I don’t think I have ever heard a youth worker say, “I think we are good on volunteers”. One thing I didn’t know when getting into youth ministry was that I needed the skills of a college football recruiter. Always on the prowl for people whom I could sucker… I mean get into youth ministry and pour into the lives of teenagers.

Many of us have mastered the ability to ask and we know where we want them to end up but what is the point if you lose them along the way. Our job as the leader of the ministry is to make sure the people who do get have a clear and directed path to be on their way serving and not to lose them or set them up poorly to not thrive when vetting and training is all done.

Here are some things to think through when regards to getting, keeping and training leaders for success:

Make it easy to apply.

How easy is for them to sign up to serve? Do they know how to apply? Do they even need to apply? If you have an application, do people know where to find it? Access it? Know where to turn it in when they are done?

We already know we wont get as many volunteers to go into youth ministry as there will be volunteers to usher in main service (because that’s easy and requires no commitment…. Can I say that? I just did). Make the application easy to find and when they find it, make sure it’s clear on where it needs to go when done

  • Side note: if you don’t have an application process, are you just letting anyone walk in to work with minors? I highly recommend getting one because it is a nice way to sit down with that potential leader and get to know them a bit. You can take a look at ours if you want to get started. Click HERE.

Have a sit down before they get serving.

Our leaders go through a few week process before they are “official” (more on that in a bit) but I think the most important meetings is the first one. Many people who don’t have youth ministry experience think, “All I have to do is hang out with the kids.” In the first meeting we go over the application, I get to hear their story and why they want to serve with the youth ministry.

Its in this meeting where I can get a feel where they are at in their spiritual life and where they could be a good fit for our ministry, because they might not be. We don’t want to take any warm body, we want to make sure it’s a good fit on both sides.

It’s in this meeting where we let them know the process from here on out and let them know it’s more than just “hanging out”. We give them a new leader flash drive (click HERE to find out more about this) and we set them up to shadow a veteran leader for a few weeks.

Set them up for success.

In order for leaders to do well they need to know what doing well looks like. They need to know what a “win” is for you and your ministry. To set our leaders up for success, we have all new leaders shadow an existing one for 3 weeks. What we have found is that if you just throw leaders out on the patio before service saying, “Alright go hang out with students” you can literally see the fear in their eyes. Setting them up with a different leader for 3 weeks gives them a buddy to be with, show them the ropes, introduce them to new students and they get to see yours already on board leaders do their thing. It gives them something to tangibly see.

  • This also gives your existing leaders some awesome abilities to be able to speak into, take ownership and give feedback and power to you because they feel like they are a part of the process.
  • We also give them different leaders each week because we split up junior high and high school half way through service and we want the potential leader to experience both sides before making a decision.

For us, this step is HUGE because it sets up leaders for success. They get to actually see what a great leader does. They have something to grasp onto and glean from when they become official leaders and they know what to do.

Give them space to ask clarification questions.

Now this is where most people are surprised because we actually have a second and final meeting. I value this meeting greatly. Here is why:

  • They now know the expectations as a leader.
  • They now have seen our program and ways to serve
  • They have seen what a great leader does and what that entails
  • They have the ability to really ask questions about the ministry
  • We see in what grades they want to serve in
  • We give them their leader shirts (which means they are official leaders)

Celebrate loud, hard and often.

When a leader gets their shirts, at the next service in our leader meeting, we announce them and people go nuts. We believe there is nothing more fun than serving with the people we love and they are now a part of our team. When we are excited as leaders, our volunteer teams get excited to be there and it bleeds into the youth group. We as leaders are needing to make sure we celebrate when our new leaders “win” because then they know they are doing what they need to be doing for the ministry in order to see it grow.

That is a huge deal and it keeps them coming back. If you want to loose your leaders, don’t have clear expectations of what a “win” is and don’t celebrate when they do something right. I don’t have the gift of encouragement, but I have had to learn how to be an encourager.

“Justin, this is not simple. It seems like it’s pretty extensive.” Maybe, but here is where I think the simple comes in: Do it right and thorough upfront and you don’t need to spend time re-training a few weeks from now. It’s simple and effective in the fact that you have now set up your leaders for success and they know what is expected of them. Now you can watch God work through them.