I’ve been in some level of family ministry for over 20 years. But in all that time, there’s one statement I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say, “We have so many volunteers I really hope no one else wants to serve!” 

The fact of the matter is that most student ministries are always looking for ways to recruit volunteers and retain the ones we already have. 

Don’t recruit volunteers from the stage

While the easiest thing to do is say that we need more stage time, or wish the senior leader would talk about the needs of kid and student ministry every week, the reality is that mass cattle calls don’t yield the best results of dedicated, consistent, and called leaders for our ministries. 

Since the cattle call from the stage isn’t the answer, we wanted to give you a few suggestions that might help with recruiting.

1. Meet new people

Start with the ministry leader. There have been seasons in ministry when I spent much of my time in rooms serving kids and students instead of meeting other students and adults who could serve kids and students. This was a huge mistake! 

Ensure that ministry leaders and key volunteers are available to meet new people each week by being present in heavy traffic areas before and after worship services. Make it a goal that when you’re in these areas you’re meeting a few new people each week and getting to informally engage with the few people you’ve met over the last month. 

After engaging them for several weeks, ask them to coffee, get to know them better, and listen for ways and opportunities to plug them into ministry. Sometimes you’ll be able to plug them into your ministry and sometimes you won’t. But it’s a genuine well-planted seed either way. 

2. Make the ministry visible

Help your team members make the ministry visible by giving them tools to invite their friends to serve with them. Weekly, an Orange product that gives leaders tools to equip parents and small group leaders, has wonderful resources to give to your current volunteers to help them recruit new volunteers. 

Empower people who are already serving to share their stories of impact with those they’re in relationship with already and bring them along on the journey of being a small group leader, hall host, or storyteller. 

Like eating at a new restaurant or trying out a new store, people are more likely to participate in something that’s already receiving great reviews from someone they know and trust.  

3. Rally a recruiting team

Establish a recruiting team. There are people in every congregation who love kid and student ministry but have a myriad of reasons why they can’t serve on Sundays. Some of these people might also be well-connected within your congregation and have a niche for getting others involved. These are the people you want on your recruiting team. 

Rally them together to relay vision and opportunities. Provide them with resources to start conversations within their spheres of influence (much like the ones suggested to give to your ministry workers) and then allow them to work the relationships they have within the congregation. 

This expands the reach of the ministry beyond those who are serving on Sunday to those who are mingling with the other adults you need who are sitting in the congregation. 

4. Set volunteers up to win

Develop a clear onboarding process that initiates relationship, takes safety seriously, and equips new volunteers to be successful. These three things say to your newest volunteer that you take them and the ministry seriously and you’re setting them up to win. 

Nobody is interested in being a part of a ship that’s sinking. Consider making interviews, volunteer applications, and background checks part of your onboarding process. Listen carefully during the discussion over coffee to the person’s personality and areas of passion. 

Connect them with a ministry veteran who will be a good personality match and who is already serving in the role that the new volunteer will be joining. Do everything you can to set them up to win and build new relationships while they’re doing it. 

For the first four to six times that they serve, check in with them, find out how it’s going, and be available to answer any questions that have come up. Provide them with feedback and make sure they move from “the new volunteer” to being an expected and contributing member of the team. 

5. Focus on retaining over recruiting

One of the biggest sinkers to recruiting ministry workers is not retaining the ones who God has sent. While instituting the above recruiting strategies will help get people in the door, the door will be constantly revolving if retaining strategies and techniques aren’t in place. 

So institute any or all of the suggestions above, and then read the book The Volunteer Project: Stop Recruiting. Start Retaining. and take your ministry volunteers to the next level.

This post was originally published on the Orange Leaders blog in May 2018.