Youth Ministry Management: Recruiting Volunteers

There are ‘lone rangers’ in youth ministry. Your youth ministry will be effective if you have a great volunteer team. “How do I recruit good volunteers?” This is something I get asked about a lot. Today, let’s take a look at how I have successfully recruited volunteers, while also dispelling ways that I do not recruit volunteers. 

Recruiting Volunteers

In recruiting volunteers, I DO NOT: 

  • Put an an announcement in the bulletin or church newsletter
  • Make an announcement in the worship services
  • Put up recruitment flyers around the church
  • Create a catchy video that promises potential volunteers an incredible ministry and free coffee, (I did that once).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the methods above, but for me, they are simply not very effective. The other aspect is that they are all deeply impersonal ways to recruit volunteers aren’t they? If you and I are dreaming of a relational ministry with relationally invested volunteers, it is imperative that we start out on the right foot and employ methods to recruit potential leaders in a relational way. (I think this is true of hiring a full-time youth worker too).

In the last ten years, there have been only few times when I truly struggled to recruit enough volunteers. Part of that is because I think I have a fairly good idea of how to keep good volunteers, (I’ll post about that next), and part of it is because of the way I recruit them. Here are five things I do: 

1) Ask Personally: Not rocket science I know! Taking time to get to know people in your church and then ascertaining if they would be a potential good fit for youth ministry takes a while to figure out. However, there are likely a number of people who you know right now who could be a good fit. Asking them personally validates them and affirms what you see in them. The hardest part about asking personally? Be prepared for rejection… You see, rejection is perhaps the greatest reason we don’t ask potential volunteers.

2) Have Current Volunteers Recruit: Every year I have asked my volunteers to help recruit at least one volunteer. They know what kind of people the youth ministry needs and, collectively they know more potential volunteers than I do. I simply ask them to share the potential volunteers name with me before they ask, just in case I have a red flag on that individual, (although this has never happened).

When we begin to create a culture of recruiting through our volunteers, it can create a fun competition too. In the last few years, it has been fun to watch two veteran volunteers ‘compete’ against each other, (all in fun), and compare who they have recruited. These two volunteers have recruited ten or more people in last couple of years.

3) Have Students Ask: I will never forget ‘Ted’ who was recruited by young middle school student called ‘James’. Ted served with his wife providing snacks once a month in my youth ministry. Ted never saw himself as a youth worker and was only there because he was helping his wife… We were looking for small group leaders and so I brainstormed with a small group of students about some potential leaders. After agreeing with the names the students had given me, I asked them to go and ask! I will never forget my conversation with Ted afterwards as he shared with me how a middle school student had asked him to be their small group leader. I asked Ted, “What did you say?” Ted replied, “well I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the kid…”

Having students recruit for us might be a little crafty, but it is very affirming to potential leaders. As long as we are in agreement beforehand, enlisting students to help recruit gives them ownership as well as highlighting good volunteers that you and I could easily miss.

4) Don’t Recruit From Other Ministries: I have always insisted that I will not intentionally recruit from other ministry areas. First, I want to be a team player. Second, I want people to be committed to one main ministry and do it well.

5) Run a background check: It’s unfortunate that this has to even be included because after all, we're talking about church here. But the sad truth is that pedophiles have gotten very smart about how they infiltrate groups to have access to kids that this is necessary for everyone’s protection. You will need to know how to look up criminal records online so you can check a potential volunteer’s criminal history. Otherwise you are open for heartbreak and potential liability.

What are your thoughts on this, and what has worked for you? What would you add to this list? In my next post, I’ll look at how to keep good volunteers. 

Phil <><


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