“I just don’t have any leaders!”
Another downtrodden phone call from a Youth Pastor who is frustrated by the lack of adult leaders helping him with the student ministries. I wish these phone calls, emails and conversations weren’t so common. In previous Student Ministry Stuff (SMS) posts I have written about the Pied Piper youth pastor, some are this way by choice (and by personality) and some are Pipers simply because they aren’t good at and/or don’t know how to recruit leaders. My hope with this post is to help youth pastors see that the summer is prime-time for leader recruitment.
As you scope the landscape of your summer calendar you probably see a shift from programs to events; a move away from mid-week program to more fun/relational events that augment the camps, retreats and mission trips. It is because of the typical summer schedule that I see ideal opportunities to recruit, train and inspire your new teammates! Here are a few things I would suggest.
- Mission Specific. The typical youth mission trip has elements that need expertise. Building projects, painting projects, landscaping, children’s ministry emphasis or perhaps your trip brings safety concerns. Your current “youth staff” may not include a construction worker, handy-person, landscaper or that gal who is just so good with the little kids. Every trip could use a nurse, doctor or EMT to help answer the “safety” concerns. Of course, you want these gifts being used for the mission, but your recruitment of these adults needs to be way more strategic than just their gifts being used for this trip! The reality is, your students will end up doing the recruitment for you! Students are infectious and desperate for adults to pour into their lives. These “mission specific” recruits will fall deeply in love with the students in a mission-intensive setting.
- Camp Created. Our “Bus Caravan” (a 10 day, mobile camp to a state park or two) provided the ideal recruitment ground for adult leadership to “check out” what it was like to be a Youth Leader. Like the above mission specific I recruited specific helps for our summer camp in the hopes they would stick far-beyond the one week camp. There were a couple families who owned boats, one who had a camper and several leaders who could grill with the best of them. Though these adults were happy to help, they had no idea they would get hooked on students. Again, the students and their willingness to invite an adult to speak into their lives became the enticement. The boat driver turned into an ear for the lonely student to feel needed (as simple as holding the flag). The Lunch-lady eventually was holding an accountability time with a couple gals while they chopped up the carrot sticks and best of all, these one-week helpers became full-year small group leaders.
- Event Invite. I know some adults who love to hunt and fish. I don’t. In addition, I know that some of these adults would make excellent youth leaders. Why not build an event around them and their area of expertise. Let him or her know that they are meeting a need you cannot. A gal whose family owns a great second home may just be willing to host the gals-getaway and you may just end up recruiting your next wonderful woman leader! How about those adults who have a social justice heart and inroad, what would it look like for you to recruit them to champion their cause at a summer BBQ?
I could go on and on with simple ideas, but the key to all of these items comes back to the thing we always need to come back to–RELATIONSHIPS! In order to recruit great volunteers you need to invest in relationship with these potential leaders. Youth ministry is NOT just about the youth. In order to have a great ministry, you need to build a great team through the power of God. Keep in mind, it isn’t just about inviting the potential leader to an event, camp or mission, it’s about following up (first by praying all the way through the process) and making the ask after the specific ministry setting you invited them to. When following up and making the ask:
- Thank them for their service
- Bless them with a small gift
- Affirm them for his/her gifts (be specific in what you saw/heard)
- Invite them to something greater
- Be realistic in your ask (not all are called to be at Sunday School, attending mid-week and in a core-group), make your ask a specific ask.
- Train them!
My hope is that this post gives you some sort of spark for your recruitment mindset. You need a team, why not make this summer your time to form that group of leaders?