When I first began in ministry, I had the misconception that everything had to be done by me. It wasn't until I went to lunch with a seasoned youth pastor that I found out I have the option to utilize volunteers. (Seems so simple now, but trust me . . . it was HUGE at the time.) In fact, according to him, it would be unhealthy NOT to; I would risk getting burned out if I didn't!
So, I started to bring-in volunteers.
It was such an amazing new experience. But, it wasn't long before I discovered how hard it is to find volunteers! When I talk to other youth ministers it seems they have the same ongoing issue . . . But after some trial and error, I found a few practices that worked for me. Here are some things I have found that help get people fired-up about working with our youth.
Never Give a Guilt Trip
When you have to scramble to get volunteers so you can go on a retreat, or even just run youth group, it can be very frustrating. You really want your speech to sounds something like this: "The youth group really, really, really needs volunteers! Otherwise we won't be able to go on our fall retreat and do any activities outside of the church walls." But, instead of guilting someone into volunteering, get them pumped up to volunteer! Try a speech that sounds something like this: "I am so excited because our youth group has grown, and I know God is going to continue to do great things in this group! We're starting some new programs and we would really like to have you involved! By being a youth group volunteer not only do you get to take fun trips, eat good food, and play fun games, but you also get the once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in a young person's spiritual walk. Please prayerfully consider being a part of our youth team!"
Let Students Shine
Our youth generally meet in the evenings so a lot of times they are "out of sight; out of mind" to the congregation. So, I have to do things to let students "shine," coming out from behind the scenes. Whatever you do, it's important for others to see students leading out. This is also an incredible "volunteer finder." What better way to get people excited about plugging in to the youth group than for them to see how awesome your students are. When you allow your youth a chance to shine, it will inspire others to invest in them.
Utilize Personal Invitations
The reality is, it's easier to turn down a youth pastor when asked to volunteer, but it's near impossible to turn down the youth. Sit down with your youth and ask them who they think would be a great chaperone for the youth group. Encourage them to personally invite that person to help with the youth group. Some of my guys really admired the father of one of the girls in my youth group. One night when he came to pick up his daughter from our Small Groups, the boys all got on one knee and asked him in unison if he would be the new boy's small group leader. He has been their small group leader for three months now!
Student Leaders Make Awesome Volunteers
Just because someone isn't 18+ doesn't mean they can't be an excellent volunteer! If you have a youth council, or there are students in your group that seem particularly eager to help, empower them to work! They can't be a driver or a chaperone, but they can certainly help plan or set up for events, make a copy of some flyers for you, set out plates for a snack, etc. This is also a great way to invest in your leadership team because it gives them a sense of ownership.
Enable People To Do What They're Comfortable Doing
Some people aren't comfortable leading a Bible study, but if you give them a project in an area they are comfortable with, they will flourish. For example, there was a man that was looking to get involved with the youth. He tried one avenue of service, but just didn't feel comfortable leading. However, when I asked him to be in charge of the bonfire for a fall event, he was all over it and had a blast! Some of the women in our church can't make a weekly commitment but will jump at the chance to cook a meal for the kids and drop it off. When you allow them to give where they're comfortable, they're more likely to help out often.
These are just a few thoughts that have worked for me. What tips have you found to recruit (and keep) volunteers?