|Credit: Creative Commons (zigazou76)|
Somewhere along the way, I came to realize that I was approaching it all wrong. I had been looking for volunteers, people whom I could convince to give up some of their time so that we could have a youth ministry. And when my initial "pitch" didn't convince enough people to volunteer, I would (embarrassingly) at times resort to other tactics, such as guilt, to get the job done. That, I now know, is an awful way to get the best people to volunteer in youth ministry.
The switch came when I had a simple realization that is probably obvious to most of you: Being in youth ministry is fun, both as a staff member and as a volunteer. I started asking myself why I--as a college sophomore--started hanging out in the high school ministry at the church I attended. First, someone asked me to. Second, it was fun. I had a blast, and Sunday nights with the high schoolers became the highlight of my week. Third, I felt like I was contributing to our church and giving to God of my time. I was a relatively new follower of Jesus, and it was a practical way for me to surrender myself to serving Jesus.
When I realized these things, I stopped looking for volunteers. Instead, I resolved, I would look for teammates who loved to serve. I did my best to learn from others who are really good at building teams, one of whom I'm blessed enough to have an office next to. Instead of asking people to be "volunteers," I used language such as "servant leader" and "teammate" when asking them to serve on our team. And I pitched being on our team as a great way to have a lot of fun while serving Christ and his kingdom.
I believe that most people in church understand on some level that part of following Jesus is serving His Church. In fact, I believe that most people are ready to serve if they are simply asked. I overheard one person who's a recent addition to our team say this when asked why they were serving in the high school ministry: "I felt like I was supposed to get more involved, but I couldn't really decide how or where to start. Then Benjer asked me."
So, here's my advice to you: stop looking for "volunteers." Sure, "volunteer" is a great word that those of us in ministry have used for years. You'll even find it on this blog a bit. But you might be surprised at many more quality people you have on your team when you stop looking (or guilting into service) timid volunteers who simply weren't quick enough to come up with an excuse not to volunteer, and when you start looking for people who love to serve and love to have a lot of fun doing it.
What about you? What are some ways to find great people who love youth ministry to be on your team?