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It seems like a million years ago, but once upon a time I remember nearly tripling the amount of small group leaders in our student ministry over the course of 8 weeks. It was an incredible experience, and an incredible time in our ministry.
How we did it was actually fairly simple; a clear vision for why we needed so many new volunteers, a clear recruitment process with me and my team, and most importantly, we actually prepared for people to say yes.
It’s that question you’ve probably heard before…that goes something like this: “If 100 new people showed up to church this Sunday, how would we handle it?” We started asking in our ministry a few months before the end of a school year “what would it look like to have twice as many small groups next year?” and from there, started looking at how would we actually double small groups, what new roles we would need, and what new spaces would we need. I do believe having so much of our team actively dreaming about doubling helped lead to our team actively working at doubling.
I was recently reading in a coffee shop and overheard a youth worker for another church meet up with a married couple to recruit them to be volunteers. It took me a bit to realize thats what was going on a few tables away, but then I couldn’t help but listen in. During that conversation, it was awesome to see all three of these ideas put in play, and so these really will help you and your ministry if you remember these three ideas.
I’ve always said in our ministries that serving in Youth Ministry or children’s ministry should be helping you grow as a christian and as a person. Volunteers are not perfect Christians who need no more discipleship. If anything, they are the first ones we pour into so they can pour into others.
When you remember that idea, it helps you focus on people more than purpose. Purpose is great, but not at the expense of people. A practical example is the conversation I overheard at coffee. The Youth worker spent at least the first half hour just asking how the couple was. It wasn’t a “get to know” type conversation, they clearly already had a friendship, but was a clear time of soul care, of saying “I care more about you and who you are than what you can do for my ministry.”
Number 2 and 3 are quite similar, but the distinction is critical. You have to remember that volunteers have jobs and families and lives outside of your ministry, but you also need to remember what you need from volunteers in order to have a great ministry. If someone wants to give up a few hours of their week or month to drive straight to church after work, or commit to skipping Sunday brunch so they can stay an extra service, they are wanting to know they have purpose and a need. No one wants to do those things to just hang out and see if they may be useful. They want to know they will have an impact, they have a purpose, they have a role to play.
Don’t shy away from what you need to ask a volunteer to do. To again tie it in with my experience overhearing a recruitment conversation, the youth worker was inviting them to a 24 hour retreat for the ministry, Saturday morning-Sunday afternoon. The first response was they could definitely come up on Saturday night for a few hours, but the youth worker doubled down on the importance of being there the whole time to build connections, show students you care about them and this role, and bond with others on the team. By the end of the meeting, they had arranged babysitters to be able to make it happen.
Number 3 coincides with number 2, and its something I’ve really struggled with the last few years. When thinking of what a volunteer would be great at, it’s so easy to come up with the reasons why they won’t be able to or wouldn’t want to. Don’t say no for someone by convincing yourself that it isn’t even worth it to ask. The youth worker I overheard knew this couple had a baby, and could have easily decided it wasn’t worth it to ask for them to stay with a bunch of teens overnight and let someone else watch their kid. That’s a HUGE ask. But she made the ask anyway…she didn’t say no for them.
These three ideas to remember aren’t guaranteed to help you triple your volunteer base overnight. That’s not at all what I’ve been trying to say. But I do believe you will have far more productive recruitment of volunteers for your ministry if you do keep these ideas in mind. It’s just a part of the process, but it’s an important one, nonetheless.
What is your biggest advice for other leaders on the idea of recruiting new leaders? What has worked exceptionally well in your context? Share it in the comments below!