Whether we want to admit it or not, a youth pastor can’t have the same level of impact on every student in the youth group. For most ministries, there are too many students and not enough time. But when youth pastors multiply their influence through carefully chosen volunteers, they can reach more students. A youth group with great volunteers can reach more students and have a longer-lasting impact on those students. There’s just one problem—where are youth pastors supposed to find these volunteers? If your experience is like mine, people aren’t exactly lining up to commit long hours to your ministry for no pay. I’d like to offer you a few simple tips for finding great volunteers:
Target specific vocations.
When looking for volunteers for your youth group, begin by targeting adults who already have a vested interest in the lives of students. Be on the lookout for teachers, coaches, social workers and counselors. Not only are they more likely to care about building relationships with students, but they also have experience working with them. They know students. They know their problems, their interests and the way they think. And for some, it will be a nice chance to get out from behind a desk and get to know students in a more casual way.
Target specific demographics.
By targeting certain church member groups and life stages, many youth workers have been able to recruit key volunteers. These demographics include retirees, stay-at-home moms, parents and college students. One youth pastor I know asked a retired elder of his church to help in the youth group. He was a perfect volunteer because he had plenty of time to spend with students. They loved going to his house for pool parties, and because he was an elder, the elder committee was involved in everything the youth pastor did from that moment on.
Care for volunteers.
A volunteer that feels cared for and well-utilized will love being involved in your group and can therefore be a great recruiting tool. Show your volunteer staff that you value their time with the students by providing training opportunities for them. One youth group we work with plans two training meetings a semester for their volunteers. One of those is an all-day, multi-session event while the other is a two-hour training meeting on a Wednesday evening during midterms when student attendance is usually low. After these events, the volunteers feel better prepared and highly valued.
Ask your students to identify people they respect. After finding out who students look up to, challenge specific students to ask them to volunteer. You can then follow up on that contact with a visit or call. Often, adult volunteers don’t realize that students want them to be there, too. Many adults will be far more willing to volunteer if the students are the ones reaching out for help.
Finally, don’t let volunteers into your ministry unscreened. Develop your own screening process by researching the screening process of other youth ministries or schools in the area. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. If the volunteer’s character isn’t solid, their influence won’t be either. Lazy, irresponsible, uninvested and downright negative volunteers can kill momentum behind a growing youth group faster than almost anything else.