Dec 01

A simple guide to finding more youth leaders and helpers

One of the most common frustrations I hear from youth ministers, youth leaders and church leaders alike, is how there are not enough adults involved with the youth ministry and how there aren’t people able to get involved. This is often the primary reason for a church to consider employing a youth worker. I struggle with this logic as what we are effectively saying is that none of us in the church want to spend time with young people so let’s pay someone to do it for us! Written down it may seem a little harsh, but it is the reality if we are honest with ourselves.

I do not believe this is correct thinking nor is it biblical. If we believe that God has given each church fellowship all that we need to do whatever it is he is asking us to do, then it follows that we do have sufficient leaders and helpers for our youth ministry amongst us, we just need to work out how we find and release them.

Traditionally, when a church is looking for more youth leaders, someone stands up at the front of church and asks for help, a promotion that can often sound more like a plead rather than an opportunity. Not only is this a fairly fruitless means of recruiting, it can have a negative impact, especially if the young people we are looking to serve are in the room hearing the plea. To them it can sound  like nobody wants to be with them, which is not what we want to communicate.

My understanding of recruitment was inspired by a book written by Mark Yaconelli called ‘Contemplative Youth Ministry’. In it Mark outlines a simple, effective strategy for recruiting new leaders. It is well worth a read as it is a fantastic book, even if you only read the chapter on recruitment.

What we need to realise is that it is the whole church’s responsibility to find people to volunteer for each of our ministries. It is not the sole responsibility of our church leader or youth minister, if we have one.

The process takes time and cannot be rushed. It can be explained in 5 simple steps:

1. Create a recruitment team

Gather a few key people (at least 3-4 people) who will make it a priority to find the required people to get involved. They don’t have to be youth leaders but people who share your heart for recruiting leaders. Pray together and ask God to lead them to the people he has in mind to join the youth team.

2. Ask around

Over the next three or four weeks, at coffee time after the church service (or a similarly appropriate moment) get the recruitment team circulating amongst the church people. Task them with the purpose of asking as many people as possible who they think would make a great youth leader. Reassure those you are asking that you are not asking them to step up, but you could do with their advice as to who to approach. This has several benefits: people love being asked their opinion. It makes them feel valued and included. They love the release of not being collared to do it themselves. It involves the whole church in the process. Finish each conversation by asking the person to be praying for the process.

Do this for several weeks and then gather together as a recruitment team and share the names that have been offered. There will most likely be some names which have been mentioned several times.

3. Approach those people

Contact these people, saying that several members of the church have suggested that they might be good at spending time discipling the young people and ask them to prayerfully consider whether this is something that God may be calling them to be involved in. Reassure them that you are not asking them to make a commitment at this stage, but to simply be open to God and where he might be leading them.

4. Hold an open meeting

Have a social gathering where you can invite those who would like to explore this more to come along and find out what’s involved. Make it an open meeting and publicise it widely in the church. This may pick up one or two people who haven’t been mentioned so far. It will also remind those who have been involved in the conversations of the process and should trigger them to keep praying.

At the meeting, share the vision for the youth ministry. If possible, get the church leader to explain how the youth ministry fits into the wider church life and vision, and how this is an essential part of our church life. Don’t forget that 85% of people come to faith by the time they are 18.

Talk about how you will invest in them as leaders, and won’t expect them to know how to do everything from the start, but how you will help them to grow in the skills and gifts that God has, and will, give them.

Ask them to commit for a short period to test the calling. Perhaps asking for a term’s service is reasonable.

5. Build a community of leaders

This is the vital last step which can so easily be missed out. Once people agree to be involved don’t simply focus on the young people. Invest in your new leaders. Have regular team gatherings where you build relationships and friendships with one another, build community. This is, after all, what we want to demonstrate to the young people we lead. Pray for each other, share what’s going on in each other’s lives, and train them and equip them for being effective, fruitful youth leaders. Make this a place where they want to be and a meeting they look forward to being part of.

As you build these deeper relationships, you create a sense of belonging to the team and a commitment to serving God and the young people.

It’s not as straightforward as five simple steps, but if you follow these steps you will see God reveal who he wants to be involved with your youth ministry in your church at this time. Just don’t be tempted to do this alone.