The Recruitment Battle

Youth Specialties
August 20th, 2018

I once heard a youth pastor once proclaim, “We had too many adults that wanted to help this weekend. We didn’t have jobs for them all!” She wasn’t bragging. It was a fact.

The rest of us “normal” people often struggle to recruit volunteers. 

Though painful sometime, volunteer recruitment IS a part of our job descriptions. Remember the wording in your job description?

“Recruit, train, and equip volunteers for the youth ministry.”

Amidst preparation for talks, bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and retreats, recruitment of volunteers can get pushed to the bottom of our “to-do” lists. Unfortunately, the ability to grow our students spiritually and our ministry numerically, requires us to engage the grind of volunteer recruitment.

What hinders volunteer recruitment the most?

The Answer: US

Sun Tzu, author of the book the Art of War said, “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Simply put, self-knowledge of our preferences can and should inform our approach to recruitment. Our recruitment “battles” rest on this knowledge. So, how does our engagement or lack of engagement in volunteer recruitment reflect who we are?

Consider the following:


For introverts—how does our reluctance to engage the process of volunteer recruitment reveal our introversion preference?  Do we like to keep things small because that is how we orient ourselves to the world? Do we subconsciously limit the involvement of others in the ministry because we are afraid of losing the intimacy that is found in a smaller volunteer team?

For extroverts—how does our extroversion drive quiet but faithful folks away from the ministry because they cannot do ministry “like” us? How does our large personality keep volunteers from knowing that they are cared for as individuals and needed in the ministry?  Would we consider scaling back our energy in order to allow others to take the lead in some aspect of the ministry?


Are we timid about recruitment because we have been hurt by rejection in the past? Do we hate hearing “no” so much we would rather just not ask?  Do we always assume we are bothering people when we ask them to participate in our ministries? Do we only pursue and recruit folks who are a definite “Yes”?  Would we rather have a root canal than set up a recruitment lunch?  How are we undervaluing ministry be being timid in our recruitment and how does our timidity unintentionally communicate a lack of value for the work of the youth ministry?


Do we avoid recruitment because we have things well in hand and don’t want the hassle of training new folks (who might mess up the good thing we have going)?  Is our current volunteer team so deeply “family” to us that a new person could not possibly come into the ministry and have a place and space to serve?  Do we personally take on too many aspects of the ministry because we want it done right?  Is the reputation of the ministry too paramount to our thinking?


Most leaders lead the way they were led. How you currently recruit and utilize volunteers is likely a reflection of the person who mentored you in ministry. It is helpful to ask, “How is volunteerism supposed to work as compared to my mentor’s approach?  And, was their approach biblical?” 

Fortunately, the scriptures are packed with references that value a shared ministry.  Consider 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:1-16, and Jethro’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 18 for starters.

Spoiler alert, these scriptures remind us that there are people in our churches that can do ministry better than we can in their area of giftedness.  If I we are going to be faithful to scripture we have to widen our grid for volunteers and also change the way we envision the “perfect” volunteer.

In the book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis stated, “When they speak of being ‘In Christ’ or of Christ being ‘In them’, this is not simply a way of saying that they are thinking about Christ or copying Him.  They mean that Christ is actually operating through them; that the whole mass of Christians are the physical organism through which Christ acts—that we are His fingers and muscles, the cells of His body.”

We elevate the value of shared ministry when we recruit as if our volunteers REALLY ARE the body of Christ on earth.

Definition of ministry “success”.

Early in ministry I defined ministry success primarily by the metrics of numbers, activity, and enthusiasm.  Later in ministry I shifted to define success by the reach of the web of formational relationships our students had with faithful, deeply Christian adult volunteers.

How one defines ministry success will directly inform how and who one recruits.


Before making excuses about why you fall short in recruiting, spend some time probing the more difficult aspects of your personality.  If your introversion or extroversion preference is shaping your approach negatively, spend some time out of your recruitment comfort zone and see if a different approach is more effective. If you are experiencing timidity or pride as it relates to recruitment, repent from that as soon as possible. If your theology of shared ministry needs to broaden, study the scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your blind spots. If you need to spend some time reevaluating ministry “success,” carve out some space and invite others into the conversation.

Be courageous enough to engage the recruitment battle within. The answers you find could be a key to unlock the logjam that hinders volunteer recruitment and the growth of your ministry. 



Youth Specialties

Youth Specialties exists to elevate the role of youth ministry and the youth worker to grow the faith of the next generation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.