Everyone has been operating from home for some time now and ministry is still happening. What an incredible story this will be, the fact that the church didn’t stop taking the Gospel into the world. The reality is that we will be re-entering the in person world again and for youth ministry it takes an amazing team of caring adults to pull it all off. How in the world do you build up your volunteer team without being physically in front of them or without an official announcement from the adult services?
The truth is that we need to be recruiting right now to be ready for WHATEVER the fall brings.
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Here are some tips and tricks to recruiting volunteers during Quarantine:
1. Ask Your Current VolunteersThis is your greatest resource. Your current team is on your team for a reason, they know what it takes, they know if people would be a good fit or not, so ask them who they know. Reach out to each of your volunteers and ask them for 1 name each. This would be an awesome start to recruiting great leaders.
2. Parents are an untapped resource
Not every parent should serve in youth ministry, but there are some that absolutely should. Make it easy for parents to know about needs and opportunities to serve. Take them through the same process as anyone else and be ok with finding different opportunities for them if you know it will not be a good fit. Don’t hesitate to reach out to families, who have kids committed to the youth ministry, they already believe in it, now they need to see how they fit into the vision.
3. Church Database
Use your church database to your advantage. Most databases can filter ages, types of people, attendance numbers, etc. Disregard if you don't have a church database but every church should have something, even if its Excel!
4. Ask Staff
The people you work with on a daily/weekly basis know people you may not. Take time to describe what you are looking for to your team and see if they know people. Again, ask them for one name each and see what comes from it. You may not realize your best volunteers are known by other staff members even if you don't yet.
5. Church Social Media platforms
Social media right now can be your best friend when it comes to recruiting. You need to have a compelling vision, communicate it clearly and then ask if people want to join you in reaching this generation. Use the church facebook group, use the church instagram account, go LIVE, create great looking graphics and see what happens. Its a free resource you should be leveraging to recruit.
6. Your personal Social Media
People you like and are friends with should be a no brainer to ask to serve with you. If they like you, they will say yes. Don’t hesitate to put something out on your own social media platforms. If you want to build a great team you have to do whatever it takes.
What you need when you talk to someone interested in serving with students:
Vision - You need to be able to convey what you see for students in the ministry, where you believe God is taking you, and how that person fits into the story
Clear Path - application, background check, observation, etc. The idea is that after your meeting that person will know exactly what needs to happen to serve.
Clear Expectations - Before they jump in they need to know exactly what is expected of them if they serve. The worst thing you can do for a volunteer is to communicate poorly and to blindside them with unspoken expectations you have for your leaders.
Don’t just pick one of those ideas, do them all! Don’t wait around until its to late! You need to start recruiting now!
Build a team to go after middle school and high school students together! Give away ministry and allow the gifts that God has given people to shine!
Lets cut straight to the chase, the one small shift that can make the greatest difference in your ministry is to give ministry away. I know, not profound, not cutting edge and its not the first time you have every heard this idea. The difference between this idea being a catalyst for your ministry or just another saying you say out loud but do nothing about is what you do next.
Giving ministry away was something I always said but was so difficult for me to actually pull off. In my pride I thought if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done right. My pride always holds me back from seeing what God can truly pull off. I am still really bad at it but I am trying harder than I ever have before in my 13 years of student ministry experience to pull others into the incredible chaos and allow their gifts to be championed and encouraged to have Kingdom impact.
Some practical tips:
Meet with your volunteers often - It will be difficult to know how to use people if you don't know them. Get with them, be a learner of their life.
Development Takes Time - This may mean that that the person you have delegated to doesn’t do it as well as you might. Thats ok, coach them, give them time and a chance, invest in them and see what it could look like.
Be Creative With What You Give Away - Do what only you can do and give away the rest. It could be an opportunity to develop new opportunities based on the strengths of your leaders and students.
Give Feedback - Help your team with productive constructive feedback. This type of feedback gives points to work on, clarity on what needs done next time so that they can implement the action steps.
Rinse and Repeat - Don’t stop once you’ve started. This is something that has to turn into a value for you in your ministry.
This includes students in your ministry. How can you unleash the potential in your adult volunteers and student leaders in your ministry? This isn’t something that doesn’t take any work and on the front end will take more effort and work on your part. However, giving ministry away is essential to your role as a Kingdom builder and to help people use their gifts in a powerful way.
When I started as a new youth pastor, I new I couldn’t do it all. I inherited a group of leaders when I started at my first church and began to recruit more. As the new school year approached, I planned a leader meeting so we could all get on the same page and so that the leaders knew what was expected of them. I tried to be as prepared as I possibly could be, I made a booklet with pages of information for them, ways to help them be the best youth leader ever. The leader meeting happened, I handed out the booklets and went through it all. No one had any questions at the end of the meeting and I left pumped about how awesome I was at leading leaders. I could barely fit my head out the door that night, the pride was oozing from my ears. A few weeks later we had our kickoff and it went ok but I noticed the majority of them didn’t really know what to do and weren’t engaged with what was happening. Instead of meeting after the kickoff to debrief, I assumed that my leadership musk would rub off on them and that they would just figure it out. After an entire semester of this type of thing happening, I finally asked some of the leaders if they feel like they are doing a good job. They said that they didn’t because the booklet that I gave out at the beginning of the year gave them so much information, tasks and stuff to do that they didn’t know where to begin or what to do each night. I realized quickly that evening that whats clear to me, the youth pastor, wasn’t going to be clear for my volunteer leaders that are giving only a few hours of their time to youth ministry. I wasn’t clear, I wasn’t leading them well and it wasn’t obvious to them how they could do a good job in their current role. (insert deflated head emoji)
I was learning a valuable lesson and continued growing and learning for the first number of years in youth ministry. Your volunteers need simple to understand expectations, clear roles and obvious ways they can “win” with students. Anyone who gives up their personal time or time with their family needs to find what they are doing to be valuable and that they are doing it well.
Give your leaders one focus for a semester of ministry that is easy to see, evaluate and measure. Be strategic with those focuses when you get your leaders together to help them understand the reason behind the focus and how they can be effective within that focus. For your small group leaders building community within the group is a big deal so give them a focus of getting together with their small group outside of church time 2 times that first semester. A focus could be just being consistent and getting to know each student in their group on a deeper level. What I can your volunteer team focus on that will add exponential value to the ministry. Be strategic!
Give them feedback and help them grow. Your leaders need to know if the job they are doing is good enough. This means that you have to meet with them on a somewhat consistent basis so they can hear feedback from you, the leader. Be specific and do not shy away from the hard conversations if they aren’t doing the job you need them to do. They will be better leaders in the long run if you lovingly and gracefully help them see how they can improve.
Celebrate with them when they are absolutely killing it! Have an award for rockstar leaders that you give out frequently so they know if they are doing a good job. Every student ministry should have a traveling trophy, championship belt or a gold spray painted bobble-head of a mediocre baseball player on hand to give to amazing leaders who are making the ministry a better place to be.
I had to learn the hard way to keep things simple, to give good feedback and to allow them opportunities to try and succeed! Don’t wait until the middle of a school semester to give your leaders clarity, do it NOW!