Ideas for Recruiting (AND RETAINING) Youth Group Volunteers

You know how it goes: at the start of each school year, you stand before your congregation and remind all the nice, smiling faces in the pews that the youth group is starting up and… you need more volunteers. 

Suddenly, you realize no one is making eye contact with you.

“Why don’t these adults want to hang out with my awesome kids?” you think. “Don’t they feel compelled to serve?” 

That answer is likely “eeeeehhhh”, which is Adult Speak for “we do like kids, we just don’t know what we’re signing up for.” Getting volunteers — and retaining them — isn’t an easy task. Here are a few tips on how to engage with the right people to help out your youth group. 

Analyze the gaps.

You can’t ask people to volunteer if you don’t know which roles you need to fill. (Well, we guess you could, but it would be awkward…) Make a good long list of every role or position within youth ministry that your volunteers could fill. Then, take your current volunteers and fill them into their present roles. Make note of anyone who might be a better fit in another volunteer role or think about any areas where you’d need overlap. 

Have a specific, compelling ask. 

You can always say “we need a man to teach middle school boys Sunday school” but then that sounds like you just need a body — not a teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask someone directly, and point out what specific traits they have that make them a good fit for volunteering. It’s all about getting your volunteers to understand the vision of the group. 

Set aside time for recruitment. 

Youth ministers have at any point 50 billion things on their plates, we get it. But when it comes to volunteer recruitment, you reap what you sow. Dedicate time to calling people, messaging them, taking them out for coffee. Personalized asks will make a potential volunteer feel like what they bring to the table has meaning. 

Never underestimate the retirees.

Far too often, retired congregation members get skipped over in volunteer recruitment. Why? Because of the assumptions they can’t hang with the kids!

Offer a trial opportunity. 

Some people might hesitate because they’re not sure what youth ministry looks like beyond what their kids went through. That’s A-Ok! Plan out a specific time period for a group of volunteers to serve. Let them see what it could look like. At the end of that trial period, ask them if they feel like they’d be a good fit for that role. It can help alleviate any fears they have about going into volunteering. 

Show consistent volunteer support. 

No, unfortunately, most volunteers aren’t as food motivated as your kids. This means that, while pizza parties seem great in theory, a pizza party might not be what keeps a volunteer engaged. Consider doing more adult-friendly activities, like going out for monthly coffee meetings or hosting a brunch on a Saturday afternoon. Show them that they’re more than their service. 

Look for ways to become a team. 

You know that scene in Avengers: Endgame right before they go back in time? And they all stroll out in their matching high-tech suits and look SUPER COOL?

Would they have been able to retrieve all the Infinity Stones without those fun matching suits? Probably. But the scene would lack the emotional impact because it would lack cohesion. It would lack them looking like a team. 

A simple yet underrated way to encourage your youth group volunteers is by giving them a shirt unique from your other group shirts. These can be something simple like your logo printed onto a polo, or a fun, eclectic pattern on a t-shirt. But having your volunteers be able to toss on a shirt alongside others instantly pulls them together. It reminds them they’re part of something bigger: ministering to your students.

We love seeing groups come together, and we’re always here to serve youth ministers. We can help group leaders design custom shirts that really make youth group volunteers feel special. Visit our website and get a quote for your next youth group volunteer shirts.