5 Approaches for Recruiting Volunteers

If you talk to any youth pastor, they will tell you volunteers are the backbone of youth ministry. I believe there are not enough people who can invest in the lives of teenagers, but recruiting volunteers can be an intimidating task, and recruiting the right volunteers can seem impossible at times.

After nearly 12 years of ministry, I have found the following five aspects of recruiting volunteers to be helpful. Now, I am not perfect, and recruiting volunteers is hard work; however, the effort will pay off, and your students are worth the investment!

1. Think outside the box.

When you think of a youth volunteer, what image comes to mind? Probably some young, outgoing, full-of-energy person who loves teens. But what if you looked beyond the stereotype and instead looked for people who do not fit the typical image for a volunteer? Some of the greatest volunteers I have had are older volunteers who can share wisdom, be a steady presence, provide perspective and, for some students, fill important adult roles in their lives that may otherwise be void. Do not underestimate people who might not fit the mold for a “traditional” volunteer.

Some of the greatest volunteers I have had are older volunteers who can share wisdom, be a steady presence, provide perspective and, for some students, fill important adult roles in their lives that may otherwise be void.

2. Know your strengths and recruit your opposites.

We all have different strengths and need people to compliment us in ministry, which is not to say we can’t also recruit people who are like us as well. If you have a lot of extroverted volunteers, why not look for more introverted ones who want to serve behind the scenes? These volunteers can also connect with students differently than your higher energy folks, which will be a good connection point for shy students.

3. Know whom you are targeting.

Create a list of potential youth volunteers, so when you are having conversations with people, you know exactly what you are asking them to do. People are more inclined to say “yes” if they know what you are asking them to do.  Then write down everyone you know who could fill one of your needs. This could include those who will work hands-on with the youth and those who will work behind the scenes. Start asking your current volunteers for suggestions, and see if the church staff may have recommendations. Include students in the list-making process and don’t be afraid to ask parents to volunteer.

4. Help volunteers minister from their strengths.

After you find your volunteers, how do you equip your volunteers to actively serve within your ministry? This step is just as important as recruiting volunteers because they will need to know they are continually valued on the team. Training, equipping, supporting, and encouraging are essential to volunteer retention and the overall health of your ministry because when your volunteers are living into their strengths, they will be supporting the students in the best way they know how. If volunteers get valuable and consistent training, they will be more motivated to show up and implement what they are receiving.

Training, equipping, supporting, and encouraging are essential to volunteer retention and the overall health of your ministry because when your volunteers are living into their strengths, they will be supporting the students in the best way they know how.

5. Express appreciation.

Your volunteers have lives outside of youth ministry, but they show up continually to invest in the lives of students, and they want to know their time and effort are valued by you. Your volunteers must know they are appreciated and seen if you want them to stick around. This one can be difficult for me because I observe what they are doing and feel gratitude for the way they invest in our ministry, but I need to remember to practically find ways to express my appreciation for all they are doing.

One way of expressing gratitude can be having get togethers for your entire volunteer team. You could write them each a note and send it in the mail. If you have the budget, get them a gift card or take them out to coffee to show you appreciate all they are doing, or simply tell them. Make it a genuine habit, and the benefits will be long lasting in your ministry, leading students to model this as well!

Another thing we cannot underscore enough in recruiting volunteers is prayer! Prayer is foundational, and all the above steps should be guided by prayer as you seek to do what is best for your ministry. We cannot do ministry alone, and the team you recruit around you is important for the overall health of your ministry, so take the time and invest well into the lives of your leaders. You won’t regret it—watch how your ministry will flourish!

Hannah Beers-Borger
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