Recruiting Volunteers

(Note: This post is written from a youth ministry perspective, however, the tactics work for any setting. Simply replace ‘youth’ or ‘teenagers’ with your ministry. Or if you are a youth minister (and are off the clock) take a sip of wine every time you see the word ‘youth’ or ‘teenager’.)


Volunteers are the greatest asset a ministry has. As ministry leaders we are compelled by role to equip and empower others to live out their baptismal calling in various ways. A primary way this is lived out is through recruiting and retaining volunteers. Below are essential pieces for volunteer recruitment.

Start with the Why, the vision. And let them know how they fit in that vision.

Many people believe teenagers need help and that helping them is valuable. Most just don’t think they have the skill set 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.

Equip them to be successful. Promise to train them with whatever skills they need before you leave them alone with teenagers!

Have a scaled time commitment schedule.

Start as an office helper, or on meal team, work your way up to Sunday nights and them maybe add or shift to a the discipleship group.

 Meet with each potential volunteer for an interview

Are they a good fit, what are their strengths, where do they need support?  You should also share safe environment policies. Listen to their story, why they are interested and then sell the vision. Consider this meeting their first, and very customized, training.

Create clear 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.

Time off You can avoid any resistance by limiting one’s time to serve before taking some time off. As youth ministry flows through the seasons and cycles, so too can be the rhythm of your adult volunteers’ commitment. Avoid burnout and make the time demands more appealing by giving your volunteers regular time off.

Give them reason Check out this post from Jeremy Mavis. There might be a variety of reasons why any sane adult would willingly give up a couple hours of their time every week to attempt to disciple middle school and high school students:

·       Laughter -Teenagers say and do some pretty goofy things. Perhaps some people volunteer because they love to laugh.

·       Insanity -Teenagers have a tendency to say and do some pretty weird things. Perhaps those who volunteer are insane.

·       Agenda -Teenagers like to do and say some odd things. Perhaps the volunteer has an agenda to fix an entire generation and developmental category. Good luck.

·       Need To Be Liked – Well… teenagers say and do some awkward things. Perhaps if a volunteer needs to be liked by someone and they think a “simple” young teenager can fill that void, well… that’s just awkward.

·       Share the Gospel – Teenagers don’t seem to have control over what they say and do. Perhaps adults volunteer in youth ministry because they believe that God loves all people, uncontrollable teenagers included, and desires to save all people, awkward teenagers included, and that living life in dependence on the Holy Spirit is possible for all people, odd teenagers included, and no agenda, desire to be liked, insanity or fodder for laughter will preclude weird or goofy teenagers from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pray This is not a flippant last point. As youth leaders, you should be actively praying that God would lead individuals to help you reach and invest in the lives of this teenage generation. Jesus said the “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Luke10:2

Always be recruiting God calls people at unique times. We must echo that. If your ministry is filled up on volunteers…keep recruiting. Have the new volunteer shadow a seasoned one. Ministry should have a constant on-ramp, and the off ramp (except in extreme cases) should be at the end of a semester or school year.

I guarantee that you have already implemented some or most of the tactics above. Take a look and see where you can strengthen your tactics and what new tactics you can employ.