I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t get any volunteers. I put it in the bulletin. I put it in the newsletter. We’ve asked from the pulpit. No one cares about working with our youth.”

The truth is that many people just don’t feel equipped to work with youth. I’ve always found this perplexing since I’ve always loved working with teenagers, but the average churchgoer feels either intimidated or not cool enough or young enough to work with middle or high school students.

The good news is I feel that some simple but effective tactics can yield really amazing volunteers for your ministry. Here are some simple but proven effective tips for volunteer recruitment:

 Ask your current volunteers to recruit.

I’ve even gone so far as to ask everyone at a volunteer meeting to come back the next month with at least one person they are willing to personally recruit for youth ministry. A personal ask is always better than a broad plea, and people love to serve with their friends.  Plus, your current volunteers will love to have some influence on who they’ll be working with!

Ask your senior pastor or minister to adults for names.

It is my humble opinion that the pastors who are ministering to adults should be the best people to identify adults in your congregation who may be willing to serve in your ministry.  This can also help to coordinate with other ministries and make sure that you’re not asking the same 10% of adults to do 100% of the volunteer work in your church.

Ask parents.

Not everyone agrees that parents should be volunteers, but honestly, research tells us that students who see their parents practice their faith are more likely to become faithful adults. My guess is your ministry has loads of jobs you could use help with, from administrative to logistics to more student-facing roles.  The parents of your ministry have incredible gifts and you should be using them.

Ask early.

In my experience, people are more likely to say yes in the winter and spring for the following school year. The summer is almost impossible to communicate with folks, and fall is too late!  This also allows you to snag commitments before another ministry poaches all your prospects.  Mostly, it gives the potential volunteer time to pray and discern whether youth ministry is the right fit!

Offer training!

The National Day of Volunteer Training is Sept 24, 2022 and is a super affordable way to train all your volunteers in one day. Your church can host or sign up to attend at another church.  Your local denomination probably offers something annually or can offer you a list of local experts who will come to your church to offer training. Sometimes local seminaries will offer a training series.  Create your own training program with some of your veteran volunteers.  Your volunteers will feel empowered and will be more excited to serve with you when they feel confident and prepared. 

Ansley has served in youth ministry for two decades and holds a certificate of Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. She loves the relational aspect of youth ministry as well as helping equip adults and students to lead. Ansley lives on her family’s beef cattle farm in Virginia with her husband and two young sons (and, sadly, no llamas).

See more from this DYM author here.