What impact did volunteers have on your faith journey?
Volunteers are critical for youth ministry - they build capacity for connecting with young people, model lives focused on loving God and offer different perspectives on faith to our youth groups.
“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
We want as many Christian adults involved in this work as possible; passing on faith to the next generation.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Whether you are a church leader, employed youth worker or lead volunteer, gathering and keeping a volunteer team can be challenging. Here are a few ideas to help you recruit, inspire and keep volunteers in youth ministry.
When recruiting volunteers, we need to ask! It takes confidence to put yourself forward for a volunteer role and often people are hesitant to sign up without being asked first. There may be an individual who doesn’t ‘fit the mould’ but has a great ability to connect with young people, or someone who is great at bringing fun to a group, but hasn’t held a leadership role before. Ask people in your Church family who you could see as part of the team.
To do this well, personalise the ask. Think about the person and what they would specifically bring:
“I’d love you to volunteer because you’re a great listener”
“We need your help because of how you model a Christian life”
Avoid 'watering down' the challenge. Sometimes to recruit volunteers we need to make it as easy as possible, but we don’t just want anyone. We need godly people to engage with our young people. That might be a struggle, but we want to share the importance of discipling our youth and the privilege that it is.
Make a time-limited ask. I am much more willing to help out if I know it is for a season. But if you do this, honour it! Don’t just assume everyone is on board for another year, ask each volunteer if they want to continue. Put a reminder in your diary to have those conversations. By doing this it shows your integrity and it might make others more willing to help out for a season as a result.
Inspire and Celebrate
Once you’ve gathered a merry band of volunteers, continue by inspiring them. Do this by giving them a voice in shaping the youth ministry. Allow them to help create something which they are excited about serving in. As a result, they will likely be more invested in it. It can be easier to do everything yourself, even as a lead volunteer, but it’s worth working together to shape a programme that will keep a team inspired.
Show volunteers the impact of what they are doing. Sometimes it’s hard to be enthusiastic heading out on a dark Sunday night to a cold church hall! But when you hear a story from a parent or church leader about the impact they are seeing in the young people, that can be really life-giving. Make sure every volunteer hears the good news stories!
Celebrate your volunteers. It might be publicly saying thank you or privately acknowledging the difference they’ve made in a very specific way. A thank-you card or text message can go a long way!
Offer community and support. Get together as a leadership team to connect and have fun. It might be an annual board games night or a leaders retreat; anything that helps a team bond and allows volunteers to stay committed.
Finally, intercede for your volunteers. Healthy teams are prayed for teams. Support your volunteers by asking members of your church family to pray for them regularly.
Creating a healthy culture of volunteering is no straightforward task, but these simple ideas can go a long way to empowering and inspiring the next great youth leaders.
What could you do to engage volunteers today?