Youth Ministry Management: How to Keep Great Volunteers – Part 1

In my previous post, I talked about how I recruit volunteers. Having a well established volunteer team that is trusted by students is an incredible strength for any youth ministry. But this will only happen when we are able to keep volunteers coming back year after year. But how can this happen? What are the keys to keeping great volunteers?

Team Youth Ministry

Here are the first 5 of my essential practices to help keep great volunteers. I’ll post 5 more in my next post: 

1) Invest in your leadership. Volunteers continue to follow great leaders. The more you and I can invest in our own faith walk and leadership development, the more likely a volunteer will follow us for the long haul. Great volunteers do youth ministry because they love students, but they will seldom stay in for the long haul if they struggle to follow the leader of the ministry. When your volunteers look at you, what do they see? What is God calling you to do in order that you grow as a leader first?

2) Invest in them as people first. Before I even begin to worry about my youth ministry needs, I make it a priority to invest the lives of the individual leader first. In my early days, my meetings, coffee, or lunch with volunteers would be all about ‘business.’ These days I ensure that half of my meeting time is dedicated to seeking after their heart and what is happening in their life and family. It’s essential that I can do ‘life together’ with my leaders first. And don’t forget…

 The way I invest in my volunteers will likely be the way they invest in the students.

3) Invest in their training. I can’t say enough about training. Here are some things I do regularly:

  • Regular emailed articles and tips
  • Training videos and audio, (you can get these through )
  • Regular meetings that always incorporate a training component
  • Coffee meetings that allow me to focus in on areas specific to that leader
  • Yearly conference – We have been blessed to have a large leadership development budget, but I am surprised how much volunteers will pay for this kind of thing themselves.
  • Fall training. We have developed a training manual that covers most areas of our youth ministry.

4) Over Communicate The Vision. Strong volunteers need a clear and strong vision. If not, they will likely find one of their own. Therefore, it’s imperative that the vision is clear and over communicated.

Leaders will hang in for the long haul when the vision is clear, compelling, and continuously communicated.

5) Over Communicate The Details. Some volunteers don’t care about the details… Some volunteers live by the details…

It’s important to consider both types… Therefore, it’s essential that dates, times, and schedules are given ahead of time and continuously. Volunteers who like planning and organization don’t want last-minute surprises. On the other end of the spectrum, over communicating the details is essential for the ‘last minute’ volunteers who need constant reminders.

Over communicating the details will help volunteers focus on being with students and less on last-minute emergencies or surprises.

Well, there are five things I do to keep great volunteers. Tomorrow, I’ll follow-up with five more… From the list above, what have you struggled with the most? 

Phil <><

photo credit: via

  • Aaron Buer

    This is fantastic. I especially love “invest in them as people first.”

    I think one of the best thing a youth pastor can do is realize that he or she needs to focus more on volunteers than on students. This is counter intuitive but multiples effectiveness.

    Thanks for the post.

  • philbell

    Aaron, I agree. We can either choose to reach 10-15 students well, or reach more and care better through the investment of volunteers. The way we invest in our volunteers will likely be the way they invest in students…

  • billykangas