How to Get Volunteers to Serve in Your Youth Ministry
Youth Ministry Volunteers.
For some of us, just reading this phrase struck fear into our hearts. For others, you’ve got your enlisting, equipping, and encouraging process down to a science. Regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, you would likely agree that adult volunteers are the lifeblood of a working youth ministry. Whether it’s a small group Bible study leader or the person in charge of the donuts, youth ministry volunteers are essential. That’s why getting volunteers to serve in our ministries is such a vital skill.
We wanted to share just a few thoughts about how to find and keep youth ministry volunteers.
First, make a compelling “ask.”
The worst thing we can do when trying to get volunteers to partner with us is to call them to a task instead of calling them to a vision. The worst thing we could do is say something like, “Hey, I need an adult male to teach 8th-grade boys at 8:00.” That's calling people to a task. That sounds a lot like we’re simply looking for a warm body. The better way to recruit volunteers is to call them to be a part of a vision or a plan.
The ask is very different when we’re calling someone to be a part of a movement. We might say, “I've been watching you, and the way that you interact with your family and others, and I think you would be great at pouring into these eighth-grade boys. They need you to invest in their lives.” THIS is calling somebody to become part of a vision and not just a task. We’re much more successful when we do this instead of just asking someone to show up and do a job.
Second, we have to actually make the ask.
If we’re not careful, without even realizing it, we may think that our youth ministry is grooving along so well that people are just going to want to come up and be a part of it. That's the goal, for sure. We often find ourselves looking around and saying, "we don't have youth ministry volunteers because nobody's raised their hand to volunteer.” It sounds elementary, but we have to remember that to get volunteers, we have to ask them to be a part. Haha!
Even better, the more we can do this relationally, the better. It's easy to think an email can suffice, or a text. But a personal ask is often best done over lunch. Just because we CAN email or text doesn’t mean we SHOULD. The job of a youth ministry volunteer is important enough to command a personal ask.
Third, define what you’re asking.
How are you defining what you want people to be a part of? It can be a little intimidating if we ask people to teach Bible study for 10th graders on Sunday mornings . . . period. It can be overwhelming for people to commit to something quite so open-ended. Instead, ask for a commitment for the school year, or your ministry calendar year. Of course, the goal is to have them sign up again next year and the year after that. LOL. But by defining the term of your ask, you're probably a little more likely to get a “yes.”
Fourth, youth ministry volunteers are (maybe, kind of) an exclusive club.
OK, well, first things first, you don’t want your youth ministry volunteers to be an exclusive club. You don’t ever want cliques within your church. That doesn’t help anyone. And yet, you can’t just take the first person whose breath fogs up a mirror and make them a volunteer. We don’t just want warm bodies, but we also don’t want to so narrowly define who we want to serve in our ministries that we end up with one “type” of volunteer.
You're not just trying to fill spots. You're looking for somebody that what they bring the table is exactly what your students need. And that may be a 65-year-old retiree. You must be open to bringing in the best people for the job, no matter what life stage they are in, or whether they fit any stereotypical "youth ministry molds." Carefully and prayerfully bringing people aboard your team is the way to make sure you're filling your roster with the right people.
Don’t wait too late to start! If you do, all the best practices go out the window as you frantically try to fill spots. Allow yourself time to be prayerful and reflective in how you go about your task of recruiting adult volunteers. It requires more intentionality and discipline, but it’s worth it.