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The World’s Easiest Way To Get New Volunteers…

 —  January 26, 2014 — 4 Comments


Recently in a youth ministry seminar the presenter asked the question, “How many of you feel like you have enough volunteers in your ministry?” One guy raised his hand. The rest of the room wanted to punch him in his smug, little, “I’m awesome” nose. Because almost nobody who leads a youth group feels like they have enough volunteers, a popular discussion when we get together is sharing ideas to help persuade/recruit/guilt-trip/trick/entice folks to join our youth ministry team.

I’d like to share with you the world’s easiest way to get new volunteers: JUST ASK.

Ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask, ask. And when you get rejected, ask.

* Bulletin announcements are fine, but not as good as an ask.
* The senior Pastor pleading from the pulpit is great, but not as good as an ask.
* A youth ministry booth at the annual ministry fair is fun, but not as good as an ask.

Who should you ask? Everybody. If there is an adult who loves Jesus and likes teenagers, ask.

Who should do the asking? You, your current volunteers, your students. Believe it or not, the most effective asks usually come not from the “paid spokesperson” (you), but from the “satisfied customers” (current volunteers and students). When a teenager approaches an adult and asks if he/she would be willing to help out in their youth group, it’s tough to turn down! when a current volunteer tells a peer that serving in the youth group is rewarding, and worth the time commitment, it makes a powerful statement.

Don’t say somebody else’s “no”. I first heard this from Bill Hybels. Too often we assume somebody is too busy, uninterested etc. so we say “no” on their behalf without ever actually asking them to serve. Don’t assume. Don’t say somebody else’s “no”.

There are probably more people in your church willing to work with students than you think. You just have to ask!

In my next post, we will take a look at some strategies that will help make “making the ask” a little bit easier.

Kurt Johnston

Kurt Johnston


Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

4 responses to The World’s Easiest Way To Get New Volunteers…

  1. Great post. I look forward to the next post.

    Through the years I have learned to spread a wide net (parents, young adults, grandmas, college kids). Also, I have stopped saying “no” and/ or making up excuses why so and so can’t serve in middle school.

    Further, one of the best strategies to being fully staffed each year is supporting your current staff really well. If people stick around for 3,4 or 8 years that’s less people to recruit over the summer. Equip staff well for what you are asking them to do. Probably the best for me has been making sure very small group has two leaders. It does require twice the staff but well worth it (even if some groups are a little bigger than your ideal). That’s my best recruiting/ retaining strategy.

    One last thing and then I’ll stop rambling. My current staff are the best recruiting tool. Announcements from the pulpit or bulletin are terrible and lead to awkward situations of saying no to people. At the same time, we need to teach our staff how to ask. Just saying, “Do you want to lead a middle school girls group?” probably won’t be super effective. I ask my staff to share why they serve and paint a picture of what it might be like for the potential recruit to join.

    Enough said. Good night!!

  2. I’d like to add that the way we look at our ministry and approach volunteers is huge. What I mean is, when asking volunteers to serve with us are looking for someone to fill a need, or do we recognize that we are providing someone with an opportunity to use their God given talents and calling?

    A ministry that has had phenomenal success in helping Christian organizations recruit and sustain volunteers is “High Impact” by Newell and Associates. They identify some approaches we make to finding volunteers that aren’t just ineffective, but also unbiblical. Here’s a quick summary:

    Spectator Approach: You come and watch
    Helper Approach: Help me do my ministry
    Assistant Approach: You can assist me with smaller jobs while I handle the bigger ones
    Feel Good Approach: Sure you can do that in our ministry if that’s what you love (even though it doesn’t help us achieve our ministry goals)

    What we ought to be looking for are “volunteers who can do what we can do, and better.”

    Of course there’s a lot more to this but I’ve taken the time to share this because I believe our perception of volunteers can revolutionize our ministries!

  3. One caveat I would add: I’ve heard that 3rd point before (i.e. don’t assume someone will say “no”). My hesitation is if you keep asking someone, then that person may start to think the only time you approach them is to ask for something. While the premise of not always assuming someone will say “no”, you can’t just keep “going back to the well”. You need to have discretion about when and how frequently do you ask.

  4. We’ve always had great sucess with an annual parent information night. Parents love to see what their kids are up to, and so getting parents to come is easy. Even if the parents don’t agree to volunteer themselves, they often have friends or neighbors that might be interested in helping with our group.

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