One of the most difficult jobs in children's and youth ministry is recruiting a full staff of volunteers who are not only joyfully motivated, but also adequately trained and equipped. Along with that is the challenge of retaining these volunteers from year-to-year, if at all possible, so that there is a stable, spiritually mature core in your ministry team. How does a ministry leader do this?
While it is true that every church has unique challenges in recruiting and retaining volunteers, there are some basic principles that can help every ministry leader in this endeavor. Here are some practical tips and guidelines from Connie Oman, Coordinator for Training and Classroom Support at Bethlehem Baptist Church. While they are not guaranteed to solve your recruiting problems, they may serve to foster an environment in which people feel more inclined to volunteer as they feel properly led, called, trained, and encouraged.
Principles for children and youth ministry leaders...
Be a Spiritual Leader
- Lead with the Word of God and prayer.
- Model with integrity.
- Shepherd with humility.
- Be God-centered and people-sensitive.
- Be a servant of servants—have a demeanor of "How can I help you?"
- Care for people more than the volunteer roster.
- Let volunteers see you in the classrooms as much as possible—walk around from room to room to encourage and provide assistance when needed.
Recruit People to a Big, God-Centered Vision of Children's and Youth Ministry
People are more likely to commit to something when they see it as grand and important, not simply as a need to get enough "workers to help with the children."
Set High Standards
- Be choosers, not beggars—never beg, push, or prod for volunteers.
- Don't start Sunday school until fully staffed. Why? Because we value children, and starting short-staffed puts an added burden on the volunteer team and makes it more difficult for them to serve with joy.
- Set qualifications—look for a sense of a call to ministry: "Why do you want to serve children?"
Be Clear About Expectations
- Have job descriptions for each volunteer (e.g., Team Leader, Worship Leader, Teacher, Small Group Leader, etc.), and clearly communicate what each entails.
- Ask your volunteers to "count the cost" in terms of work and sacrifice.
- Ask them to take the job seriously. Consider having them sign a "Volunteer Ministry Covenant."
Resource Your Volunteers
- Provide both formal and informal training for each specific volunteer position.
- Provide the necessary resources (e.g., curriculum, equipment, room requirements, etc.).
- Meet known needs and address problems ASAP.
Express Appreciation to Your Volunteers
- Communicate words of appreciation to each volunteer, in person.
- Write notes (e.g., send each volunteer a card on his or her birthday).
- Have special events that recognize and honor your volunteers (e.g., a year-end dinner banquet and program).
- Have the church provide a uniquely designed yearly gift for each volunteer (e.g., a coffee mug, t-shirt, calendar, etc.).
Pray for Your Volunteers...
For more tips and resources, you can listen to Connie's entire seminar, "Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers."
- before their ministry begins when you are looking at an empty roster. God knows each name.
- by name, throughout the year, as they are volunteering in the classroom.
- that each would love the LORD with all his heart, soul, and mind.
- that each would have a hunger and love for the Word.
- that each would be a doer of the Word.
- that each would love his neighbor as himself.
- that each would not grow weary in well-doing.