by Jennifer Cooke
My grandfather loved to fish. He knew exactly the right bait to use, where all the best fishing holes could be found and when the fish would be biting. He tried to get me to go with him on several occasions and I humored him a few times but quickly learned it wasn’t for me. I found the whole thing boring, not to mention the worms were slimy and I didn’t like baiting the hook. You sit there for literally hours at times waiting for the tiniest nibble only to have the fish get away. I determined at an early age that fishing just wasn’t for me.
That is, until I started leading in student ministry. Then, Jesus’ call to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) took on whole new meaning. I had to fish for a specific type of person. I had to fish for volunteers! I needed to find people that loved the Lord and had a desire to care for and lead students. Suddenly, the techniques my grandfather used for fishing seemed much more important to me.
Know where to fish.
Volunteers are out there. They may just be hanging out in areas you haven’t discovered yet. If you continue to go to all the same places to recruit volunteers, branch out and try something new. Spend some time with adult small groups, empty nesters or singles and invite them to think about serving in student ministry. If you work with middle-schoolers, consider recruiting some mature high school students to mentor the younger students.
Know what bait to use.
Sometimes all it takes to land a great volunteer is the right bait. What might lure them in? A video that captures not just the fun but the way God is working in your ministry? A special message from your senior pastor where he champions the work you’re doing? Better yet, let some of your current volunteers share why they love student ministry and invite a friend to join them at your next event.
Know when to fish.
Fish early and fish often. You know your ministry and the seasons where you need more help. Don’t wait until the last minute to recruit. Instead, back out a month or two or more to start those conversations. When you invite people to serve, cast compelling vision so that they want to join rather than appearing frantic or desperate.
The need for student ministry volunteers is great but they are out there! Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. If the fish aren’t biting one day, shake it off and try again the next day. Eventually, the right people will come!