7 Steps to Recruiting Your Youth Ministry Dream Team
Do you wonder where the passion, energy, and drive you had for youth ministry has gone? You are not alone. In over 30 years of serving with youth ministry enthusiasts, I have seen frustration pummel youth workers. Apathy among students, absence of parental involvement, and a lack of leaders and leadership commitment can take a toll. We recently conducted a survey of youth workers and found that more than 42% related their greatest challenge to:
Finding and utilizing volunteers
Committed adult volunteer leadership
A need for more volunteers
Can you relate to any of these challenges? Recruiting leaders has been and will always be a challenge that every ministry must overcome. But there are churches that HAVE overcome. They recruit effectively and keep a team of committed youth ministry volunteers. The plan laid out in this article has been used for decades with great success. There is no magic! It is a proven process that you can implement. Now, before we get into formulating your plan, we first need to delve into why you need to build your dream team. Don’t skip this! it is important that your thinking is clear on this. If you do not have conviction as to why you need to build your ministry leadership dream team, it is highly unlikely this plan will help you. Why do you need a dream team? Maybe you have already concluded that you are only as good as your team, as you find yourself heading quickly towards the cliff of burnout. To have a quality ministry and reach a bunch of students with the gospel, the math is simple. Your ability to recruit, train, deploy and retain leaders always determines the lid of your ministry. Think about your ministry with what John Maxwell calls “The Law of Explosive Growth.”
All of us want growth. But have you ever considered Explosive Growth? What would that look like — double, triple, quadruple attendance? What is keeping you from blowing the lid off your ministry? Too often we think of growing from 10 to 20 students, and in our minds, we can see how that can happen with how we are currently doing things. But when you think about Explosive Growth — growing from 10 to 100 — you are forced to think in a completely new way. One thing is for sure, until you acknowledge your need to grow the number of quality leaders on your team, your lid will be lower than you desire, and you will be limited in the impact of your ministry. Youth ministry expert Doug Fields puts it this way, “We see high turnover in youth ministry because many youth workers try to do everything themselves. Some youth workers tell me that they don’t have enough time to find leaders; they don’t have enough time because they are busy doing everything for themselves.” (Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, 9 Essential Foundations for Healthy Growth, by Doug Fields · 2009) Building a leadership team is often not the highest priority for those leading youth ministries. Even if you have great curriculum, an incredible place to meet, events students love to bring friends to, and worship that rocks, without leaders, you will still have a lid. Too many youth workers face the weekly frustration of wanting deeper ministry with every teen but face the painful truth that it cannot happen because there are not enough leaders. Even full-time youth workers face the same challenge because one person can only do so much. You do not need to live in this weekly frustration. God has a plan for your dream team. “From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16 (ESV) You must believe that God is for you building your team as “each part is working properly.” There are members in your church that are not “working properly.” You will need to pray, have a plan (we will get to this next), recruit, and train, but I believe it is God’s plan to help you build your team from members in your local body. Maybe you have already tried to recruit and had little success. I am confident that if you implement this 7-step process completely, you will grow your team. Keep in mind, though, that building your dream team will
take time. You will always be building and maintaining your team. That is why implementing a plan you can rely on is so important. Recruiting cannot just be relegated to a three-week push each fall. Yes, have a push, but have a plan to recruit year-round. Lastly, DO NOT BE IN A HURRY! If everything remained the same, and you did nothing to recruit a leader, you would still be able to carry out the ministry you currently have, right? So why hurry? Build your recruitment plan using these 7 steps and add one leader at a time. Every leader you add raises your ministry lid and your level of impact a little higher. If you hurry, you may build a nightmare team instead of a dream team. It is better to have no leader than the wrong leader. Be patient, put a plan together, and allow God to bring you the people you need.
7 STEPS TO RECRUITING YOUR YOUTH MINISTRY DREAM TEAM
01 Many of us want to get busy putting a plan together and get moving. Jesus sets the example for us as He invested a whole night in prayer before He “recruited” His team. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles,” Luke 6:12–13 (ESV). Jesus gives us the pattern: start with prayer and continue to pray until God brings you the leaders you need. I love the advice Greg Stier gives. “Refuse to do the bulletin or church announcement that proclaims, ‘We need volunteers!’ Instead, prayerfully conspire with your team and make a list of who you think would be top-notch youth ministry volunteers.” As you pray, ask God for wisdom to see who you should approach, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him,” James 1:5 (ESV). MAKE PRAYER YOUR FIRST AND HIGHEST PRIORITY! Pray Fervently
02 Although we want to be open and welcoming, we also want to make sure that the adults who join our leadership team line up with our vision, philosophy, and theology. As you develop a list of potential people there are a few key things you should look for. The acrostic F.I.T . stands for FAITHFUL , INVESTED , and TEACHABLE and covers the key attributes you want in the lives of every youth leader. Determine Qualifications
Faithful: Faithfulness has at its core integrity, sincerity, and dependability. Good questions to ask yourself about the person related to faithfulness are: • How is their walk with God? • How is their marriage and family life? • Does this person’s “yes” mean yes? (Matthew 5:37) • Is this person able to be present weekly? • When given something to do, does this person follow through? Invested: It may seem most obvious but let us state it: look for leaders who love young people. Look for people who remember what it was like to be young and have a burden to invest in them. Before you bring someone onto your team, invite them to a youth event or your weekly youth ministry. Observe them and ask yourself, “How do they interact with our students?” As you talk with them about the young people, do they express praise or are they critical? Seek out those who recognize every young person is a diamond in the rough. Look for those who see students as potential, not problems. Teachable: Look for humble, teachable people! Build your team with people who recognize their daily need for the Lord (John 15:5), and who are seeking to grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. Look for the spirit of a servant. This is a key trait that Jesus sought to pass on to those He recruited (Matthew 20:25-28). If someone is humble, they will love to serve. When you interview them (we will get to that later) you could ask, “Tell me a lesson you learned the hard way this last year.” How they answer could help you discern teachability. Now that you know the type of leader you are looking for, you will need to think through how you will plug each person into the ministry.
03 Where are your ministry needs? What roles do you want new team members to fill? You do not want your new leaders to feel they are glorified babysitters. If you want someone to get involved, then involve them in something specific and significant. Dream a little here. What would it look like to have a full leadership team? Envision every possible spot filled with a quality leader. Where are the positions you need leaders? Here are a few considerations:
Know the roles
Administration – Could you use someone who is good at taking care of details? Even with the best vision, event ideas, and special youth meetings, you need someone to ensure all the details get worked out or the wheels could come off your best laid plans. Teacher – Consider having a team of excellent teachers. Pick people who can engage the students with the Word of God and have the gift of teaching. Having a team of teachers brings variety for the students and can allow you to divide middle school and high school easily. Remember, explosive growth! Worship leader – Consider someone who will involve students in your worship team. Small group leader – These leaders are the backbone of your ministry since they are building strong relationships with your students every week. Having a variety of personalities as small group leaders will allow you to minister to a broad group of students. Games/Activity Coordinator – Every youth ministry has high energy people, and this is a great place to get them involved. They bring the fun to the youth ministry meeting.
There may be other roles you want to fill; just be sure you think it through and then ask God to give you people to fill each of these positions.
04 Now it is time to put your list together. To do this correctly you need to may need to change your thinking. Do not ask, “Who is available?” Rather, ask yourself, “If I could hand pick the best people from our church, who would I want on my team?” Involve others to help you create the list.
Create your list
Ask church leadership: Ask your pastor, or other key church leaders, and your current leadership team for names. Use the church membership list and evaluate each name and every age as a potential leader (more on this later). Ask who they think would be a fabulous volunteer based on what they know about your youth ministry philosophy and strategy. They will often have people in mind that you may have never considered. Consider those already serving: Do not be afraid to add to your list those who are already involved in ministry. Remember, at this point you are just brainstorming. Put anyone and everyone on your list. This is not the time to evaluate. If you feel the Lord is leading you to talk to someone already serving, you will want to run that by your church leadership and get approval first since you want to be careful you don’t hurt another ministry in the church. Do not overlook anyone: Be open to any age group. Sometimes our own thinking will keep us from talking to qualified people because of a preconceived prejudice. Let the following guide you as you complete your list: Young singles – Unless they are going to college and working at the same time, they can have an abundance of time available. They can be a great resource of ideas and energy. Many are still maturing and sometimes make unwise choices, so mixing them with more mature team members can help them become more balanced. They tend to be buddies with the young people. They need to be reminded to be the leader their young people need. Also, make sure there is an agreement that they will not date a teen who is currently in youth group. Young married with no children - They have a lot of energy, lots of ideas, and time. Though more mature than singles they still are idealistic and can be impatient with students.
Young married with young children – Though they may have some time constraints, many have the stamina and drive to be involved. You will need to be sensitive to the needs of their family. Adults with teens - They make great leaders because they are in the trenches with their own children. This can help them have a greater vision of the need of students. They also have an intrinsic motivation to help the youth ministry be great since their children benefit. Married with empty nest – They tend to have more time and bring more maturity to your team. They can have both financial and personal resource (house, pool, campers) to enhance the ministry. Keep in mind they may be more traditional in their thinking. It is important that they are humble and willing to listen to the younger leader’s ideas. The goal is to meld their experience with the drive and enthusiasm of the younger leaders. Retired – These folks can take the extra time to see kids after school. They can be asked to do things that the younger leaders do not have time for. They can be like a grandparent to many of the kids, which is great in a culture where students are craving that personal attention. Look for an older person who is “young” at heart. Student Leaders – Students leading the way in your group can be excellent additions to your team. Because they live in the culture their input can be invaluable. They will have ideas that are current that your students will love. Consider putting them into roles as small group assistants and helping with youth events. Make sure that they have shown a pattern of a couple of years of consistency before adding them to your team. Once you have your list, commit with your current leadership team to pray for a few weeks. After you pray, get together and talk through the list and come up with your top 5-10 names.
05 You have prayed, created a list of names, prayed again, selected those who are your top prospects, and now it is time to set up a meeting to discuss what their role would look like. Youth ministry can be a scary proposition causing people to think they lack the skillset to be involved. Because of this, take the following things into consideration as you prepare to meet with each prospect:
Plan the Meeting
Let them know there is training Provide training to help them become skilled before you let them fly solo with teenagers. Training can happen through courses, teaming up with other leaders, or training you do to give them the skills and confidence they need to be effective. For instance, have them team up with another leader for a few months so they can get to know what happens in small group. Skipping this step could cause them to exit the team out of frustration. Focus them on a bite-sized commitment The reason you are recruiting them to a specific role is to avoid overusing someone to the point where they quit. It should not be necessary to have every volunteer be at everything you do for the youth. Quality people are not just out sitting idle. They are likely busy with something else. You want to make the time commitment reasonable enough that quality people can add it to their schedule, but meaningful enough that they feel it is making a difference. To recruit awesome people, you must make the weekly time commitment bite sized. Have an application When bringing on a new volunteer, you should have a thorough process. Have an extensive application, but balance this with making your process simple. Find out what others do with an internet search of “youth ministry volunteer application.” Find one you like and then customize it for your ministry. Your recruitment process for the candidate might look like this: 1. Ask candidate to meet and talk about joining the team 2. Have a face-to-face meeting to talk about details 3. Ask candidate to pray about joining 4. When they say “Yes,” have them fill out the application 5. Have them go through training 6. Plug them into your team
Have expectations Setting expectations is important. People fear the unknown. The goal here is to communicate what the candidate can expect from you and what you will expect from them. Creating a short list of expectations gives you some talking points while you meet with the potential volunteer. Here are a few of the things you may want to include: What to expect from the volunteer: • A short list of character or behavior policies that you require (setting the example in spiritual growth) • Faithful attendance to a specific list of meetings they will need to be at (youth group, planning meetings, youth leader training, youth events, etc.) • Length of commitment (generally the school year) • Communicate ahead of time when they are going to be absent What the potential volunteer can expect from you: • We have a vision to disciple. One leader can teach five to one hundred students, but he cannot build strong relationships with them all. A great leader can disciple three to five young people. Share your vision to impact the lives of every student that attends. Let them know you want them to be a part of a team where each member is focused on a just a few students. • We will care for you. Communicate that you have a culture on your team where everyone is praying for each other and one where you have strong fellowship among the team members. Let them know you want them to become a part of this fellowship. • We support your spiritual growth. Let them know you support their spiritual growth by providing devotionals for them to use. This is a good place to talk about leadership by example. Let them know you are looking for leaders who are open about their personal spiritual growth and willing to lead by example with students. Share that you are looking for progress, not perfection.
• We will train you. Share the courses, conferences, and any additional training necessary to equip them. This can be a comfort to those who feel inadequate to lead students. When I started in youth ministry 39 years ago the person recruiting me to be a leader said to me, “Just get involved in the training we provide, and we will equip you to be effective.” Though I was still nervous about my ability, I was encouraged that there was training to help me do something I knew the Lord wanted me to do. • We have a plan. Let them know you will publish a yearly calendar at the start of the ministry year. Planning tells volunteers you know what you are doing. Few people want to join a team where the leader is “flying by the seat of his pants.” People have lives and want to be able to plan the ministry accordingly. Let them know you will also have times scheduled throughout the year to get together for planning. Let them know you will have times to connect monthly, quarterly, or whatever works to make sure everyone is on the same page. • We will pay your way. People shouldn’t have to take off work and pay as well for the privilege of volunteering in your ministry. Your leaders are the foundation for your ministry and paying their way should be a high priority in your yearly budget. As you do this you will communicate the incredible value you have in your volunteers. Charge students extra if you don’t have the budget for this policy. • Be prepared to let them try it out. Some people may show interest but may not be ready to jump in with both feet. You can be flexible with them. Suggest that they just start to attend the youth group and “test the waters” for a few weeks. Lay out opportunities for them to become involved in non-threatening ways. This will give both you and the candidate a chance to observe each other. This will give them a chance to check out the young people and what happens in a typical meeting. You will have an opportunity to observe how they interact with the other leaders and your students.
06 Now let us walk through the process you will use to set up and conduct a meeting with a potential volunteer. Most people appreciate a direct approach because they understand exactly what is being asked of them. Seek to be candid and clear in your communication but also communicate your heart and vision for the ministry.
Conduct the Meeting
1. Setting up the meeting with the candidate. Call or talk to them in person to set up an appointment. Make sure you are clear on what the meeting will be about. You might consider saying something like this: “Hi Jim, we have been working on expanding our youth ministry’s leadership team. As we were praying and considering the people that we think would be a good fit, your name came to mind. I was wondering if you might be free next week so we could get together to discuss the possibility. Would next Monday night at our home for dinner work for you?” Once you ask the question, just wait for them to answer. Then you can assure them that the appointment is not an obligation to say yes, but an opportunity for them to learn more about the youth ministry. 2. Meeting with the candidate. After you have some “small talk,” start the meeting by sharing why you chose them. Of course you want to be sincere here, but maybe you would share things like: you have seen their love for the young people, you noticed the great job they are doing parenting, or you noticed their faithfulness, etc. Next, walk through the information you prepared from the “Have expectations” section above. Take your time and make sure you allow them to ask questions along the way. As the meeting comes to a close, be sure to make the ask by saying something like this: “Jim, would you prayerfully consider becoming one of our youth leadership team members?” Wait for them to answer. There may be a few seconds of silence which might make you feel like you need to speak, but don’t, just politely wait. If YES - If they agree to pray about it, ask if it would be ok for you to follow up with them in a week. It is good to give them a timetable (1 week) and let them know you will check back with them for an answer. Also, be sure to keep the responsibility for follow-up on you. People are busy and if you ask them to get back in touch with you, they just might forget. We know for sure you will not forget! If NO - If they say no, ask them if they would be willing to help out when you need extra help during specific specials events throughout the year.
07 If you do all the other steps perfectly and do not follow up, you will not see the results you are looking for. Remember that God has a plan to work through you to build a powerful Spirit-filled leadership team. If someone declines your ask, that simply means that they are not one of the people God has set aside for you. Move on to the next person on your list. For those people who give you a yes, be prepared to have a next step for them to get involved. So there it is - seven steps to recruit your youth ministry leadership dream team. It does not need to be a dream; it can become a reality. WITH GOD’S HELP YOU CAN DO THIS! God has placed you in leadership and He wants to work through you to advance your ministry to new heights and take the lid off your ministry. To get there, you will need a team, and as you build your team, you will be embarking on a journey of ministry impact and making lifelong ministry friends. May God bless you as you begin to execute this plan. Follow up Every Meeting
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