While you and I are called to serve teens and their families, our most important audience is the volunteer who serves alongside of you.  Without them you can only do so much and last so long.  That’s why every summer you make a huge effort in recruiting and training them in your craft.  Every year there is a mad rush to get them and then when you do you are happy because you have a team.  But, you aren’t done.

The hardest part about building up your volunteer base isn’t asking them to join, it’s retaining them for the long haul.  When you have a volunteer who not only commits to your ministry for one year but five or even ten, the amount of fruit their service will bare is immeasurable.  So, how do you keep them around?  Well, it’s all about how you pour into them.  Some of the big ways to do this is by sending them to conferences and hosting all day training events.  However, the investment doesn’t always have to be expensive and complex.  There are a few small things that you can do that will go a long way.

Here are three practical ways you can invest in your leaders:

Send Them A Note – There is nothing better than receiving an authentic hand written thank you note in the mail.  It communicates; I took the time and effort to express my gratitude for you.  You don’t have to write anything profound, just thank them for something simple or small that meant a lot to you.  It’s another way of telling them how valuable they truly are to you and the ministry.

Get Personal With Them – You might meet with your volunteers constantly; however, how many times is it personal?  Agenda-less meetings are essential to the relationship you have with your ministers.  Find time to take a few of them out for coffee.  Invite a couple of them over for a bite to eat or to watch a movie.  Indoctrinate a couple of the key leaders into your family.  The more they get to know you the easier it will be for them to return the investment.

Brag To The Pastor – Our pastor encourages the staff to introduce to him the all star volunteers and first timers.  While he’s not going to get to know all of them, he wants to know the people making an impact on the church.  When you introduce a volunteer to the pastor it shows them that you are so impressed with their work that you want the boss to know.  That just might be the public affirmation they need to bring their service to the next level.

It’s important to note that you can’t do all these things for everyone.  Not only is that a difficult task but also if you tried to praise everyone equally your investment would lose value.  Lastly, always think simple.  Your investment doesn’t have to be expensive or overly creative.  Just make it authentic, transparent and spontaneous.

What other ways can you simply invest in your team?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

In thirty years of youth ministry, I can honestly say I’ve tried every recruiting style possible. Take a look at these four fall-back recruiting approaches:

The “Cruise Director
‘Come join the youth team! Free trips, free food, hotels, fun and you’ll have a great time! No, you won’t have to chaperone at lock-ins!’”

The “Beggar
‘If you don’t join come on this trip, we’ll have to cancel it and lose our $2,000 deposit. We really, really, really need you! PLEASE???????’”

The “Lone Ranger
‘Hey, great having you on the team! Here’s your job description. Thanks for doing your part. You know? Let me do that for you…the kids are used to it being done a certain way. Oh, and I’ll do that, too. Why don’t you just watch for awhile?’”

The “Do-It-Yourselfer
Building a team? What’s that? Nobody wants to volunteer so I don’t even ask.’”
See yourself here? (I’m a combo of the Cruise Director and the Lone Ranger.)

Don’t do these!

Instead, I’ve learned a little something from Jesus’ example when he put a pretty awesome team of 12 together. I call it, “The Five I’s:

Invoke: Bring the Holy Spirit into the process anything. Go somewhere and pray.

Identify: Listen for who the Spirit lifts up. Identify those people He reveals would be an asset to the team. Don’t assume anyone will say “no.”

Invite: Talk to them one-on-one and ask them to pray for a week before saying “yes” or “no.”

Initiate: Let them come and check things out; give them a peek into what you’re asking them to do.

Inform: Hand them a volunteer packet so they can make a well-informed decision. Info would include a specific job description, volunteer guidelines, a ministry covenant, program purpose statement, 12 month youth ministry calendar and something fun, like a $5 card from Starbucks to enjoy a hot cuppa while reading and praying.

That’s how I do it, anyway. Hoep this helps!

Stephanie Caro is a youth ministry blogger at Small Church Youth Ministry and has written a book on the subject you might want to check out, too.



It’s back to school season – and for us that means we pour a ton of effort into our fall kickoff weekend, our first big series and the launch of small groups. Thought I might make some recommendations for some great youth ministry resources that might help you as you head into the start of another year.

Small Groups
Must have: Small Groups from Start to Finish by Doug Fields & Matt McGill
Solid: Small Group Strategies by Laurie Povich
Worth the price: LIVE curriculum

Fall Kickoff Weekend
Must have: 1 Minute Bible by Doug Fields
Solid: Spin That Wheel from Digital Stache
Good video: FAITH by Youth Ministry 360

The 1st Teaching Series of the Year
Must have: 1 Month to Live by Doug Fields
Solid: All My Belongings by Jeff McGuire
Worth the $10: Exposed! God’s Plan for Sex by Kurt Johnston

For your volunteers
Looks great, never read it: How to Volunteer Like a Pro by Jim Hancock
Shameless plug: 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders by me! Told you it was shameless
Worth the price: TOOLS: Team from Simply Youth Ministry

For your own personal growth
Must have: What Matters Most by Doug Fields
Solid: Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries
Worth the price: the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville, KY March 2012

JG