we leave them, it will be because of great volunteers, not because of us.
2. Building and nurturing a solid volunteer team is one of the most important things we do and, therefore, we invest a significant portion of our time to recruiting, training, and supporting our volunteers. The larger the youth ministry, the more time we spend investing in volunteers.
With these things in mind, here are five keys to a successful volunteer recruitment plan:
You need to develop a master volunteer recruitment chart. How many volunteers do you need? Take the time to list all the areas where you have a need: Sunday School Teachers, Small Group Leaders, Youth Group Leaders, Lock-in Volunteers, Retreat Leaders, Snack Supper Volunteers, Car Wash Organizers, etc. If you have something that you wish someone was volunteering to lead, then be sure you put it on your list: for example, if you really need a volunteer to take on attendance records, then put it on your list. If you don’t list it, then no one knows that you need help in that area. For each area, make sure to note how many of each type of volunteer you need. Organizing this information in some type of chart makes it easy to keep track of, so that when people start saying yes, you can fill in each area and easily see where you still have holes.
People are most likely to say “yes” when asked to do something when the expectations are clear. We recommend developing job descriptions for all major volunteer positions. The job descriptions should include time commitment, responsibilities, and training requirements. When you are recruiting someone, they will want to know what you are asking them to do. A good job description should answer all their questions and set you up for success by allowing you to define the expectations of that position. When a volunteer has not been told what to do, don’t be surprised when they don’t do it. CYMT has some sample job descriptions for key positions in our resource library.
Create a list of potential youth volunteers. Your list should be at least three times longer than the number of volunteers you need, because some people are going to say “no.” You will need some help developing this list. A good place to start is the church directory: write down everyone you know who could fill one of your needs. You might consider dividing your list into two groups—those who will work hands-on with the youth and those who will organize and play “behind-the-scenes” roles. Mark the hands-on group with an H, organize with an O, and folks who could do either with an E. Next, start asking other people for suggestions of volunteers. Ask your pastor, your current volunteers, other ministry leaders in the church, and definitely ask the youth (what adults in the church do they look up to because of their faith?). If your church does a time and talent survey or service commitment during the stewardship campaign, then make sure you have those lists. Ask questions like, “Who used to volunteer in youth ministry that doesn’t anymore? What adults do you want mentoring our youth?” Don’t stop until you get that list! Many young youth ministers don’t know who to call. This list will tell you!
Once you have your list, make a note next to each person of the top two areas they might serve in. You want to be as prepared as possible when you call them.
There is no way around it: you have to ask people to volunteer. Once you get your list and phone numbers compiled, set aside some time (and plenty of it) to begin calling and asking folks to volunteer. They simply are not going to say “yes” until you ask them, so start asking. We recommend the following strategies:
After you have filled in your lists, don’t forget to train and equip them for their tasks. Training, equipping, support, and encouragement are essential to volunteer retention. Once you have done the hard work of finding people to help you, you certainly want to keep them around so that your recruiting efforts get a little easier every year!
Go get them! Great volunteers make great youth ministries!
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